I am 33 years old, and have been dating a 32 year old man I met online for one year. He’s wonderful, and I don’t doubt his commitment to me. However, we are running into a bit of an impasse over the issue of children and parenting. I knew from the beginning that he was ambivalent about having kids. Part of him is definitely open to being a father someday, but he also has a lot of reservations about the changes in his life that it would require and can’t say for sure if he’ll ever come around to definitely wanting kids.
I am open to the idea of adopting, so I’m not totally panicking over my ostensibly-waning fertility.
All the same, I’ve realized that parenting is something I want to experience in life, so at some point it doesn’t make sense for me to be with someone who doesn’t share that goal.
I’ve communicated all this to my boyfriend, and I’ve avoided giving him any kind of ultimatum or deadline. But I have let him know in the course of these conversations that at some point, I will need to have a partner who shares the goal of one day being a parent. He’s worried that I’m going to walk and frustrated that I’m focusing on this complicated issue rather than just “letting it breathe.”
I’m feeling very torn, because on the one hand I don’t want to walk away from someone I love. On the other hand, I suspect that if he doesn’t want to have kids with me now, he never will, and I’ll have wasted valuable time I could have spent looking for a partner who does want that.
At what point do you think a couple should be able to have some kind of consensus about kids and parenting? Is a year too soon (or too late) to be expecting clarity on this? Do you think it’s wise to allow more time to let the relationship develop if it’s otherwise meeting my needs? Lastly, what kind of advice do you have about how to approach discussions of this issue?
After a year, Allison, you need to have a heart-to-heart.
But the thing about religion is that you CAN split it down the middle. With kids, you can’t. You’re either a parent, or you’re not.
The tone of your heart-to-heart isn’t that your eggs are drying up, or that you need a ring on your finger tomorrow. It’s about clarifying your mutual aspirations, and making sure you’re on the same page moving forward. If you’re not, you’re just treading water.
I’m really sympathetic to you, because I’ve been through a version of that myself. I waited six months to talk about religion with my girlfriend, because I was afraid it would become a deal-breaker – and I didn’t want the relationship to end. So on a weekend away in Napa, I brought up my concerns about what we’d do about our future children.
We quickly and easily struck a compromise where we both felt understood. And our relationship kept moving forward. If she had told me that there was no room for negotiation, we would have ended, sadly, right then and there. It would have been the right decision for both of us.
But the thing about religion is that you CAN split it down the middle. With kids, you can’t. You’re either a parent, or you’re not. Which means that it’s all the more urgent that you get clarity on this life-defining issue.
You can love this guy madly, but if you’re not willing to give up on the dream of being a mother, you need to know if he intends on being a father.
If he loves you – and I presume he does – he’s going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Is it possible that he’ll say he wants to be a dad and not mean it? Sure. But it’s more likely that he’ll say that he can’t make that commitment now, and that if you choose to leave him, he understands.
All you need is the security of knowing that he wants to have children. And if he can’t give you that security, you’re going to have to think long and hard about whether your relationship has a future.
Face it: your boyfriend may or may not want to be a father someday, but he definitely doesn’t want to decide right now. That’s his prerogative. But it’s equally your prerogative to assess your future prospects. It’s no secret that it’s harder to date and conceive after age 35 than it is right now, so I would take this seriously.
Just know that conversations reveal a person’s intentions, they don’t determine them. What I mean is that talking about children is not going to influence his opinion on children. He already knows where he stands; he just hasn’t told you yet.
So when you ask him, don’t give him an ultimatum. Couch this in terms of what you need right now. You don’t need a ring right now. You don’t need a house right now. You don’t need a baby now – or even in five years! All you need is the security of knowing that he wants to have children. And if he can’t give you that security, you’re going to have to think long and hard about whether your relationship has a future.
Deciding to put your foot down in this instance doesn’t make you demanding, Allison. It just makes you smart.
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