NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

Carolyn Hax: Dissing pregnant wife was just his first mistake

Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post
(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Carolyn:

I think I screwed up, but I'm not sure how badly. My wife is pregnant with our first baby -- a girl. Full disclosure, I expressed mild disappointment when we learned the sex, but I was mostly joking. Also, my wife was really sick for the first few months, couldn't keep anything down, but she's doing great now. I think this might be relevant.

So here's the screw-up: I was working on a brief for work. My wife was in another room watching TV. She called out for me to come feel the baby move -- she's felt it before but I never have. I was semi-distracted and said, "Can you come in here?" She said, "No, I'm afraid she'll stop if I move! You come here!" So I yelled back, "I can't come right this second, I'll come later." Then honestly I somewhat forgot about it till I was done working, at which point my wife was asleep.

That was Thursday, today is Sunday. Since then my wife has been polite but closed off and spent most of the weekend out of the house. No sex and very little conversation. She also has not mentioned again about feeling the baby move. Was what I did really insensitive, and what can I do to redeem myself?

Insensitive Dad-to-Be

You "think" you screwed up?

That's your worst mistake of many. It's one thing to be insensitive, but quite another to follow a trail of evidence right up to the very brink of self-awareness . . . then to sit down and unwrap a sandwich.

Your wife is not blameless. She could have said, the next morning, "I felt really angry and alone when you didn't come feel the baby kick." Presumably you'd have apologized, and explained your unfortunate hyper-focus on work -- i.e., your lunkheadedness (vs. insensitivity).

Also in your favor: You get that your girl-dismay was damaging, and that your wife's difficult pregnancy also matters.

However, that mitigation is itself mitigated, if not wiped out: You've apparently gone four days without apologizing, the most forehead-whackingly obvious remedy for treating your wife like a throw pillow.


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