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Planning Retirement Online


                         May 2010

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


Unplanned pregnancy in the modern world

A young woman has written to me recently. She is 20 and pregnant. Her boyfriend is 23 and not only drinks himself to oblivion regularly but has attempted suicide. She too is very depressed. The more I prepared my reply, the more I began to think about my own early and unplanned pregnancy. I berated myself. How could I have been that careless? I had just made an appointment to go and get the new birth control pill! Yet how lucky I was that my boyfriend was more than ready to stand by me and that my dear parents were nothing but supportive – not easy in rural not-quite-permissive ‘60s. Privately though they were very worried that my relationship would not be a lasting one and that becoming a mother would interfere with my career.

Having lived an interesting and fulfilled life to date, albeit with various rough patches along the way, I thought about the young woman who is worrying about how to help her boyfriend and cope with her own needs while trying to prepare for all that having a baby will entail. My advice to her is to focus totally on herself and the coming baby. Her relationship sounds troubled and the boyfriend is in need of specialist help which she is not in any position to offer.

Looking back I felt very adult at 20yrs of age but now see how little experience of dealing with huge events I had. It is crucial to our continuing growth as adults that, wherever possible, the early tests of any size are eased by those a little further on in life. I had the luxury of unquestioning support from my family and their generosity in accepting my boyfriend into their pack was a demonstration of the love and trust they were ready to offer.

Because of that my boyfriend became my husband and we thrived as a growing and loving family for 19 years before divorcing amicably. To this day we remain close friends, indeed my former husband has just been staying with my present husband and I, visiting our children, while waiting for the skies to clear of volcanic ash and flying back to his adopted US home.

I’m writing of my own experience as I have been wondering at how different it all is today. Now there are endless single parent mums, struggling to raise their little ones without fathers. There are many grandparents who seldom – or never - see their grandchildren because their son chose not to stay with the girl who became pregnant with his baby or whose girlfriend chose not to involve him in the baby’s upbringing. I find this a really sad thought. It is depriving not just the ‘hidden’ parent and grandparents, but the child too, who is missing half a family.

Yet here I am, suggesting to this girl of 20yrs that, while not shutting the door completely, she encourages her boyfriend to seek his own solo help to sort out his life while she gathers about her the kind of support group that I was fortunate enough to have. She needs her parents if possible and a few really good strong friendships to sustain her during, and after, the birth of her child.

She does not need an alcoholic depressive around her and nor does the baby. She also needs medical support for her own depressive state. I hope that my reply to her clarifies why.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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