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The dilemma I have been with my girlfriend for eight years. We have never lived together, which has worked well for us due to our shared love of us each having our own space. My girlfriend has recently become pregnant, and I am struggling with the decision of whether to continue our relationship living separately and supporting the child, or to end our relationship and provide financial support from a distance.

I have always been clear about my desire not to have children. However, she wants to keep the child.

I have lost my attraction to her lately and become increasingly depressed. We would have different parenting approaches; I am more pragmatic and disciplined, while she is more empathic and loving. I had a troubled childhood and can find it difficult to connect emotionally or socially with most people.

I do not feel a bond with the child or the idea of raising one. I am unsure of what to do and would appreciate your guidance.

Philippa’s answer It’s difficult to have a bond until we’ve met a baby. We bond with babies by being with them and interacting with them. They don’t speak of course, but they do learn turn-taking very early on. For example, you look at them, you do something like smile or stick your tongue out and they mimic it back to you. Bonding can take time and it’s not easy to bond to someone who isn’t here yet.

It’s “most people” you find it difficult to relate to, it’s not everyone. It is harder to feel for others and to emotionally connect with them when this was mostly missing from our own upbringing. We gain a lot of our blueprint for relating from how we were related to as babies, as infants, as children. It is difficult to give to others what was not given to us, but it is not impossible. (I’m not criticising your parents for this. I expect they did the best they could in whatever circumstances they were in.)

I’m not sure if you are being sympathetic enough to yourself in your current situation and I am guessing you are understandably fearful. When we don’t allow a feeling, we don’t just numb the fear, we numb other emotions too, such as love and joy, for example. We press most other feelings down along with the fear, and then the result, unsurprisingly, is depression. The way out from this is, I expect, to acknowledge fear and what it is that is scaring you. Don’t hide the fear behind anger, or behind not feeling anything at all, but look at it, take it out, unpack it, accept it, put it into words.

Now I’m going to state the blinking obvious: every time we have sexual intercourse, conception is the potential consequence of it. It is a responsibility of the parties involved to accept that possible outcome. I can see it isn’t particularly sexy. Fear isn’t very sexy either, nor is repressing emotions. It is understandable that you don’t fancy your girlfriend; this probably isn’t permanent, and it will also be to do with your reaction to her decision to continue with the pregnancy. It isn’t important that you don’t fancy her while you work through your feelings. A human will (all being well) be born and will be carrying your genes. So there really isn’t any running away from being a father. And if you do, there is always the risk that your child will take it personally and it will affect their self-esteem. It might affect yours, too.

My book The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did may be hard for you to read it, because it will encourage you to feel again what you felt as a baby and a child and how it felt for you growing up. It’s hard for anyone to feel things we’ve been running away from, but if we are brave enough to face them, they are rarely as frightening as we might have imagined. When you can reconnect with the baby and child you once were and love him, rather than wanting to push him away, then the idea of being a parent may be easier. Whether to break up with your girlfriend might not even seem to be the most important point. The main point is what sort of relationship will you be able to offer to your child. When you have compassion for yourself as a baby, as a child, you will be able to relate to yourself and to the baby as a person, not as a thing to be repressed, controlled, ordered or ignored.

When we have a baby, they are wholly dependent. They cannot even contain their own emotions and so they look to you to do this and everything else for them. This requires a huge shift in the adult person’s priorities, and it is enough to send the wisest and most loving of us into a panic, and such anxiety, understandably, tempts us to run away from the source of our fears instead of facing up to them.

It’s a big shock you’ve had. Give yourself time, give your relationship time, and what you want to do going forward will unfold in its due course. When you find that inner child of yours and treat him with compassion, then I think you will find the decisions you need to formulate about your own future are easier to make.

Philippa Perry’s The Book You Want Everyone You Love* To Read *(and maybe a few you don’t) is published by Cornerstone at £18.99. Buy it for £16.14 at guardianbookshop.com

Every week Philippa Perry addresses a personal problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Philippa, please send your problem to askphilippa@guardian.co.uk. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions

#wanted #kids #partner #pregnant

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