Carolyn Hax: Relationships require flexibility when the unforeseen happens

10/06/2013 12:00 AM

10/03/2013 1:48 PM

Dear Carolyn : I’m in a new relationship (two months in) and the guy I’m seeing let me know that his ex is four months’ pregnant and there’s a good chance he is the father. The baby is due this winter.

Any normal person would run in the other direction. I, on the other hand, truly care about him and a part of me wants to stick around, since I know we will have a bright future together. The other part of me thinks about all of the repercussions, from this child possibly coming to search for him one day, to the ex changing her mind and wanting him back, to her wanting him to pay child support, etc.

The ex-girlfriend allegedly wants nothing to do with my boyfriend, and she is fine with his signing over his rights. I’m just pretty torn about whether I should stick around since I do see a future, or should get out now to escape what’s to come once this baby arrives.

– Lilly

Dear Lilly: If you can’t accept the presence of a child in his life or the expense of child support without feeling resentful, then listen to the part of you itching to flee. Assuming he’s the father, these are realities to plan for, not possibilities to fear. Plus, “I know we will have a bright future together” is a seriously flimsy notch in the “pro” column when you’ve been together all of two months. Even couples of long standing know that “know” is a word not to be tossed about lightly.

Squint a bit, and you’ll see this isn’t really about the realities of an “oops” child, it’s about the realities of being human and welcoming other humans into our lives. With each important relationship, you invite in a whole new set of variables, each one bearing the potential to take your joint lives off on some entirely unforeseen tangent. Even dating a childless man could put you on a course toward, say, an international move, a health crisis, job loss, a passion for a cause that hasn’t even occurred to you yet, money stress, an epiphany, wrenching choices or even just a good old-fashioned, heart-crushing breakup. Are you ready to roll with futures you can’t foresee?

With the baby on the way, you’re merely able to foresee a couple of those possible tangents already in progress; that’s the only difference, and it doesn’t change the fact that a happy life takes flexibility, resiliency and well-tended emotional bonds.

So, again, if you don’t like the directions in which your life with this or any man might go, then break up. If it’s just the fact of looming, significant unknowns that bothers you, then please know that you’re due for some regardless, as the price of admission for caring. It’s OK not to feel ready for that, and to go it alone till you do.

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