My partner refuses to see his child

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

rom the UK: Hello – I’m writing to you for an unbiased opinion. My friends and family are aware of my struggle but I want to be sure that I have done all I can before making my next move.
I met my partner 5 years ago or so. We are happy, well-suited and I would go as far as to say we are soul mates except for one contentious issue. Shortly after we met we discovered his ex (from whom he had long since split but had had a ‘one night stand’ with before we met) was pregnant. I have read so many posts where women are fed up with the time and attention their partner gives to children from previous relationships….I, on the other hand, wish he would see his child.

He felt angry from the start, he believed this to be a pre-meditated ‘honey trap’ and has never been able to forgive her and so the child has suffered. He does pay support, he has from the start and there is no question that this is his child.

My partner and I have recently bought a home together and are looking to the future but we can never discuss this issue. He does not want to speak of it, hear of it and he says he will never accept the child.
His family are aware of the situation but no one has challenged him on his behaviour or questioned it. He can be quite moody and I think his family just feel its not worth it to get involved. But he is a good man in so many ways, not the most overtly affectionate but I know he loves me and he is so good with children (other than his own!).

He went through a phase of being really quite down about the situation and we split up for a short period of time around the time the child was born(he said it had nothing to do with the childs birth!) We reunited and got our relationship back on track but I know now that this issue was never resolved. I have tried so many ways to help him realise that this child is his flesh and blood and will one day look for him. I have tried every approach but now he won’t even let me speak of it, he just shuts down. He says this is something he will never accept, he feels the fewer people that know about it the better and not even his closest friend knows about it.

He is ambitious, successful and hard working, he is very proud and very stubborn and I know he sees this as a one of the few things in his life he ‘got wrong’. My question is this….should I be more understanding or is this a character trait that should not be ignored? I feel him pulling away in recent times because I have tried to discuss it. I genuinely don’t know if the problem lies with me – should I be more understanding? (he is adamant that his ex set out to do this) or is this a more sinister sign of a man incapable of human compassion or the ability to love? I just can’t understand it and I’m ready to walk away because I can’t take any more.

A: What a complicated situation! I think what you need to consider is this: The same behaviors can have their roots in many different causes. That your partner refuses to acknowledge or talk about his child is a fact. But you don’t yet understand the reason. You are concerned that he isn’t capable of compassion. That’s possible. But it’s also possible that it’s the opposite; he hurts so much he can’t go near the issue.

You say you’ve tried every possible approach and maybe you have. But just in case you missed this approach, let me mention it here: Have you tried to address his pain rather than his responsibilities (which he is at least fulfilling financially)? This is a man who wants to do things the “right” and orderly way. Co-parenting a child with someone he doesn’t love and isn’t married to was not what he had in mind for his life. This is a man who loves as he shows by loving you. What is it doing to his heart to not be able to have daily contact with his child? Perhaps he feels it’s better not to be involved at all than to have to say goodbye every time the child has to go back to his mother.

Your fiance isn’t going to talk with you if he feels reproached and shamed. He already feels that himself. Despite his accusations toward the mother, he knows full well that he had unprotected sex and that it takes two to make a baby. Perhaps if he felt that you understood how painful the situation is, he might be able to consider other solutions to the problem besides denying his child and himself the relationship they could have.

Ultimately, how your fiance deals with the situation is his decision. If he decides on a course of action that you truly “can’t take any more,” then you owe it to him and yourself to reconsider the relationship. This is an “elephant in the room” that isn’t going to go away.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My partner refuses to see his child. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/31/my-partner-refuses-to-see-his-child/

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