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My Husband is Very Upset about my Pregnancy

QUESTION: I have a problem. I just found out I'm going to have my third baby. When I told my husband (of 8 years) he was very upset and almost seemed mad. I'm very upset, he won't even tell his parents about the baby. I've tried talking to him, but he just walks away, when I bring up the subject. What can I do to get him to talk to me or tell me why he's acting like this? I would love to hear your advice because I can't go through 9 months of him not talking to me.

ANSWER: Your husband is clearly unhappy with some aspect of this pregnancy and what it means for him. Why he is feeling this way is important for you to understand, but taking his feelings out on you in this manner will solve nothing. Perhaps you, too, have feelings both negative and positive about the pregnancy. Make room for feelings in the family. If necessary, seek professional counseling to find a safe place to express what is brought up by this situation.

If your husband continues to give you the silent treatment, write him a letter about how you feel. Let him know that you can accept his angry feelings or his sad feelings, but that his silence is damaging your marriage. It is critical to the health of your marriage to find out what his behavior means. But you are not a mind reader!

Reflect, too, on what your previous discussions or plans have been regarding parenthood. Have you talked about how many children you both wanted? What the repercussions are to other members of the family of having a new addition soon? There should be some clues to why this is precipitating a crisis of this proportion right now. If you are totally in the dark, then the two of you have deeper problems than this current situation.

On the other hand, if you do know something about what is upsetting him, try to state it in your letter. Even if it is something negative about yourself, that he feels to be true. Reflecting feelings that should be obvious to you in the context of past discussions about children could help him feel that you will listen to him when he does speak. And that it will be safe to express negative feelings to you. Be sure that you are able to listen when you do ask him to share. Making a safe place for airing strong feelings is the first step towards finding a resolution for the troubling and disturbing emotions your husband must be experiencing right now.

Family researchers have documented the fact that entrances and exits from a family cause the highest level of stress in adjustment. Your husband is having a very difficult time adjusting to the addition of another family member at this time. Let him know you understand that he must be in extreme pain to be shutting you in this way. And that you need him as your partner right now to work this through. Acknowledge any of your own negative feelings about the pregnancy, as well, so he will not be alone with expressing the down side of this experience. If you "hog" all the positive feelings, he will be left to express all the "negative". This kind of polarization is usually false and leads to unresolved and repetitive conflict.

Ask yourself what is positive about having this baby? What is negative? Be sure to include the effects of another child on your couples' relationship and your other two children. Include this in your discussion with your husband, once you get past his silence and initial pent up feelings. Then, continue your discussion by formulating ways to address the concerns that arise, once you are talking again.

Your husband is having a very intense reaction. It is his job to put his feelings into words. But it may be incumbent on both of you to understand what has contributed to such a total breakdown in communication in your family system. In general, these kinds of over-reactions are signs of deeper conflict that has not been addressed. Is your family system one that covers things over, only to explode at a later point?

Some attention to what has allowed for such pressure to build would be advisable. A teapot whistles when water has reached the boiling point. This whistling is a signal to reduce the heat. With no release valve, explosion is inevitable. Is your husband's silence the best that he can do to protect you from his explosion? Or is this his usual way of expressing displeasure? Either way, there is work to be done on the couples' relationship. Perhaps this is the gift that this pregnancy has brought to light!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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