My ex is having a baby and I can't get over it.
I just can't imagine him as a dad and being responsible for a person for the next 18 years of his life.
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
A PERFECT ANGEL:
A couple of days ago I found out that my ex boyfriend is expecting a baby with his new girlfriend and for some reason I am super depressed about it.
Some context: My ex and I dated for 3 and a half years and it ended about a year and a half ago. He was my first everything, first love, first sex and eventually first breakup. It was very mutual in the end as we both realised it was not working out anymore and we ended on good terms but didn't stay in touch after. It took me some time to move on obviously but I have been completely over him for about a year now (or so I thought) and I have had a new boyfriend for about 7 months now.
A few days ago my ex's new girlfriend posted on social media that they were expecting a baby this summer and to say I was shocked is an understatement. The only reason I found out is because she tagged him in the post, I am not following her on any social media and he is not very active on his accounts. First of all we are all only 22 years old so this was completely out of the blue and they have only been dating for about 10 months (it is very uncommon where I live to have children this young). Since I found out I have been really unfocused, sad, basically on the verge of tears all the time and the only thing I think about is him and his impending fatherhood and I don´t understand why.
When he and I were together he never showed any desire to start a family young, we both agreed that I would 100% get an abortion if we accidentally got pregnant. He talked about not wanting kids until he was settled down with an education, job and a house. Neither him nor his girlfriend have finished college, they still live on campus and I know he has higher aspirations than an undergraduate degree. They’re both in majors that require a masters to be able to get any job in their field so it’s not like they just have a year of school left or something. He didn't really like kids when we were together, he babysat for his older cousins and I sometimes joined him and it was obvious he didn't really enjoy it much.
I don't know, maybe I am just worried that he is getting trapped in something he does not want but that still doesn't explain why I am so sad and shocked. I just can't imagine him as a dad and being responsible for a person for the next 18 years of his life. I know people can change a lot in a year and a half but I feel like this is not the person I dated, because he would never want a child at this stage in his life.
(I also feel like I have to clarify that I have never thought about getting back together with him in any way, shape or form. We had our problems and it was very clear at the end of the relationship that it was over for good and I was okay with that and we have been in no contact since then.)
How do I get over this? How do I stop thinking about him as a dad and his future all the time?
I love this letter because these kind of things happen to all of us at some point or another; it’s just such a human thing, what you’re describing. I cannot tell you how often a person prepares themselves so much for the grief/sadness of a big ending or change but fails to expect a tiny, relatively insignificant thing to bowl them over emotionally. Although “fails” is the wrong word because there is no way to prepare to be unmoored by something surprising like this. You just… are. So often, the detail that snags our heart is shocking to us—why am I hung up on this?
As a rather bizarre, perhaps extreme example, I once went to camp with a guy whom everyone had a crush on, but on whom I did not. He was nice enough, I guess, but not my type. We had been to the same camp for two years and a few months after one session when we were all back at home and had no contact with one another, I had a sex dream about him. Then two weeks or so later he died unexpectedly. And for some unknown reason my brain kept being like “Holy shit the sex dream.” I don’t know why. I had plenty of memories that this guy was vaguely in that were not a dream I had. I wasn’t even particularly close with him, but the thought of him being dead was rather horrifying to me. And more than even grief I felt shock that I kept thinking about him (and the sex dream). It just felt weird to me.
ANYWAY. My point is this: brains get stuck on things all the time. Sometimes there is a reason—you feel nervous every time you speak with your boss because he reminds you of an abusive friend you used to have; you’re obsessing over how your email sounded because you’re feeling insecure about if you’re friendly enough; you get more irritable than normal about a friend being late to show up because you’re worried they don’t care enough about you. Sometimes there is something behind the fixation.
And sometimes brains just … get stuck. It’s not a grand thing. It’s not you not being over your partner. You found out surprising information and it surprised you and it’s about someone who played a HUGE role in your life.
As we all age, it becomes more and more shocking how close you can have been to a person who is no longer part of your life. People say this about their weddings all the time—they’ll look back at photos ten years later and realize dozens of people who came to their wedding aren’t even in their lives anymore. It’s odd! It’s disorienting. We are used to storytelling where all the characters are there or playing a role or connected to the main character in some way but he isn’t anymore. He won’t ever be again. That’s weird, frankly! In a way it’s weird that you’ll likely never talk to the guy you lost your virginity to again. Not unusual!!!! (I think most people don’t talk to the person they lost their virginity to again after a few years). But it is odd to think about this other person having a whole life without you.
It’s just stunning sometimes when we’re faced with the reality that we have our lives and other people have their lives. I know that sounds simple, but it’s NUTS that so many realities are existing all together. I will never know what it’s like to be you and you will never know what it’s like to be Tom Hanks and he’ll never know what it’s like to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he will never know what it’s like to be your neighbor. It’s ISNANE that other people have full realities going on for them that we are not part of in anyway. (I swear I’m not high; I just think this is truly weird).
So, that’s the beginning of my answer. And now for the advice portion: give yourself a break! I don’t think this means anything at all. I don’t think it means you want him back or anything. I don’t think it means you want kids or don’t want kids or that your current partner is bad or not enough. I don’t think it means much of anything at all other than a person you once knew so much about is making big decisions without you and it’s surprising. When my sister got engaged I remember having this wave of … surprise? sadness? Left-outedness? Shock? I don’t know!!… that somehow I wasn’t involved in the decision. We live in different cities! She’s a full adult! She’d been with her partner for 8 years and they owned a house and I knew it was coming! And I still felt weird that someone I had done everything with until the age of 14 was making a huge life choice “without me.”
When you feel weird about feeling weird about something, you end up spending double the time feeling weird about it. So. Accept that this is weird for you. And then try to label the thoughts as they come in. “Ok, we’re thinking about Diego again. Yes, it is weird that he’s going to be a dad. Ok. Got it. Thank you brain for letting me know. Time to make dinner.” Don’t dwell, don’t give yourself space to fixate, but also don’t worry about your brain bringing this up a lot. It was a surprise and your brain is surprised. Imagine if you came home and your entire house had been painted pink with no warning—every single wall, bright pink! Your brain would want to think about that a lot.
I don’t think you’re actually concerned about him being a dad, and if you are, let me take that off of your plate: he’ll be fine. Most dads are fine. If he isn’t, that’s his and his partner’s and his kid’s business and not yours. His future doesn’t look like what you two planned when you were younger and that’s ok. Yours doesn’t either. Life is weird like that. I can promise you that he has changed since you two dated. I can promise you that he is not the person you dated. That’s what happens. It happens even if you keep dating the same person.
Mute him on social media, try not to beat yourself up over how weird you find this, and focus on yourself and your life and what direction you want that to go in. I swear to you that in a few months or years you will not be thinking about him often, and when you do, it may still shock you that he’s a dad, but it won’t consume you. You will move forward, too.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org