Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Dear Carolyn: What’s the best way to involve my husband in my pregnancy so he doesn’t feel left out? He’s a very hands-on type who loses interest in anything he can’t sink his teeth into, and I’m afraid he won’t believe we’re really having a baby till he or she is actually born.
Is there anything wrong with that?
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You say “left out,” but I’m not sure how one can both lose interest and feel left out. It sounds more as if he’s just not that interested right now – meaning, you feel a little lonely. Is that more the dynamic you’re worried about?
If you have practical reasons for wanting him to be involved, then those are the things you can ask him to “sink his teeth into.” That can include anything from finishing home projects to researching free or discounted car seats.
If you’d like his emotional support, then you probably just have to say so when the time comes. As in, when he has a non-reaction to something you hoped he’d react to, you can point out that you’re feeling hurt by his lack if interest, or feeling a little lonely in this presumably joint life-change. Stay away from the “You always … “ and “You never … “ guilt-traps by using the “I feel … “ construction.
Still, your description of him suggests he'll come around when it counts (after the baby is born), and that his current lack of interest is something you understand as part of his character – and that’s why I asked whether it’s really something to worry about.
If I’ve read your question wrong, please write back.
Carolyn: I’m just afraid he will detach, when I am hoping he will be here for me and join me in celebrating the milestones, etc.
To give an example, about a year ago I wrote a short story that was published in a reputable anthology, and I tried to involve him in the ceremonial stuff. It was my victory and not his, but I expected him to at least buy me flowers or something.
He didn’t even read the story because fiction isn’t his thing. I don’t want my pregnancy to be that way, but already he is backing out of important stuff (early doctor’s visits, telling the family, and so on).
Humor me, please, and consider marriage counseling.
The fact that he won’t even read your story or share the pregnancy excitement suggests you’re in this marriage alone. If you have to do the counseling alone as well, that’s better than nothing – and speaks volumes in itself.
I’m hoping there’s more to it, that he has been involved in your life at other times when it didn’t involve him, that he has shown an ability to be fully engaged in you.
But even then, at best, you have a gap between your expectations and the reality of your husband that could lead to serious problems when the work of child-rearing begins.
You also have to think not just about your own emotional needs, but also your baby’s. While an emotionally absent father might sow the seeds for literary success in the next generation, I have to think most children would prefer to have Daddy involved.
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