Monday, November 21, 2005

a question of paternity and trust

consider this scenario: you're married and expecting your first child. after the child is born, as the father you notice the child looks nothing like you. do you demand a paternity test done? what if the child is the splitting image of you when you were its age? as the mother, your husband has asked you to have a test to confirm the paternity of the child. how would you feel about that?

i had an interesting discussion on this very thing with a friend of mine, west. he has taken the stance that a paternity test is automatic after the birth of each child, even if they're married. in fact, he says he will demand a paternity test be done for all of his children.

now initially, i was totally against the idea of requesting a paternity test be done for each child. as i see it, when two people take the vow of marriage, there is the assumption that they will both be faithful. however, he countered with the fact that many folks are unfaithful and therefore, no one knows the paternity of the child without confirmation of a test. he sees this as a practical move that insures the child is indeed his, comparing the request for paternity confirmation to a prenup agreement.

there are a number of practical reasons that a paternity test should be done. if the child wasn't fathered by the husband, then infidelity is confirmed. however, the only reason i could accept for this kind of thing is the fact that once the paternity is confirmed, the medical history of the child can be determined, which is necessary just in case the child comes down with a hereditary illness.

west says he will tell his intended prior to them getting married that it will be required for her to submit to a paternity test after the birth of each child. as a female, i find it difficult to wrap my mind around that demand. here's why:

a prenup agreement is in essence a document that guards assets against the possibility of future behavior that would prove detrimental to the marriage. it also exists so that in the case of the marriage ending, there is already a document establishing what goes to whom. i can understand why a prenup exists. people, by and large, have the potential to do things that aren't honest and can damage a relationship, so this is saying "if i do this, this is what happens".

however, when it comes to demanding paternity tests, i don't see how it directly compares to a prenup, unless it's stipulated in the prenup that the woman have a paternity test after every child. i would think that kind of demand would have to be put into writing before the marriage. but if there is already a prenup agreement place to guard against infidelity, why would a paternity test be necessary in addition to that?

how far does this kind of thing go? sure, it's practical to demand a paternity test. it's also practical for a woman to demand her husband have an aids test prior to every time they engage in sex. there are a number of unknown factors to each relationship and we rely on the fact that we've chosen people who are worthy of our trust to determine what kinds of demands we make regarding their actions. is it really an unwise thing to trust the person you've vowed to honor, trust, and be loyal to to the point of not demanding a paternity test be done after each child is born?

i don't see many women out there agreeing to that kind of stipulation. i mean really, when does the trust begin in the relationship? if a woman tells her husband she's pregnant with his child, why is a paternity test necessary? isn't the act of demanding a paternity test in essence the man telling the woman he's unsure of whether or not to believe her and instead prefers concrete evidence of her fidelity to her word?

ultimately, everyone has the capacity to do evil. however, don't we know that when we enter into a relationship with a person? the fact that we make the commitment in the first place means that despite the potential for that kind of behavior, we trust that person not do do something that would violate our trust and betray our relationship. a prenup might bring up the more practical aspects of being in a relationship, but i think that's guarding against the "what if". if a woman becomes pregnant and a paternity test is demanded by her husband, i think that is telling the woman "your word isn't good enough and until i see confirmation from the test, i can't believe you." this is second-guessing her faithfulness regarding an act that has already taken place.

what woman do you know who would be willing to accept that kind of relationship? i don't know of any. does trust in relationships come with stipulations? "i believe you in situation a, b, and c. i will not believe you automaticaly in situations d, e, and f." is there such a thing as that? if so, trust in a relationship is way more complicated than my simple mind can understand. i think i'm a realist when it comes to relationships, especially after having experienced the worst that can occur between folks short of murder. however, i don't think i'm blindly trusting a brotha if we're married and i don't ask him to have an aids test before every time we have sex. i think i'm telling him i believe in his honor. i believe in him as a person and his faithfulness towards the relationship.

the potential for me getting hurt by making that assumption in his character is just as great as the potential for me not getting hurt. therefore, demanding a paternity test in a committed relationship is accepting the more cynical view that folks are more likely to be dishonest than honest. it's focusing moreso on a person's potential for evil than their potential for good. where's the hope for a successful marriage in that way of thinking?

i can see where a demand for a paternity test is demanded between unmarried folks who haven't made a commitment to each other. however, i can't see it in a marriage.

what do you think? someone explain to me how its more important to establish paternity than it is to have emplicit trust in the person you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with?