Dear Carolyn: I want to consider having a third child. My husband is adamantly opposed — indeed, our second was an oops. (I actually miscarried a third pregnancy, also an accident.) I’ve kind of been in denial about the depths of his opposition, but really I know he’s not going to change his mind.
So how do I (a) forgive my husband for not wanting a third, because I can’t help but feel angry at him, and (b) accept that it’s not going to happen — when I just don’t want to give up the dream that someday I’ll be snuggling a newborn again?
Carolyn says: You want to consider a third child, but you can’t. You “can’t help but feel angry” at your husband, but you actually can help it. You don’t want to get over it, but you have to.
Because to keep indulging your desires over reality will, if not already then soon, make you a bad spouse and a bad parent. Your husband needs you to respect his limits; he’s already met you at a darn good definition of halfway, since you now have more children than he wanted and fewer than you wanted. What more do you want from him — transformation into somebody else?
Your kids, meanwhile, take their emotional cues from you and your husband, so they need you both to model maturity, healthy choices, mutual respect and a freely chosen commitment to the collective good of your family over individual preferences that, if acted upon, would damage the whole.
I do sympathize; a baby is less of a want than an ache. It is understandable, too, that letting go of the baby idea will come with reluctance and a wave of grief.
You just don’t have the luxury of taking this depth of feeling as license to go wherever those feelings take you. Cry, stomp, whine to your friends, acquire a therapist just for this purpose, yes, then let it go.
As for how to “forgive” your husband, I suggest following his lead. He’s still by your side, right, after not one but two “oops” pregnancies? Either you’re singularly bad at managing birth control, or he has grounds to point out the cloud of suspicion under which you lately reside (and either way you’re overdue to discuss his getting a vasectomy). You both have let each other down — as spouses inevitably do. Neither of you can provide everything the other needs.
When you are ready to accept this, chances are there are newborns who badly need snuggling in a hospital near you. The right volunteer opportunity could match your need with a vulnerable someone else’s — with nothing for anyone to oppose.
Topic of conversation
Dear Carolyn: I know this is a silly, self-indulgent question, but I’ll ask it anyway. How do you “get past” the nagging feeling you are being gossiped about? Former friend took up with former “frenemy” and now I hear from neither.
Carolyn says: You start by just assuming you’re their Topic A.
Then you realize that in all but the rarest situations, you can live a full, rich and satisfying life while people, unbeknownst to you, are ripping you to shreds.
It might cost you some friends, yes. But they’ll be the friends either saying the mean things or the ones believing the mean things without checking the facts or applying some basic skepticism — and who wants those? Focus your energy on other people, the ones you wouldn’t describe in a letter as “former friend” and “former frenemy,” and leave the vultures in peace to pick over what they must.
Since no one is Topic A forever — and since your friendships with them have apparently run their course — the next healthy assumption is that they have other things to talk about than you. These sequential assumptions are a helpful little two-step toward humility.
As for the rare times when someone’s gossip harms you, the process is actually the same — invest in people who are good to you, know you can’t control the rest — except with higher stakes. Either way, any negativity they share reflects on them far more than it ever will on you.
Dear Carolyn: My parents are terribly negative, back-biting people. A year ago Husband overheard them talking viciously about us and our children. Understandably upset, he confronted them. They fled but have since concocted a story about how he threatened them (I was there, didn’t happen). They now refuse to discuss it with us but try to contact our elementary-age kids directly.