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Carolyn Hax: Demanding a paternity test without cause fails the good-husband test

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I are trying for a baby. We've had many talks about parenthood and are mostly on the same page.

One part leaves me cold: He says he needs paternity tests for all our kids. Every aspect of our relationship is solid and wonderful except for this. We've never cheated on each other, but when he tells me he wants the test I feel like he doesn't trust me. He says that's not the case.

He says it's not "fair" that a mother always knows the baby is hers while the father can never be 100 percent sure.

I'm completely in love with my husband and want to have a child with him, but this is ruining the entire experience for us. I'm pregnant and I haven't even told him yet. I know he would be ecstatic and would love to know, but I feel none of this really matters until the paternity test — and then he can finally love our child, with proof it's his.

Am I overreacting? Should I just let him have the paternity test?

— Pregnant

Pregnant: OMG.


This is hideous on so many levels that I fear for you and the coming child.

“We’ve never cheated” is just a flat-out nonstarter. You can love and trust each other and feel sure, but you can’t KNOW what the other has (not) done. Not firsthand. Not provably. You just can’t.

I’m starting here because in making this unmakeable declaration, you’re carrying his water for him. Someone as dead certain as he is that the whole world is out to cheat him — do you know what that often means? That he himself is cheating. That’s his certainty. It’s called projection.

I obviously can’t say he is for sure but, wow, the pieces are in place. He’s got you declaring his innocence for him. Perfect cover for bad acts.

That’s before we get to the slack-jawed horror show of his treating you like a cheater from within a “solid” marriage, like cheating’s a given, no matter what you’ve actually done. This is call-an-attorney behavior. I am so sorry you’ll be doing this now while pregnant instead of before.

I don’t know, by the way, how you can be “completely” in love with someone who is “ruining the entire experience for us” — not accidentally, but by dark emotional design. That alone is call-a-therapist cognitive dissonance, but the whole package belongs in a therapist’s office, SOLO, not with him and his monstrous paranoia and control. ASAP.

And finally, though extraneously, after all the “Get out!” advice prior:

Do you think the world is fair? Do you believe you are owed fairness by higher powers, biology or humankind?

Someone who has such an emotional need to get what he thinks he should get, who is ticked off at nature for not guaranteeing him fairness, is not well. Seriously not well.

Yes, we all want fairness and go to some lengths to ask it of employers, friends, government, institutions. But this guy has a beef with nature. And he thinks he’s entitled to defame you just to get the upper hand on biology. It’s appalling, and I’m worried about you. Therapist, domestic abuse hotline (1-800-799-SAFE), online threat assessment ( No way his control efforts stop here.

The column, originally published in 2021, was republished for the 25th anniversary of Carolyn Hax’s column. You can read the original comments here.