How did your abortion affect your relationship?
August 17, 2008 10:59 PM   Subscribe

After a lot of soul searching and discussion, my partner and I have decided that we're going to terminate this pregnancy we've found ourselves in the middle of. In light of this impending (and quite probably emotionally draining) event, we would like to know the experiences of other couples who have had an abortion, specifically how it affected your relationship with one another.

We are a loving couple who have been together for almost four years. We get along swimmingly pretty much all the time and we're deeply committed to one another (so much so we're getting married next year).

The baby is about six or seven weeks along. The termination will likely happen within the next fortnight.

The decision to terminate the pregnancy has come about after a great deal of soul searching, tears and discussion. This decision is a mutual decision, although it was a difficult one to make.

Because we love one another and don't want to see the good thing we have end, we're worried about how this will affect our relationship after the termination has happened. We know and expect that there will probably be some rough times right after the termination, but we think once we get through that we'll be OK. But we also think it would be useful to know what lies down this road we're about to embark upon, so that we might be better prepared for it and perhaps learn from the experience of others.

I set up a throwaway e-mail at for anyone who doesn't feel like sharing their experiences publicly.

Also, since this is a hard enough time as it is, leaving the moral judgements out of this thread would really be appreciated, thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
if you can, don't think of it as a "baby". even calling it a baby will make you feel more emotionally attached. i had an abortion a few years ago with a guy i was with and loved a lot, and i dont know if im cold but i wasnt affected by it at all. i just knew it wasnt the right time, and to go through with the pregnancy would have been more traumatising than terminating it. my boyfriend agreed and we were both fine with it. he looked after me and we didnt have any rough times. we just got on with our lives. dont beat yourselves up for doing it and you'll be okay... i wish you all the best.
posted by beccyjoe at 12:24 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't expect others' experiences to necessarily be predictors for yours. So much of this is so personal. In my experience, there were essentially no serious negative repercussions for the relationship. For all sorts of reasons none of the parties felt we had any other recourse, and none of us had major moral problems with our choices. You and your partner seem to feel somewhat differently.
Most importantly maybe, talk to each other honestly, and listen to each other openly. Like you already do, as people who have gotten along swimmingly for pretty much four years.
posted by zoinks at 12:27 AM on August 18, 2008

I agree with the other two posters above - in spite of what the anti-choice propaganda would have you believe, most women who have an abortion are mentally and emotionally fine. The ones who aren't fine are generally the ones who are coerced by their partners or family, or the ones who decide to go through with an abortion in spite of their own religious beliefs. It's wonderful that your partner is going to be there with you. If you feel a little sad, don't panic. You're not going to spiral into a depression and ruin your relationship. It's OK to grieve a bit for what might have been - and it's also OK to celebrate a bit, and to be happy that you live in a place and time that allows you the choice of when, how, and if you have a child. Lots of women didn't in the past, and still don't today. Also, keep in mind that the sadness you might feel is going to be partly due to your hormones and the effects of anesthesia, if you have any.

The following is going to sound a bit strange: I've always had wildly irregular periods, and for some reason, I was convinced that I would never be able to get pregnant, or that it would be really difficult. For me, getting pregnant was a good thing. It showed me that there was nothing wrong with my body - one day, when I'm ready, I will be able to have a child. It also made me grow up a bit and be more careful with my sex life (less drinking, fewer partners, MUCH MUCH more careful with the condoms and pills). No, the abortion wasn't fun, and it was stupidly expensive (I didn't get much help from the guy involved, either. He drove me there, drove me home, and wrote me a post-dated check for his half of the cost that ended up bouncing). Still, everything was fine. With the support you have, I don't think you have anything to worry about. One day, if and when you and your partner are ready, you will have children. Your body has shown you that it's possible.
posted by Wroksie at 3:24 AM on August 18, 2008 [8 favorites]

My brother and his long-term girlfriend had an abortion when they were about 20. That was 24 years ago, and they are still together. Now married, they have had three children, including one who was stillborn. That one brought up a lot of guilt for them but reason won out (the stillbirth wasn't payback for the abortion) and they made it through a rough patch stronger for it. Their two surviving children are growing up in a stable, loving home.
posted by headnsouth at 4:07 AM on August 18, 2008

Disclaimer: I have never been pregnant, I have never had an abortion, I don't know anyone who has.

But I think the fact that you have made this decision together, and are clearly committed to supporting each other, gives you an enormous advantage and is in itself a predictor that you will be fine. You are clearly, clearly committed to talking things out and staying together, and you have clearly, clearly weighed this decision AS a couple. That, to my mind, is a good sign that any unexpected aftereffects that may happen will be something you can weather, because you already know you're going into this as a team and you know how to work things out AS a team.

Not that I'm saying it'll be a cakewalk -- it may be, I just don't know for certain. But you have an amazing resource in each other, and that gives you a huge advantage.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 AM on August 18, 2008

My wife and I found ourselves in a similar position as yours (only I think we were a bit younger) and after a similar long and agonizing period we decided to give our baby up for adoption. It was not an easy thing to do nor is it an easy thing to live with for us. We've got two wonderful children now and a great family. My wife is still trying to come to grips with the adoption and has battled Depression and Anxiety (her family has a long history with both too).

I honestly think that our relationship would have failed if had decided abortion. I was away at college and put her though a tremendous amount of stress when she went through the pregnancy. We managed to talk and make our way through it. I stayed committed to her and we made it through. I think that had we not had the baby and given it up we would have split up, I also think that if we would have terminated it we would have turned against each other.

I've been told that a lot of the mental health issues that she deals with stem from giving up that baby and from the mental and physical abuse when she was a child. She has told me that she is glad that she gave up the baby because if she would have terminated it she thinks things would be worse for her and she thinks should would have likely killed herself during one of her depressive moods.

I'm sure you already know that this is a hard choice to make. I'm not going to push you to choose in either direction (Lord knows we got enough of that from our families as it was). What I ask of you is to go through some counseling both before and after the event. Even if it feels like a waste of time, it should help to reinforce that you make the right choice. Don't be afraid to find a different counselor if they try to push and agenda though. Make sure they are objective and have your interests at heart.
posted by Numenorian at 5:58 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Several of my friends have had abortions and all of them, at some point or another, felt deep regret. None of them are with their then partners.
posted by mistsandrain at 6:17 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

First, I've seen no one here give high-fives and pats on the back to the poster for coming to what must be a very difficult decision for anybody to make. I'd suggest that the poster ignore any politics or snide comments in the thread and focus on those answers which relate to a decision they've already made and what might happen as a result.

You are a pair of humans. You have the capabilities to recover from nearly everything. Trust that you have the capability to get through this.

I'd start by suggesting a couple of therapy sessions for the two of you to talk it over.

Second, if there is any danger, I'd think the additional stress would manifest itself in areas where potential problems already exist. Just being aware of this will go a long way here.

Finally, it is important to realize that you have a whole bunch of shared strengths to rely on. Focus on the places where the bonds are strongest and spend some time in the coming weeks doing things together which you two know bring you together.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:27 AM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Looks like the answer I was responding to just got deleted. Just focus on the rest of what I wrote. Hope it helps.

Looking at some of the other posts, it appears that a lot of people who have faced problems faced a stronger version of prior issues. I'd keep that in mind.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:38 AM on August 18, 2008

I have a friend, who like headnesouth's brother, is still with her partner, twenty years after they aborted a pregnancy they were not prepared to see to term. They reached the decision carefully, and relied upon their various support networks for some time afterwards. It's just anecdotal information, but it might help you believe you can get through this together: my friends got married a few years later; they now have two kids. They seem to have as good a relationship as anyone has.

Like most of the people who've already answered, I think the key is being thoughtful in your decision (which it seems you have been) and being careful and cognizant of how you and your partner feel about the termination, before and after. In a way, it's like any other crisis you will go through together; if you have a strong relationship, there's no particular reason you won't be able to weather it, but it's not necessarily going to be easy. Like Ironmouth says, you are a pair of human beings with the capacity to recover from nearly everything; I would add, you have the capacity to make the right decision for yourselves, and it seems you have. Good luck and take care of each other.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:38 AM on August 18, 2008

Mod note: comment removed - this is a touchy subject and the OP has outlined the question clearly, please do not use this area for editorializing, thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just to counter what mistsandrain said -

-I have four friends who have discussed their abortions with me. Not one of them felt any regret whatsoever, beyond generally wishing that they had been more careful to begin with so that it wasn't necessary. That's how I feel about my abortion, as well.
-I have a friend and an aunt who gave up their babies for adoption. My friend was involved in an open adoption about ten years ago, and my aunt was involved in an old-fashioned closed adoption in the 1960's. They both regret it every day. I would go so far to say that it has destroyed my aunt's life.
-Having worked in a social services in both the US and the UK, I have seen countless women who have given up their chances for a good education and a successful career in order to give birth and raise a child they were not emotionally, mentally, or financially ready for. The children of these women simply don't have the same chances as the children of women who were ready to be mothers. It's not socially acceptable for parents to admit that they regret having children, but I know that many of them do regret it, bitterly.

I have said all this just because I think you need to know that your decision is not selfish. Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone convince you otherwise. You are doing what you feel is right for yourself, your partner, and for any possible future children you might have. You should feel proud of yourself.
posted by Wroksie at 7:06 AM on August 18, 2008 [15 favorites]

I'm not sure how helpful anything I say can be, never having been in your shoes... though I very well could have.

Truth be told, I think it is a wonderful thing for you both to have thoroughly thought this decision through, and to have prepared for the stress and heartbreak it may put on you both. It seems to be a common misconception that women who choose to have abortions are (or should be) nonchalant about it and treat the procedure like getting a tooth pulled, or that having second thoughts or regrets about terminating a pregnancy makes you a bad pro-choicer. Neither of these are true. And the stress is often compounded by abortion being such a taboo subject to talk about on anything beyond a political or theoretical level.

Your doctor/clinic will almost certainly be able to provide references for therapy or support groups, so you two can have others to talk to who will understand and not judge. At the very least, they'll be able to guide you through the grief process without making you feel like you've made a mistake. (And if you encounter people, "professional" or otherwise, who do make you feel bad for your decision, do not listen or talk to them - they will only make it worse.) Please ask and use whatever resources you feel comfortable with.

Do not listen for a nanosecond about the stories you may hear, here and elsewhere, about all the relationships that failed because of an abortion. You don't know these people, and you don't know exactly why these relationships failed. You do, however, know yourself and your partner, and to an extent (though perhaps not fully, yet) you know your own strength. Your commitment and compassion for each other is an enormously good thing, and with that I think you already have the wherewithal to endure this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:42 AM on August 18, 2008

It seems as though a lot has been left out or something...? Why is this a recipe for disaster exactly? If your relationship is going to crumble from a decision that you both decided was the best course of action, then best to just give up now. Life's going to throw much tougher shit at you than this my friends!

I think women take this harder because of all the hormones and instincts that kick in. To be honest I think that was the only reason I had any hesitation went faced with this myself. Although it was a 'mutual' decision I may have actually been acutely aware of what an asshole he was, I don't know? Whatever the reason it was definitely something I weighed up all on my own. The (now undeniable) fact that he is an asshole has no bearing on my decision. Hindsight changes absolutely nothing. Although if anything, it does confirm I did the right thing.
*Not saying he's an asshole, but I am saying you need to decide what you want to do -yourself.

You could torment yourself over this, but just know that doing so is also your choice to make.

(Do you feel there needs to be some suffering as a result of this decision?
Or are you trying to talk yourself out of this and stall for time because you're still not sure? I can't really tell, but I'm sure you know the answer to that.)
Take it easy guys.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:11 AM on August 18, 2008

If you're sure you're making the decision that's right for you, you probably aren't going to be all that regretful. Unless you let people convince you that you're supposed to be miserable and unhappy and your relationship is supposed to FAIL FAIL FAIL afterward.

Listen to Metroid Baby here. An abortion is not a terrible strain on a healthy relationship between two people who know they aren't ready for a kid (and who don't have moral compunctions about abortion). You can't know how you feel if you're worried that everyone else could be right about how you Secretly Feel Inside.

In this situation, there are always people around ready to try to insinuate guilt into your life where no guilt exists or belongs. These people are going to totally dismiss the accounts of anyone who had no problems with their abortion, because they think they're right about how everyone else feels.

There have been several abortions in the lives of people around me, and one in my life. No one is sorry, nobody is full of Emptiness That Nothing Can Fill. None of them have suffered psychogically. Some of them are in the same relationships, some are in different ones -- and the abortion had nothing to do with that in any of their situations.

In my situation, I was very close friends with the guy involved, but not technically dating. We are still close friends -- probably closer, but not because of (or in spite of) the abortion. A pregnancy and a child would have destroyed our relationship and both of our lives. Because we had an abortion, he was able to spend time and money getting himself treated for a serious medical condition, and I was able to do all the necessary work to break out of my terrible, life-sucking employment situation, and get into the field I wanted so badly. In other words, our lives were both saved. There was never any question, and never any guilt, and our closeness was never tested.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:40 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I had an abortion four years ago after getting pregnant with my husband (we were not yet married at the time). We got married about 4 months after the abortion. We've never had any regrets--it would have been disastrous to have a child at that time--and our relationship never suffered for it. We are going to be trying to start a family in the next year or two.

As long as the abortion is a true mutual decision, I think you will be just fine. We certainly have been.
posted by feathermeat at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2008

My best friend and his girlfriend went though this last year, three years into their relationship. They consulted me because I used to work for Planned Parenthood. At the time they were mainly concerned about the differences between medical and surgical abortions. A year later, they are still together, and their relationship good. In fact, things had been a little rocky before the pregnancy, and weathering this thing together seems to have stabilized things for them.
posted by kimdog at 9:09 AM on August 18, 2008

"I feel like it really brought us closer together. I mean, I know it isn't the worst thing in the world to go through, but it was really emotionally trying and hard, and it made me feel like, if we can get through this, we can get through anything. You were so supportive, and there-for-me at every step; it was extremely hard for me, and you helped me make it through."

That was what my wife said, when I showed her your question. It is still a touchy subject for her; it was about 9 months ago. Then a few months later, we decided to get married, and that was 6 months ago next week.

Hope this helps; wish answers could be posted Anon too.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:17 AM on August 18, 2008

I'll give you my thoughts from a distance of 15 years. I got pregnant the first week after college ended and we moved in together, several months after breaking off our engagement because it seemed like we were rushing things.

In the immediate aftermath, it strengthened things to know that he was there for me and that we could be completely open about our conflicted feelings and our regret that this was something we "needed" to do. (No money, no health insurance, no full-time job yet) We got re-engaged just a few weeks later. But it was so hard to know that although we did want a child together, we just didn't want this child. So hard.

And for several years after that, I couldn't make myself forget when the due date would have been. So I would do little calculations of how old the child would have been, but I'd always be grateful that we were still childless and able to do the other things that newlyweds should be doing. Plus, we still had no money.

The last time I felt any regret was as we were trying to have our first child. Finally ready, and I just couldn't get pregnant again. At least I knew that it had been possible once, but I worried about how strong the regret could end up being if I couldn't have a child. And I would have felt that it wasn't right to adopt a child, since I hadn't been willing to go through an unwanted pregnancy earlier.

I don't think we've even talked about it in fifteen years, but that's ok. I know him so well, that I know that his feelings haven't changed, and neither have mine.
posted by saffry at 3:06 PM on August 18, 2008

Don't just take my word for it, here's an article that says "Women who choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy may experience feelings of grief and loss, but there is no evidence that a single abortion causes significant mental health problems, a panel of the American Psychological Association reported after two years of study."
posted by theora55 at 6:46 PM on August 18, 2008

Another article which discusses that
1) not all women react the same way
2) not all women have the reactions that people believe they will have
posted by micawber at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2008

I can't speak directly to your question, because my wife and I haven't been in this situation. I just wanted to post and wish you good luck with the procedure itself and the recovery. From what I'm reading, you sound like you're going to do fine.
posted by scrump at 12:15 PM on August 19, 2008

I know couples who have decided to have an abortion and have done just fine afterwards; some said the intense talking about it added a new dimension to their relationship and made it stronger. I know others who have broken up later for reasons completely unrelated to the abortion. I don't know any couples who broke up because of an abortion. FWIW, no one I know has regretted her abortion. Obviously I don't know you or your relationship, but it sounds to me like you are going to make it through this as a partnership just fine, because you have taken the time to talk about it honestly, and because you are thinking about this and how it will affect you as a couple, not just as individuals.

You and/or your partner may want to check out Exhale. It's a free, confidential hotline that, according to their site "serves women who have abortions, and their partners, friends and family. We respect the cultural, social and religious beliefs of all our callers." I haven't called it myself, but I've heard good things about it from the pro-choice community.
posted by min at 6:12 PM on August 19, 2008

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