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Papa Don't Preach

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 3/6/2002

I'm struggling with a problem with my girlfriend. We're both in our late 20s and have been dating for a couple of years, but recently she told me about some stuff in her past that kind of shocked me. She told me that as a teenager she was into cocaine pretty heavily, and when she was 19 she had an abortion because, even though her boyfriend was willing to marry her, she was afraid the drugs she'd been doing would have hurt the baby too much. She claims she got pregnant when a doctor prescribed medicine for a bladder infection without warning her that such antibiotics would make her birth-control pills less effective. She was so traumatized by the whole ordeal that she stopped taking drugs, broke up with the boyfriend, and cleaned up her life.

I'm ready to settle down and start a family and I thought she was the one for me, but now I'm not sure. I don't want to punish her for being honest with me about this, but I'm incredibly disappointed. Is it selfish of me to want the first baby my wife conceives to be mine? I actually feel like something has been taken away from me here. I love her very much, but I'm not sure it's smart for me to continue the relationship under the circumstances. Sad About the Past

Dear Sad:
You pompous prick. The woman you profess to love opens up to you about an extremely difficult and painful experience in her youth, and instead of sympathy and appreciation of the effort and courage it took for her to turn her life around, you're all bent out of shape because your seed won't be the first to hit a home run with her eggs. This is not only appallingly selfish, it's completely insensitive and stupid. Did you think she was a virgin? Is the person she is now less important than who she was years before you met?

Like a lot of women, I was unaware that taking antibiotics could weaken the effectiveness of birth-control pills, but there is at least considerable anecdotal evidence that this is true. Your girlfriend got caught in an information vacuum and has already paid a damned high price for it. If you feel that forgiving her forever and never holding it against her for the rest of your lives is too big a compromise to your totally self-created right of first insemination, do this woman a huge fucking favor and get out her life. She deserves better.

My father, whom I loved very much, died a year ago, and ever since then I've been pushing my husband away. We've only been married a year and a half, but I've been having an affair for the past six months. I know it's really a fucked-up thing to be doing, and of course it won't work out, but I am finding it really hard to end the affair because I am so attracted to the guy. My husband and I have discussed divorce a few times, but until now he has always talked me out of it. The other day, though, we had a huge fight, and this time I think I've lost him for good. I told him about the affair, and now he says he doesn't want me anymore. I don't know if it's for the best to let him go and find someone who will treat him right. Then maybe I can start to heal. But how can I let go of someone who loves me so much? He has stood by me time and again. Maybe, if I stay with him, I can regain my attraction for him. The thought of losing him makes me so scared. I feel completely desperate and don't know what to do.

Scared to Lose Him

Dear Scared:
Whoa, baby, whoa; you've got way too much going on here. Between your grief and your guilt, it's no wonder you're spinning out of control. You need to take a couple of giant steps back and deal with one thing at a time, starting with your dad. Grief can make us do really stupid stuff and make wholly inappropriate unconscious emotional trade-offs. You could be punishing your husband as proxy for your father's abandonment or to prove to yourself that all men eventually leave. Maybe you're having the affair as a sort of death benefit or grief-postponement device: as long as this new guy is around, you don't have to truly accept your father's death. Or there could be something entirely different going on. What's certain is that you're not thinking rationally, and until you come to some understanding of what you're going through, your confusion is causing you and the people around you a whole lot of undeserved pain.

If you want to ask your husband to put off making any major decisions until you're more in control, you have to let the boyfriend go. Not just because it's fair to everyone involved, but because you need lighten your load, and dropping at least some of that guilt you're hauling will help. Then find yourself a grief counselor or therapist. If you can sort out your feelings about your dad, it will be a lot easier to sort out your feelings for the other guys in your life.

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