Tell me about it: Young professional couple took the decision, now he blames her
PROBLEM: I work in a fairly high-powered position. I achieved this role through blood, sweat and tears, and many, many nights of burning the midnight oil. For the past 10 years, I have got out of bed in the morning, went to the gym, gone to work, ate when possible, gone home had a quick chat with my boyfriend, sometimes had sex, slept for six hours at the most and did it all again six out of seven days a week.
Sundays I would visit my parents and slouch around until Monday morning. My boyfriend was always okay with these arrangements as we have always been on the same trajectory. One year ago, I discovered I was pregnant, this may sound callous, but the timing could not have been worse, as we were both in the middle of very important career-defining projects.
We didn’t have any extensive discussions, but we jointly agreed that I would have an abortion and as soon as we could we went to the UK. We travelled directly from the UK to a holiday destination, to recuperate. We didn’t discuss the abortion much, and it was a sombre time. When we returned to Ireland, we both got back to work, and it was never mentioned again. We got engaged and to save for a deposit for a house we both moved home to our respective parents’ houses and saw each other about twice per week.
Very recently he came to my parent’s home and broke off the engagement. He said he had reflected on our actions regarding the abortion and while he agreed it was a joint decision, he was shocked that I appeared to be so heartless and bereft of emotion. He said that he hadn’t suddenly become religious or influenced by his parents’ conservative ways but rather did not think that he could have children with someone who could move on from an abortion without batting an eyelid.
I am not overly maternal but expect that will come. Perhaps he wants me to feel guilty about the abortion but I don’t, and I don’t think I ever will. It certainly was a sad moment in my life, but I won’t let it define me. I don’t know how he wants me to act or what he wants me to feel.
I really don’t want this relationship to be over.
ADVICE: It seems that the real problem in this relationship is your lack of communication and some of this may be due to your heavy schedules and the pattern of assumptions that may have developed as a result. You say that the abortion was a joint agreement, but you also acknowledge that you both took a very quick decision and action on it and you did not talk a lot about it afterwards.
In retrospect, your partner feels this decision may have needed more discussion and thought and now you are in the position he was in: that of feeling “a couple decision” has been made without your full participation or agreement. Choosing to spend a lifetime with another person is something to be taken very seriously and your suggestion that you find a way to think or act in a way that might fit with your partner is not a recipe for success. You acknowledge that you do not know what he wants and the only way to rectify this is to engage with him in an honest and intense way. He also does not know how you feel about the abortion and perhaps he needs to hear how much you want this relationship to work.
You say you do not feel guilty about the abortion and the idea of you pretending to be upset so that your partner will like you more is perhaps not a pattern you want to set up. You deserve to be chosen and loved for who you are, but being in a relationship is supposed to challenge us, to make us put someone else first and you are now in the middle of this challenge. For your relationship to survive, you both need to find a way to express fully how you feel while also listening fully to the other person, even if you disagree with what is being said. This is very difficult and so one possibility is that you use a couple’s therapist to help with the conversation: this would ensure fairness and might help point out your blind spots and patterns.
While it feels that the relationship is at breaking point, it is also an opportunity to create a robust and trusting connection by showing a willingness to participate in honest conversation.
Of course, any relationship ends when one person decides they are no longer involved, but even if this is the final outcome there is a lot to be gained from learning about the need for honest expression of emotion at the right time. Your partner is telling you he is confused, upset and hurt and even though you feel he is blaming you, he still needs you to hear the full extent of what he is trying to say.
If you can do this, there is a chance that he will then be able to hear you out and then you can both look at the question of a future together.