Does Her Ex Want to Use Her Again?

Q: My ex-boyfriend (we have a child together) keeps telling me that he loves me and that he wants to be with me, but he hasn't done anything to prove his feelings to me. When I got pregnant he wanted me to move in with him, but I refused to because he was cheating on me at the time and I felt like he was using me for sex and money. Our daughter is 7 months old now and he hasn't done anything for her, nor did he do anything for me during the pregnancy. He only saw her twice, because I thought that was going to change something. I had to live with my parents during the pregnancy because I was very sick and had to be out of work for the first four months. He did not want to come to my parents' house, where I still am. If I even tell my parents that I am talking to him they will be very upset and disappointed. I don't feel like I can trust him, but I really love him and I am not sure what to do. -- Wendy, 28

Dr. Susan: Your gut feelings of being exploited by this fellow led you to make the wise decision to move in with your parents instead of with him. That is, of course, after making the poor decision of getting involved with him in the first place, and then of getting pregnant with him. Now, it's usually positive for a child to have contact with her father, but you can't force him to be a good dad to her. The fact that he has done nothing for you or her all this time does not show him to be good husband material. Yet I wouldn't entirely rule him out yet.

I would suggest, first of all, that you stop keeping your contacts with him a secret from your parents who are only trying to help. They are justifiably furious at him, but if he wants to have a part in your daughter's life, it's worth giving him a chance. Now, whether you want to give him a second chance with your heart is another story. You and he both need to go more slowly this time. Hopping into bed with him, or giving him money when you have little to spare, would seem to be major mistakes. Let him know that you are thinking of seeing him, but only casually, say at a coffee shop with your daughter. He needs to show he is willing to go slowly too. The burden of proof of his solid intentions and trustworthiness needs to be on him. I don't think what you feel for him is necessarily "love," but rather a kind of hope that you and him, an idealized version of him, could someday form a happy family together. Let him prove his love.

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