Advice on two dilemas from Tim McConville, paractice manager at Couple Counselling Lothian
Two years ago I finished with my girlfriend. We had had our ups and downs and, after three years, I kind of got bored. Since then I have had a few brief relationships but nothing much. The thing is that shortly after we broke up, she said she was desperate to have a child. We were both in our late 30s and she promised she would not involve me as a father later on.
She had a baby girl and now says she is going to take me to court to make me pay maintenance. What can I do to stop her?
It sounds as though you feel you’ve been suckered into something you didn’t bargain for. All I can offer is sympathy.
I don’t know what your girlfriend was thinking; was she trying to use the child to draw you back into a relationship? That rarely works. Was she genuinely desperate for a child? She may have been aware of her age and the looming end of the possibility of motherhood for her and that can sometimes make people desperate. You may have just been an easy port in a storm. Really, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. What happened happened and we can’t change that. The fundamental issue is that there is a small child out there who can’t take care of herself and needs people to make sure she is safe, fed, housed, educated and made welcome in this world of ours.
It seems to me that you feel you owe your girlfriend nothing; and that may be true. But you did actively choose to bring a child into this world. If you owe anyone anything, it is her. Some men in your position refuse to see their children. I suspect that is because they know that when they set eyes on their own child, that debt will hit home. You just did not think this through.
I really am sorry that you didn’t. I’m sorry because the situation you are in is difficult. I am also sorry you didn’t because your daughter’s situation is even more so. Your ex will probably not be able to work and will end up having to survive on benefits in austere times – if she had the money she probably wouldn’t be hassling you – so your baby girl is going to be born into poverty and her father’s rejection.
You don’t have to do ‘the decent thing’ and marry her. But maybe you could think again about your choice to bring a child into the world and decide to make it a more welcoming place.
I am gutted. My girlfriend at university has just told me she has had an abortion. I am not religious. I did know she was pregnant and felt very frightened at the news. All I could see was the ruin of our careers. But now it’s all over, I can’t sleep and all I can think of is a dead baby.
It sounds as if you are in a really tough place just now. I am very sorry you are grieving so hard. I think it is important that you are looking after yourself and recognise you are feeling down.
I hear you when you say you are not religious. Frankly, I don’t believe that the argument over the termination of a pregnancy is about religion. The passion religious people bring to the debate often clouds the issue. The argument is actually philosophical. The question is: when does a human being become a human being? Because from that moment it acquires human rights. Our problem as a society is that we have not managed to pinpoint the answer.
Your reaction to your girlfriend’s news is emotional, not philosophical or religious. For some reason, you bonded very quickly to the foetus – possibly an extension of your emotional bond to your girlfriend. I imagine it might all feel severed at the moment. I can only guess.
I wonder if your girlfriend acted so swiftly because she wanted to end the pregnancy before she felt that bond. Her hormones will have already begun to change, affecting the bonding process. Again, I’m only guessing.
The thing is that you might both be hurting and yet are unable to help one another because of what happened and the significance you both place on that.
I think it would be good to talk with a relationship counsellor. They will be able to help you hear each other and hopefully find some peace.
• Tim McConville is practice manager at Couple Counselling Lothian