Love and loss on August 31, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Today my girlfriend got an abortion. We had talked about it and both agreed that it was the lesser of two evils, the other being pregnancy. We are both young and I will be going away to college in the fall. I went to the clinic and sat with my g/f in the OR while the procedure was going on. Then on the drive home I began to feel a sense of loss, despair. I thought that I had prepared myself, I was more worried about my g/f’s emotions. But I had forgotten about myself.
I want to be strong but it’s very hard for me especially with the added stress of my leaving and being 2 hours away.
The questions are:
1) How have male partners dealt with abortion in the past?
2) Would I be a bastard to break up with my g/f after she has had time to get over the abortion?
You are clearly struggling hard and doing your best. And your analysis seems accurate: in the process of focusing on your girlfriend, you forgot that the experience would be a traumatic loss for you, too. Just because you decide something is the Right Thing doesn’t mean it’s easy. Listen, kiddo, I’d be worried if you didn’t feel anything.
As for your questions, I can’t tell you exactly how male partners have dealt with abortion in the past. But I can guarantee you that there is no one way. I can see why it’s tough: you want to be there for your girlfriend, and as much as you want to go through this together, you might feel like, “Wow, well, but I can’t burden her with my problems about it.” So the key is to find someone else to talk to about it (which you’ve started to do by writing to me), and/or, at very least, so find some third-party way of sorting out your feelings. Suggestion (1): plug in your zip code here to find phone counseling services in your area. Suggestion (2): check out this book. Much of it focuses on the “before,” and on the woman, but quite a bit — especially the thinking/writing exercises — will apply to you. Maybe share it with your girlfriend. No, on second thought, she should have a separate copy. Your experiences need to be your own at this point.
Which brings me to your second question. I’m clear on the increased, acute sense of responsibility conferred here by the experience of pregnancy and abortion. Would I use the b-word if you’d dropped her off at the clinic and disappeared into thin air? Perhaps. However, while you may be forever bound to her spiritually by this experience, it does not require you to be bound to her forever boyfriendally. If you have reasons OTHER THAN BEING FREAKED OUT BY THE ABORTION for feeling a need to move on (like, say, going to college), then I trust your judgment, and you should, too. See, in general — even under particularly trying circumstances — staying with someone for the sole purpose of not being mean … is mean.
So, James, my answers to questions 1 and 2 are not unrelated. Find a way to focus on, sort out, and label your feelings. Do your best to figure out how you feel about the abortion, how the abortion made you feel about the relationship, and how you would feel about the relationship if the pregnancy had never happened. Trust yourself. And trust me, you are strong. Good luck in college.