by Kevin Burke, LSW
Glee star Naya Rivera was arrested November 25th for an assault upon her husband Ryan Dorsey. The couple was arguing over an issue related to their 2 year old son Josey at the time of the incident:
“According to authorities… Rivera struck [Dorsey] in the head and face. He had minor injuries consistent with his claims, and further showed authorities a video taken during the alleged incident.”
What will be a footnote in many news accounts of this couple’s painful public conflict – is an abortion they shared in 2010.
It is likely that abortion experience continues to play a central role in the suffering and dysfunction in their relationship.
“After first starting to date [Ryan Dorsey] in 2010 — a few months following Glee‘s premiere — the couple split so Rivera could focus on her career. A few weeks later, she discovered that she was pregnant with his child, and decided to get an abortion.”
Rivera shares in her book Sorry Not Sorry, “When I made that decision [to have an abortion], I made it by myself, as I feel is the case for a lot of women, and I did not share it with Ryan at the time.”
After the abortion Rivera had a series of failed relationships with Glee co-star Mark Salling and rapper Big Sean in 2014.
Shortly after the relationship with Big Sean ended, Rivera suddenly announced that she was back with Ryan Dorsey and the couple had married in a small private ceremony.
Rivera shared in her book, “By this time we sort of reconnected, I was like, ‘Gosh, there’s a reason why you keep coming back in my life and we keep coming back together…”
What about that abortion the couple shared back in 2010?
Rivera said that Ryan’s only regret was that he was unable to accompany her to the abortion center, to support her during the procedure. According to Rivera, Dorsey was completely understanding about her decision to have an abortion in 2010.
Rivera shared in People “I think it was the kindest, best thing that any man could have ever said in that situation. It just made me love him that much more.”
And in February 2015, she announced that they were expecting a baby.
“Ryan and I feel so blessed and can’t wait to welcome the newest member of our family.”
The Abortion Disconnection
As they shared their joy at the coming birth of their son Josey, there remains a family member that has yet to be privately and publicly acknowledged, and most importantly grieved.
When mothers and fathers participate in the death of their unborn child, they may appear like Naya and Ryan, fine with their decision.
The emotions of fear and anxiety when facing an unplanned pregnancy, and situations where there is relationship change or complications, can lead parents to feel a sense of relief that the pregnancy problem has been resolved.
Yet the testimonies of women and men who have experienced abortion loss, and later reconciled and recovered from that experience, help us to understand that, often on an unconscious level, this is a far more complicated experience.
There are deeper feelings associated with a couple’s role in the child’s death. Over time the failure to address this will impact their relationship.
While most relationships end within the first year after the procedure, some couples remain together after an abortion, even when the relationship becomes dysfunctional. The relationship can serve as a type of living memorial for the aborted child.
Because they are unable to acknowledge the child they lost, and share any pain and natural grief about their role in the child’s death, couples can be driven to re-connect and maintain their relationship, even when it becomes unhealthy.
This may lead to to periods of separation, affairs with unstable partners, drug and alcohol abuse, and communication and anger issues.
The pregnancy and birth of other living children will naturally surface feelings and memories associated with that aborted child.
The Truth Will Set You Free
After the birth of their son Josey in September 2015, Rivera and Dorsey once again faced relationship problems and began the process to end the marriage.
Yet after a time of successful co-parenting during their separation, the couple decided to call off the divorce in October 2017.
On November 25th Rivera was arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery.
It may be significant that this incident revolved around parenting issues related to their 2 year old son and took place in his presence.
There is a gaping wound in the heart of this mother and father, and in their family. Their son or daughter (and Josey’s sibling) has died.
Failure to acknowledge, reconcile and heal this complicated loss leaves couples and families at risk, and can lead to so much heartache, dysfunction and relational and family pain.
Of course there can be other factors that contribute to relationship problems and domestic violence. But based on our experience over the last 20 years with couples that have an abortion in their history, it can be a key contributing factor.
The challenging and humbling experience of emotional and spiritual reconciliation of this loss, along with ongoing counseling help, can help change toxic communication and behavior patterns in a relationship.
After abortion recovery couples can better discern how to move ahead as partners, and as a family, in a healthy way.
Let’s hope and pray that this couple will one day experience the freedom and peace that can only come from reconciling their abortion with the Creator of life.
[For more information on how abortion impacts men, women and their relationships get Kevin Burke’s latest book, Tears of the Fisherman: Recovery for men Wounded by Abortion
and Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, by Theresa Burke with David Reardon. ]