Life just loves to throw curve balls! Even if you're completely thrilled about finding yourself pregnant, deciding if and when to marry the guy who helped you make that baby can be a challenge. Seeking advice is helpful. But only you know how strong your relationship with the baby daddy is, so ultimately you're the one who has to figure out your future. Both love and pregnancy are different for every couple. "You have to do a gut check," says Craig Malkin, Ph.D., a psychologist in Cambridge, MA. "You have to be brutally honest and ask yourself how supported and secure you feel in this relationship."
It's a good idea to consider three big questions before seeking out any proposals: Do I feel safe in this relationship? Can I rely on this person? Am I completely myself with this person? Answering all three with an exuberant "Yes!" shows that you've solved the "if" part of the equation, and now you can focus on the "when."
In some cases, bringing a baby into the world brings couples closer together. Still, pregnancy creates a disruption in the relationship, so you can't expect you and your partner to be ready to tie the knot just because you're expecting. An arrangement that was fun and easy-going before the stick turned pink could quickly feel forced and estranged. "It's important to be honest, to share your expectations about your relationship and the baby, and to listen to your partners expectations, too," says Malkin.
If you've been together for at least several months and you're in a committed monogamous relationship, chances are you'd be better off getting hitched before your bundle of joy shows up. "A relationship has a higher chance of succeeding if you do get married when you're pregnant," says Cathy O'Neil, co-author of the book Babyproofing Your Marriage. "It shows that your commitment to each other has depth -- you're in this together," she says.
At the end of the day, creating a life together makes you a family whether you formally register with the government or not, says O'Neil. But that doesn't mean you have to get married right away, or ever. "With the anxiety the mom is feeling thanks to her hormones, getting a proposal would be enormously reassuring," says O'Neil. "But having a baby is quite possibly the biggest life change one can go through, and adding a wedding to the mix could create more pressure than it's worth."
Bottom line: Take a deep breath, take some time to think, and make the decision that feels right for you.
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