Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Boyfriend’s Baby: I am 29 and have been with my new guy for about two months. It started out great—he's attentive, considerate, and funny. Last month, when things were getting serious, he told me that his ex-wife is six months pregnant with his child—conceived when they "celebrated" their divorce becoming legal. She chose to keep the child, and he's supportive (tension about infertility was one of the reasons they split in the first place). I've met his ex a few times when she's picked him up at my place for doctors appointments—and she seems very nice and open. My question: I've been having nightmares about my boyfriend's future child calling me a "home-wrecker" for not letting his parents be together. I'm not worried they are going to get together again, but I certainly don't want to come between them if they want to pursue that option. Thoughts?
A: Maybe divorce lawyers need to write at the bottom of the bill, "If you're of child-bearing years, please don't celebrate your divorce by having unprotected sex." This is an O. Henry ending to a marriage, but you're getting way ahead of yourself by worrying about how your boyfriend's child is going to think about you. You've been with this guy for two months, and I understand that people can click so thoroughly that in a short time it can turn serious. But realistically, you hardly know this guy. During the time you've been together his ex has been gestating his child. That does not sound like the ideal start for a relationship. Sure, maybe you'll end up as one happy modern family. But in a single sentence you say that you're both not worried they'll get back together and that you think they might. Who knows, because it's impossible to predict how the arrival of a child they both dearly wanted during the marriage will make them feel about having ended it. You're at a point in life that you're probably looking for a permanent partner, so you need to think very clearly about investing time with a guy who in three months is going to be pulled away emotionally from you because of the arrival of his child.
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Q. Rushing Marriage: Recently my mother was diagnosed with a rare untreatable disease that will lead to her going blind. My mother and I are the only family we have, so it's reasonable to see that my mom pours all her hopes and dreams onto me. I'm in my last year of college, and have been dating a wonderful guy for a year and a half. Recently she admitted that she wants to see me graduate and married before she goes blind (though we do not know when that will be). I gently brought this up with my boyfriend, and he honestly said he was not quite ready to get married just yet, though he loves me and would like to get married some day. I respect his side and my mother's, but it leaves me feeling stressed and unsure what to do next. Should I press the issue with my boyfriend? How do I talk to my mother about my boyfriend's point of view?
A: What a heartbreak. Of course you want to be there for your mother as she makes this difficult transition. Every mother has hopes and dreams for her offspring, but it is unfair to expect your child to carry out a life plan because of your own exigencies. It's good that your boyfriend was able to handle this conversation with such maturity. Now you must put this pressure aside and live your own life as you would be without the burden of your mother's disability. Please find a support group for your mother for those with vision problems. It's crucial she has a community she can turn to of people who understand what she's experiencing. She should also get a therapist who specializes in disability issues. Despite your mother's disease, it's crucial that you have for yourselves and each other the goal of remaining self-sufficient and independent people.
Q. Ex and Our Abortion: Seven years ago I had an abortion. I got pregnant with someone I was in love with, but discovered after getting pregnant that he didn't want anything to do with being a father and I knew I would be doing it all alone, not something I was willing to do. Shortly after he ended things with me and within the year was engaged to a woman and had a child. Fast forward seven years, it was hard but I got over that heartbreak and moved to a great city and moved on. Two nights ago out of the blue I received an email from him basically saying sorry, and now that he's a father he realizes that going through with the abortion broke my and his heart. Getting that email has really rocked my world, and I was shocked because I was sure I was over it . Now I realize that I never really dealt with my feelings about the abortion and now it's all I can think about. My question for you is, is it OK for me to contact him and ask him some questions I have that I think might help me work through this? Or is this something I need to handle and work through on my own ?
A: I often hear from people who years later want to clear their conscience by contacting the person they feel they've wronged. Your letter is something important to ponder when considering bringing up old, possibly healed wounds. I generally think even a belated apology for a terrible act is worthwhile. But your situation was not quite that, and there is something rather smug about your ex now musing about his own realization at what the abortion must have cost you. I do think you need to work through this, but I'm doubtful your boyfriend is the best place to start. First contact Exhale (exhaleprovoice.org) a support group for women who have had abortions and want to find others who have been there and can share what are sometimes complicated emotional consequences. It may be that this can help you resolve your feelings on your own. I do worry that further rehashing events with your ex will leave you more roiled.