A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I decided we weren’t ready to have a baby just yet in our life, and we got an abortion. After previously going through one in an abusive relationship years ago, this time was much easier on me and he was very supportive (the abortion was a mutual decision).
A couple days after the surgery my boyfriend started getting very distant, explaining he felt guilty and shameful for putting me through that experience again. It’s been a few weeks of me trying to explain to him that he hasn’t done anything wrong but there’s still a lot of distance there and he won’t have sex with me.
The lack of sex is making me feel very unloved and unwanted. I’ve expressed this, but I don’t want to pressure him into a situation he isn’t ready for. Is there anything I can do to let him know that he didn’t do anything wrong and bring him back to a better emotional state? I don’t want him carrying this emotional weight that he doesn’t need to bear.
No matter how sure someone might be about the decision to end or continue a pregnancy — whether that be via having a baby, electing an abortion, or even taking a Plan B pill — this decision can bring up a lot of mixed emotions. Even if your primary emotion is “Yes! This is what I’ve decided to do!” it’s perfectly healthy to have conflicting feelings like doubt, sadness, and anxiety about your choice.
It seems like y’all made the right choice for the both of you and that it also brought up some challenging feelings about what ending the pregnancy actually means — you going through a surgery that you’ve had negative experiences with before, him feeling partially responsible for this, and the fear of a repeat experience happening in the future.
It sounds like this is your second abortion and your boyfriend’s first abortion experience. So it’s possible that he’s going to be moving through this process at a different pace than you are. While you’ve bounced back quickly and feel ready and hopeful to have sex again, your partner might need more time. There can be a notable experiential difference between the theoretical agreement that you’re not ready to be parents yet, and the lived experience of accidentally getting pregnant and taking steps to manage the reality of it.
My main piece of advice is to take your time. It’s only been a couple of weeks, after all, so I would go easy on yourselves in terms of expecting to be right back to the usual again, and I wouldn’t put too much stock in the worry that this will now be the new normal FOREVER. Likely, it won’t be.
Let your partner know that it’s okay if he’s feeling mixed feelings about the abortion, encourage him to talk about his fears about another accidental pregnancy, and allow him to take his time to get back into things.
If he’s feeling guilty about being a contributor to the accidental pregnancy, not having to be the person to go through the procedure, or otherwise needing reassurance that he’s not a bad, shameful, or abusive partner, it might be a good idea for him to find supports other than/in addition to you about these topics. It’s important that your main role doesn’t become helping him feel better so that you, too, can have emotional and mental space to handle your own mixed feelings.
Speaking of, resist the urge to subconsciously punish yourself for this experience by holding onto the connection that a (likely temporary) pause in your sexual connection to your boyfriend (resulting from an abortion) makes you unlovable to unwanted! It sounds like his hesitations are largely about his own fears, and not about you as a sexually desirable human (which, you are, abortion or not!).
In the meantime, restart your sex life gradually to allow space to heal and reduce fear. Have sex that can’t result in accidental pregnancy like sex with hands, mouths, and sex toys. Beef up your birth control methods to add extra reassurance. Mostly, be nice to yourselves as you recover.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.