Existing during a pandemic is definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever done. And I’m definitely not alone. Everyone I know is dealing with stressors: insecurity about work, anxiety about health, worries about school, fear of things getting worse, etc. We’re all living our lives in a very regimented and routine way, making sure we wash our hands enough and wear our masks when we go outside.
Comforts like in-store retail therapy, snuggling up in a favorite coffee shop or bar, or visiting the library or a museum are in many cases unavailable. Our mental health is suffering in ways we can’t even fathom.
One woman wrote on Reddit that she is worried about her husband’s mental health—especially since he’s been asking her repeatedly to get a paternity test to ensure that their three-year-old son is actually his without any rational reason.
The OP writes that there has never been any doubt that her husband is the father of their son. “I’ve never given him any cause for concern that I cheated on him; he acknowledges all of this,” she says.
“Last week, he came to me and said that for the last few months, he has been ‘plagued’ (his word) with this anxiety that our son is not his. They don’t look identical, granted, but they definitely share similar features and I see my husband whenever I look at my son.”
“I had no idea he was having these thoughts. I asked him to explain why he thought that he wasn’t his and he couldn’t really provide any answer other than ‘a gut feeling.’ He asked me if I would be okay if he got a paternity test done so it could ease his mind. I initially said absolutely not, no way in hell; I was very very offended. He told me that he could just do it without my permission and I said if he did that, I would never forgive him.”
“My husband does not have a history of anxiety, but he did lose his job back at the start of the pandemic so he’s been with our son most of the time while I work my full time job from home. I know this hasn’t been easy on him. I’m not a psychiatrist or anything but maybe he is starting to resent our son or something from just having to be around him constantly.”
The OP explains that she talked to some friends and they suggested that maybe her husband was having some mental or emotional problems due to the stress of not having a job. So the OP told her husband that she would consider getting a paternity test if he went to therapy and perhaps started taking medication.
“He was very upset at this and said that once he got the results of the test back, he wouldn’t be anxious anymore and that I wasn’t being fair by making him go through a whole ‘rigmarole’ (again, his word) just to get ‘peace of mind.'”
The OP says that he threatened once more to get the test without her permission. She said this would end their relationship and is worried that there is something serious going on with her husband that he needs help for.
So she reached out to Redditors for advice on what to do. They had a lot of advice on how to deal with folks suffering from anxiety or other stress-related mental health issues.
“I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The thing about anxiety is that is cares very little about things ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ or ‘proof.’ Just knowing intellectually that you’re being ridiculous has never stopped an intrusive thought from coming back. If she got the test, OP’s husband might feel better for a day or a week or two, but after that his brain will either go back to the same worry, test results be damned, or find a new one to latch onto. OP, right now your refusal is probably feeding his anxiety (‘she has something to HIDE!’), so I’m not going to recommend that you hold firm to him getting treatment first. But I would hold out until he makes a concrete step towards getting treated, such as making a doctor’s appointment, and if he cancels afterwards (‘because I’m fine now!’) then draw the line there and definitely refuse the next ridiculous anxiety request. Because it will be coming,” explained RishaBree.
“Even in the best case scenario where this is all due to anxiety brought on by the pandemic don’t believe that after the test he’ll be better. Soon it’ll be 2 tests. Then 3 because he’ll be afraid of false positives. This type of anxiety gets worse until it moves on to something else, I’ve had the same obsessive anxiety for years and it didn’t get better until after therapy and medication. I still struggle. Stand your ground OP,” said thisyearasaghost.
“If it is a big enough deal that he was willing to risk losing his marriage and potentially permanently damaging his relationship with his child…then his anxiety is a big enough problem that it needs to be address in therapy. Giving in and getting the test will only address this one anxiety. More will pop up. That’s the nature of the beast. You can’t placate someone with anxiety. It never goes away until the root of the problem is addressed. And even then, it’s a life long struggle. Your husband has an anxiety problem and it is only going to get worse. And he needs help,” said Ron_Fuckin_Swanson.
“It could be an anxiety problem, or it could be that the husband, feeling ’emasculated’ by his unemployment (I do not personally think it is emasculating, but have heard that some men can feel that way when unemployed), has turned to some of the darker corners of the internet where men talk about how many men get ‘trapped’ into raising children that aren’t theirs. This is also an anxiety issue, but one that has a different root,” noted Flower-of-Telperion.
“Validating someone’s anxiety is often not the best way to deal with it- you’ll end up constantly going out of your way to reassure him, and it won’t help with the overall problem. He’ll move on to fixating on something else. He needs therapy. Tell him if the therapist recommends a paternity test, you’ll do it,” said SoftVampiric.
“If this is coming out of the blue and you get the feeling that your husband resents your son, then you may want to re-consider having him act as the primary caregiver. His actions sound completely irrational and both his anger and repeated threats that he could just get it done behind your back are extremely concerning to me. He has clearly fixated on this idea and it sounds as though he is growing more and more obsessed with getting a paternity test. He could be cheating on you and projecting that onto you, he could be panicking about his unemployment and being responsible for a child, he could be looking for a way out, etc. Regardless, he sounds unstable and enabling his paranoia does not seem wise,” advised Thamwoofgu.
“These kinds of irrational, intrusive thoughts usually correlate with a huge stressor…like losing a job during a global pandemic. If your husband has no history of an anxiety disorder I would treat this as a mental health issue instead of a relationship problem. Make it clear that you recognize that he isn’t accusing you of cheating, he’s just trying to rid himself of an overwhelming feeling of fear and uncertainty. The fact that he’s fixated on his son not being his suggests to me that losing his family is probably a big fear for him, probably along with not being able to be a good father. These sort of obsessive thoughts usually come from a place of helplessness and he’s desperately trying to re-take control. If I were in your situation I would agree to take the test if your husband agrees to a therapy visit that same day of the test to talk about his fears surrounding the issue. Then, when the results come back, you have your second session to address the entire event and how he can deal with these thoughts moving forwards. I think he’s probably embarrassed to even admit to having these thoughts, knowing they aren’t rational and could come off as seeing you in a negative light. Try to avoid feeling accused. This isn’t about you as a wife or a mother, this is his mind telling him he isn’t good enough,” said undeadgorgeous.