Coping With Boyfriend’s One-Night Stand Baby

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Reader’s Question

A few years ago, my best friend in college spent one night with a girl and found out three months later that she was pregnant. He and I lost touch for about a year, then he started sending me pictures of his child. We talked about the situation and he said he wasn’t sure he was the father until the baby was two months old.

Fast forward a year and a half, and now his son is 18 months old. We started talking and decided to try dating. It’s amazing. He treats me better than anyone I’ve ever been with, but I started thinking about our future. I became upset that he’s already experienced having and raising a child of his own. He also went to the hospital, and dealt with the birth and all that.

Just recently, though, I was informed by a family member that he was more involved than I had thought. He actually went to the checkups and saw all the ultrasounds. This really upset me. I wasn’t aware he was so involved with it. I started becoming jealous that his one-night stand got to experience that with him. I have meltdowns and freak out about his having already experienced having a child. Before I found out about the checkup visits, I was excited that I would at least get to share that with him for the first time…seeing the baby get bigger on the ultrasounds, etc. But I won’t get to do that either.

All the jealousy about the situation and his already having all this is starting to wear me and him down. I don’t know why all these firsts are so important to me. And it’s bad, because I’m very sarcastic and make stubborn comments about the situation. There are times when I even say I wish he had never slept with that girl and never had a child. I know that’s not being fair to him and he did the right thing, but I can’t get this out of my mind. He’s worth it and I don’t want to ruin this, but no matter what I do, these thoughts keep creeping into my mind. It has nothing to do with the child…it’s only the situation.

Psychologist’s Reply

It sounds as if you are having a really difficult time forgiving your boyfriend for his past mistake. You also seem conflicted about admiring the responsibility he has taken for his actions, while at the same time wishing he had acted more irresponsibly by neglecting this other woman and their child. When you say “he treats [you] better than anyone [you’ve] been with,” perhaps you are experiencing some of that same support and integrity that he has shown this other woman. Nonetheless, it’s your right to feel angry about the situation and feel a sense of loss about sharing every “first” experience with him.

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Having a child with a partner can and should be a very intimate and bonding experience. From your description, it seems as if you and he have shared much more intimacy than he did with his one-night stand. The two of you have invested time, energy and emotion into building a relationship together. For you, as for many couples, the work you have invested in the relationship could lead to the next steps of commitment and having a child together. My sense is that it seems unfair to you to know that someone casually entered your boyfriend’s life and appears to have reaped all the benefits of the work that you have invested in building a solid relationship with him.

However, it may be possible that the experience he has had in supporting this other woman and child is something completely different than what the two of you might experience together someday. For him, going to the ultrasounds and participating may not have been an intimate, bonding experience for him with this woman at all, but perhaps something entirely different. Perhaps he was curious about the process, curious to see if the baby resembled him, or perhaps he was demonstrating his paternal responsibility. Talking about this more with him, perhaps with a trained therapist, might help the two of you find a more effective way to work through it than the current pattern in which you are stuck.

Until someone figures out how to master time travel, we are all stuck with the mistakes and regrets we have from the past. The only influence we have is to find a way to fit the events into our own life’s story and consider how we want them to play out in the future. This child may be part of his life for years to come. If you choose to stay with him, then it will be important for you to find a way to incorporate this story and this child into your life, too. How that will appear is up to you, your boyfriend, and the child’s mother. If your resentment and anger continue, however, it will be difficult to keep that separate from how you treat this child, which could lead to actions or words that you may regret later.

If your boyfriend is “worth it” to you, I encourage you to find a licensed psychologist or licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in couples’ therapy to help the two of you discuss and work out this issue. When you sort through the worries that you have, the jealousy and anger may diminish. My guess is that your boyfriend would experience something very new if you were to have a child with him — it would be your “first” experience together.

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