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Features & Columns
by Eric Miyeni

Advice

Managing change

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A friend called me out of the blue. It had been years since we had spoken. She asked how I was and I answered. She said she was fine too. We hung up. Strange.

A few days later she called again. This time she asked me what I thought of her boyfriend, who, she pointed out, was going out more and more without her, but not alone. He, she said, was going out with other women and was not hiding the fact. I asked if he was dating while they were together. She said he was not because he said so and was honest about where he went out and with whom. She trusted him.

She just called me to ask if I could explain, as a man, why he would do this if he was still in love with her and committed to their union.

Ah... er… I stumbled. “I don’t know,” I blurted out. Was there any recent change in their relationship, I asked, clutching at straws? Small matter, she said: I am pregnant.

“By whom?” I pressed on. By him, of course, she answered, a bit irritated. Oh! Well, how does he feel about the pregnancy?

He says he’s fine.

And when did he start this going-out-without-you business?

Now that you mention it, she said, it started at about the time that I told him I was expectant.

That’s when it occurred to me: her boyfriend was scared. So I told her so. Men feel obliged to act as though they are in control no matter what is going on, that they are not easily phased by life’s goings on, that they can handle anything no matter what the season or time of day. I am not sure that I know why men generally do this. Maybe it’s upbringing. Maybe it’s this cultural hierarchy that societies teach that puts men on top. It’s more likely to be a combination of things that include general socialisation.

Whatever it is, I think it’s sad because often it forces men to act in the opposite way to how they really feel.

A baby was coming and nothing between these two people would ever be the same again. Even though most people smile and act happy when they are told that a baby is on the way, deep down inside them, something shifts, especially when it’s their first child coming.

Will it be a trouble-free pregnancy? Will it result in a healthy baby? Some men will ask themselves: is it really my child that she’s carrying? This is scary stuff. These are anxious times. A baby is a huge responsibility.

I told my friend not to take her boyfriend’s word at face value. I asked her to sit him down, talk to him and help him to open up more honestly about how he really feels about the pregnancy. I told her that what she needed to do was recognise that the two of them were going through a major change in their relationship and in their lives in general and that change always calls for delicate management, otherwise things fall apart.

You don’t simply announce a pregnancy and expect everything to immediately fall in place.

If you are going to have a shot at a long lasting relationship in this life, I said, if you are ever going to go through life happier than most people, you have to first realise that change is the constant in every upheaval and, secondly, that managing change properly is what will set you apart from the unhappy lot.

I haven’t heard from my friend since that conversation. I pray that I was right in my analysis.

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