My Boyfriend Broke Up with Me Because I’m Unsure About Having Kids. Should I Move On?

I’m 30 and have been dating a man (37) for 6 months. It’s been slow going as we both have high-demand jobs, but we’re beginning to get more serious in terms of feelings and long-term commitment.

He is divorced with a child from his previous marriage, but would like to have another child someday. I, due to some personal health risks, have decided that childbearing is not likely in my future, but I’m not opposed to having children. I would like to find the right person first. I’ve mentioned a few times that I didn’t want to have children, but we’ve never really sat down and talked about the specifics.

This weekend he abruptly broke up with me because he wants to have a family and I do not, but said that everything between us really was great. He just doesn’t want to make things more serious, knowing that we don’t have the same views on children.

The issue is that I COULD want children. I just need to find the right person, but would still have concerns about childbearing due to a health concern. After he told me it was over, I tried to explain in more detail the why. He decided he’d think about it, knowing now the reason behind my hesitation.

I felt it was very unfair to end things without knowing the whole story or talking things through first. I don’t want it to end. It’s been a really great relationship so far and I adore him. Should I move on? Is there anything I can do to try again with him or is his mind made up? I don’t want to waste his time or mine.

Danielle

Call this, “My Girlfriend Broke Up with Me Because I’m Unsure About Having Kids,” reverse the gender roles and you have your answer.

You want to be a mother? Only go out with men who REALLY want to be fathers.

As a dating coach, I would tell any woman not even to BEGIN dating a man who isn’t sure if he wants kids. Why invest time in something that’s potentially doomed from the start? On the off-chance that he changes his mind? Sorry, but I encourage risk aversion on this one. You want to be a mother? Only go out with men who REALLY want to be fathers.

So, Danielle, from my perspective, your boyfriend did the absolute right thing for him; whether it’s the right thing for you is immaterial.

Let him find a woman who wants to have kids and then go find yourself a man who doesn’t.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Malika

    If he wants to have his own biological children, and you think that it’s highly unlikely due to health reasons, then he does have every right to move on. The relationship goals that you have don’t necessarily overlap with his. As painful as it is to you, it’s probably best you guys move and both date people whose future wishes align more fluidly.

    From your letter, it does sound as if it’s very unclear what the situation actually is. You say that childbearing is unlikely (or do you mean that the health risks make it dangerous for you to have a child, not that it is impossible?), so i take it that you don’t want to have your own biological children in the regular way. Does this mean that you would want to adopt a child or foster parent? Would a surrogate mother be a good, if costly solution? Would you need ivf? Or does this all just mean you would willingly undertake the health risks if you thought this man would be the one?  I don’t know how clear this is in your mind, and whether the man knew of this, even if it is clear to you. Maybe he thought you don’t want children, end of and that you are now vacillating because he walked away. If you do not have a clear plan on how to have children or whether you want them, it would be good to reflect on your wishes before dating this man or any other. If a man is looking for a relationship wherein he can build a (second) family, he deserves clarity on this issue and it will make your dating life easier.

    In my late twenties i did my own reflecting on the issue. I had always had clear in my mind that i didn’t want my own biological children (also due to health risks), but maybe i would be willing to adopt. It became clear to me as time went on that i wasn’t in a financial state to clear the adoption process plus i knew i needed to overcome quite a few hurdles regarding mental health before i could embark on a stable relationship. It was only in my mid thirties that i felt i was ready to be there for another man, and by then i knew for sure that my own children weren’t going to be part of the picture. I communicated this to my prospective dates via my OKC profile and the men i have dated in the past couple of years were happy to date a childfree woman, as they either had their own or didn’t want them themselves either. It feels good not to mislead, and to have clarity on the issue. I hope you find yours.

  2. 2
    Callie

    LW – I’m a little confused. In your letter it comes across like all you said to him initially was you didn’t want children. You didn’t explain your physical issues with it or that you would be interested with the right person. So if all you said was “I don’t want children” how can you be upset with him for ending it for that reason? You think it’s unfair that he did it because he didn’t know the whole story but how did he know he didn’t know the whole story? Many women out there don’t want children because they don’t want them end of story. I think the fact that he’s thinking about it now with the new information is very nice of him, and you should let him take that time. If he still isn’t interested, then he still isn’t interested. But don’t be upset with him because he couldn’t read your mind. And next time make sure when the subject comes up you are much clearer and more specific in your answer.

  3. 3
    AllHeart81

    Danielle, you should move on. Clearly having more biological children is important to him. While  there are many people in relationships who discover they can’t have biological children due to many reasons and they stay together because they love each other and they go forward either adopting kids or finding other ways to find happiness together, I don’t think he was willing to walk that path with you. He didnt seem to want that. Plus, he is a 37 year old with a child and divorced. That’s a lot of baggage. How did you even feel about potentially being a step mom? Is he involved in his other child’s life? You don’t really mention his child to much or your feelings about him already having a child. you are 30. You have enough time to find a man on board with you and excited to live life with you vs a 37 year old divorced man who already has a child. Not that those things are bad. But they are a lot to contend with.

  4. 4
    David

    You said “It’s been a really great relationship so far and I adore him.”  But you also said “I would like to find the right person first.”  So which is it?  If the first statement is true, then why isn’t he “the right person?”  Seems like you need to figure out what you really feel.  Otherwise you are just stringing him along.

  5. 5
    Bob

    Move on.

    Plenty of men who don’t want to change diapers. Plenty of men who you’ll click with. Plenty of men who will love you. Plenty of men who will be and do all those things.

    But what about your adoration for your ex? You two’s awesome chemistry on seemingly all but this issue? That’s oneitis for the person who dumped you. It’s agonizing, disillusioning…. Just miserable.

    Unfortunately I’ve been there and any relationship I embark on in the future is a risk of repeating the experience. Matters of the heart come with risks. No way around that.

    So what should you do?

    Begin the process of acceptance. See a therapists- no shame there. You’ll heal better that way.

    In time, you’ll see that you and him were not perfect for each other in all ways but this one. In time.

    You’ll learn a lot from this, and you’ll be wiser next time.

  6. 6
    Marika

    My friend and I were talking on the weekend about men who shoot themselves in the foot in dating. Men who pretty much shout out ‘our goals don’t align’ (not in so many words), then wonder why it doesn’t work out.

    Clearly women do it too. You really left the man with no choice here and he did the right thing. For both of you. Take it as a learning experience for next time. Don’t tell men who want kids that you don’t. Unless you’re really sure.

    The only part of Evan’s advice I’m finding tricky is the bit about him telling women who want kids not to date men who don’t want kids. Sometime it’s not clear. And you want to not read the last page of the book..etc..or quiz them about kids too soon and scare them away. So how do you do both??

    1. 6.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      If you want to have kids, choose men who are sure they want kids. If you date the “don’t know” men, you will sadly discover that at least 50% of them DON’T want kids, at which point you’ve invested a year or two on a dead end. Better to avoid dead-ends by choosing guys who KNOW they want to be dads. There’s plenty of ’em.

      1. 6.1.1
        Marika

        Thanks Evan, and I get that. But if you meet IRL, it’s hard to know for sure how they feel about kids, and I’m trying to reconcile your advice about not dating men who don’t want kids, with not quizzing them too early about wanting kids (and potentially scaring them off).

        That’s a situation I’m in right now.

        1. Vincent

          Isn’t scaring off the men who don’t want kids the point? Or are you thinking you’ll change him?

        2. Sum Guy

          Marika, I’ve only tried two dating sites but both have a “do you want kids” basic profile question.   I always look at this and if we don’t align move on.

          Kind of takes the work right out of it   If you’ve been burned before, that is they put one thing on the profile and say another, then think it’s perfectly legitimate after a time to ask, would you consider having kids someday if you found the right person.

          Have to admit though, I’m around 50 so most all of us have kids, don’t mind if the other does, but don’t want to have more kids.  Now it’s more kids still at home or not issue.

    2. 6.2
      GoWiththeFlow

      Marika,

      I couldn’t disagree with you more.  How many times have you heard, or seen written (including Evan’s blog) something like this:  “My ex and I divorced 3 years ago after I realized they didn’t want to have kids.”  It’s prudent if you want kids to only date potential partners who do too.  Otherwise your active fertile years can fly by and you will lose your chance to realize your dreams while you’re waiting for someone to come around.

      “Don’t tell men who want kids that you don’t”

      This is dishonest and deceitful.  It’s lying, period.

      1. 6.2.1
        Marika

        You completely misunderstood what I said, GWTF and left out an important part of what I said from your quote above: Unless you’re really sure.

        If she’s sure she doesn’t want kids, she should tell men that. But if she’s not sure if she doesn’t want kids (which appears to be the case here), she shouldn’t tell men that she doesn’t want kids and then backtrack to try to explain once they’ve broken up with her.

        Never advocated lying. Calm down please.

        1. GoWiththeFlow

          Then she should say she’s unsure if she doesn’t want kids, and she should say how unsure she is.  It’s unfair to hide a firm no, a probable no, or a possible no.  By doing so, she would be taking away a man’s choices about something that’s important to him.  I COULD want children IF I find the right person literally means, let me decide if you’re my future husband first then maybe I’ll decide to have children with you.  For any man who wants children, that’s going to be a huge red flag.

          Maybe the LW will examine the issue and come to a more definitive decision in the coming weeks and months.  If she hasn’t discussed the medical issue that concerns her, a visit to an OB/GYN to discuss pregnancy and childbirth risk may give her some additional information to work with.

          “Calm down please.”

          I’m completely calm.  Your last sentence is unwarranted.

    3. 6.3
      S.

      GTWF, I have a question about your response.

       I COULD want children IF I find the right person literally means, let me decide if you’re my future husband first then maybe I’ll decide to have children with you.  For any man who wants children, that’s going to be a huge red flag.

      Why is this a red flag? It may mean she simply might not want to have kids with him.  She’s unsure.  Yeah, she’s probably not for him, but she might get clearer in the future.  I don’t think it’s a general red flag. I actually think it’s prudent to be selective about the father of one’s future children and deciding if he’s her husband first doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.

      On a separate note, she should tell her guy the whole story about her physical health.  She doesn’t have to tell us here, but she should tell him so she doesn’t think it’s so unfair for him to decide without knowing. Maybe she’d be risking her life to have kids.  Who knows? For me, it is about the man and taking that risk would be more for him than her own need to have kids.  He (or the relationship, rather) would have to be marriage material to risk her life, in my opinion.

  7. 7
    S

    I think Danielle is actually undecided. She said she wasn’t opposed to having kids. I just think it was early in the relationship (for her, I know it was six months but she’s not ready) and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to have kids with this guy. It’s a big deal for her and she doesn’t want to have them with just anyone, especially as there is a health risk to her.  She wanted reassurance and time.  He wanted reassurance that she wanted kids no matter what. So they are misaligned. I don’t think anyone is wrong here. He has a right to have someone who can freely and enthusiastically say yes, I see myself having your child someday and who can say that right now. She has a right to some patience since what I get from her is that she’s willing and would need a solid relationship first.

    It’s been six months, so maybe he isn’t the one to walk that road of patience with her.  He doesn’t have to. But I don’t hear a clear ‘no kids ever’ from her.  I sense a lot of fear and confusion from her.  I think she has to get clear on what she wants kid-wise, esp. if she dates men who want more kids.

  8. 8
    Clare

    I was in this exact situation with my ex-husband (yes we married young, yes there were things we didn’t talk about beforehand and should have) – he really wanted children and I was ambivalent about them. At least, I couldn’t definitively say “yes” when he started putting the pressure on. In this case, broke it off because I realised we couldn’t make each other happy if we were pulling in opposite directions. He really wanted children and I really didn’t want to be forced.

     

    He deserved someone who unequivocally wanted the same things he did. He was a good husband and I loved him enough to want him to be happy. It was absolutely the right decision because I am happier not being with him, and he got happily married to a girl a year after us divorcing and they have two beautiful children now.

     

    Danielle, I say this to give you hope. Breaking up is hard to do, as the song goes. There is a lot of sadness and grief when you still love the person. But when there are these fundamental differences between you, it is for the best. Marriage is enough of a challenge even when you are on the same page. Why make it harder on yourself. You both deserve an easier life with someone who wants the same things as you do.

  9. 9
    Lisa

    The letter writer I think needs to clarify what her health conditions are exactly. For this man it probably does not matter but there is a difference between not wanting kids and physically being unable to bear them. I am 40 and while I’ve always been ambivalent about kids I realize physically it would be a challenge for me at this age. My fiancé who is 47 does not understand my concerns and thinks I can just keep bearing children to infinity!  I find these days a lot of men in the 37 and older range who are childless and want kids more so than women. The stereotype is that it’s women who want them but I don’t find that to be true. The guy in this article clearly looked to date a younger woman for this reason. While men can have kids to infinity physically it becomes challenging to meet women as they age who want to date them who are of child bearing age! They don’t think of that. If kids are that important to him he did the right thing. It’s a waste of your time otherwise.

    1. 9.1
      Adreana

      My fiancé who is 47 does not understand my concerns and thinks I can just keep bearing children to infinity

      I’m sorry he doesn’t get  Surely men in their late 40’s and 50’s can have kids, but is it even a good idea? Imagine how embarrassing it is for the kid to be picked up from school by “grandpa”. Not to mention their energy levels won’t be the same as a younger man( and the same applies to women of course). I would rather enjoy my free time having sex than running after kids! LOL

      1. 9.1.1
        Scooter

        This is ridiculous.  You’re painting all “older” men with your own biased brush.

        1. Adreana

          This is reality. Not “all” older men are like this but the majority are.

          It’s not a “sweet” thing to say  but it’s common sense.

           

  10. 10
    SparklingEmerald

    I agree with Evan, and I say this as someone who’s dating life tanked during her “prime” years, because from 18-27 I was “sure” I didn’t want kids.  Many relationships never got off the ground as soon as I made my feelings clear.  I didn’t hide my feeling behind a mask of ambiguity though. For very sad reasons, I was adamantly sure I never wanted to have children.

    I  changed my mind in my late 20’s and really wanted at least one child.  It was a little difficult because at that point, men in my age group mostly had already had kids and didn’t want more.  Eventually I fell in love with a man who was dating for the future mother of his children, and we did have one child together, whom we both love dearly, although we are now divorced, and I am re-married.

    Bottom line, I really don’t buy “ambiguity” in relationships.  Weather it’s ambiguity about wanting something “serious”, wanting marriage or wanting parenthood.  I think ambiguity is a cover for “I want the opposite of what you want, but if I come right out and say it, you will leave me”, so up comes an ambiguous answer, and that’s how people get strung along for years, and years.

    She should decide if she wants children, yes or no.  And if the answer is yes, see a doctor and get a definitive answer on her reproductive health.  I have talked to far to many people who have self diagnosed themselves as infertile, are careless with BC, then get pregnant becuase they “thought they couldn’t”.  BS.

    If she doesn’t want kids, she should just admit that and only date men who don’t.

    A woman who wants to have children would be CRAZY do date men who are “on the fence” about marriage or motherhood.  It’s a waste of those precious few child bearing years.   Men are unwise to waste time on women who don’t or are “unsure” as well, but their biological window on fatherhood never completely closes, although eventually it becomes harder to find a woman willing to have HIS child as he gets older, and fertility declines, although doesn’t completely stop.

    Never date someone who is “ambiguous” about something you KNOW you want.  Weather it’s marriage or parenthood.  That’s a one way ticket to being strung along for years.

  11. 11
    Marie

    I agree with Evan. I feel it’s best to be unambiguous about your life goals in a long term committed relationship, especially if you already have an uneasy inkling that you are not on the same page.  This conversation should have happened before 6 months IMO.  I discussed with my husband about 3 months in that my goals were to get married and have kids in the next 2-3 years, and though he didn’t have to figure it out now, if he didn’t see that in our future then he needed to let me know. He said so that means we should get engaged in about a year, and I said yes. He said ok I can do that and proposed to me about 10 months in. Now, I was reasonably sure we were both on the same page about this but you never know until all cards are on the table. His ex gf told him she wanted kids with him after 3 years together (didn’t even bring up marriage) and he fled. She wasted 3 years of her life when she should have figured this out sooner.

  12. 12
    Adreana

    This is why I ask the “hard” questions on the second or third date ( religion, politics, whether they want a family). I know it goes against “the rules” but it’s not in my best interest to waste my time with someone who wants different things. The trick is to go about it in a casual, lighthearted tone so you don’t come across as a “ballbuster”, and you allow them to drop their guard( when we  are unguarded we are more likely to be honest). DO NOT open up about your values before finding out theirs first ( they could use that against you and lie ) and don’t have sex with guys that don’t share your values ( unless you just want a hookup).

    OP- I don’ know if you really want to be with a guy who already has a kid. It’s a lot to handle and I doubt it’s what you really want. Your soulmate is out there looking for you and surely it’s not this one.

    1. 12.1
      Clare

      Adreana,

       

      I agree with you about asking about these things – marriage, kids, religion, politics etc. – early on, for the simple reason that the guy is not emotionally invested yet and thus is more likely to be honest. I can’t tell you how often I’ve got the impression that a guy was telling me the answer to a question that he thought I wanted to hear because he was afraid I’d leave if he gave the wrong answer. Of course the same is true for me. I am probably less likely to come out and give a no-holds-barred direct answer that I think the guy might not like if I am already emotionally invested in him and don’t want him to go. I think most people are like that. And it’s necessarily dishonest – sometimes we feel we would be willing to shift our life goals if the person was really great for us in all other ways. Or sometimes our goals do change; no one is cast in stone for their entire lives.

       

      But certainly I do think it’s easier to be upfront at the beginning of a relationship – before you’ve got exclusive, and definitely before you’ve fallen in love.

      1. 12.1.1
        Clare

        * it’s not necessarily dishonest

  13. 13
    Stacia

    Did anyone else think that perhaps Danielle’s boyfriend just wanted to break up, and this was a bulletproof excuse?  She said it was abrupt.  If he really wanted kids AND wanted to be with her, he would have had a conversation to see if they could get on the same page, and not just dump her out of nowhere.  Seems to me like he just wanted out, and using something big like her not wanting children avoids the long, awkward breakup conversation and tears.

    1. 13.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Nope. If you want kids and the person you’re seeing is on the fence, you don’t sit around trying to convince ’em. You find someone else who definitely wants kids.

    2. 13.2
      Clare

      Stacia,

       

      I think that would be the insecure person’s way of looking at it. “Oh well, he was going to leave me anyway, so now he has the excuse he always wanted! hmf!”

       

      Do we have any indication that her not wanting kids was not the reason he broke up with her? No. So why jump to conclusions? Why not take the man at face value? After all, if he had just wanted to break up, he could have just done so. It’s possible he wanted to spare her feelings, but we’ll never know.
      More importantly than that though, I know if I am given the choice between thinking something that spares my self-esteem and something that knocks it, I’ll choose the first one every time. It just makes my life that much easier and more pleasant not to think that people are looking for every excuse to run away from me.

    3. 13.3
      Sum Guy

      Stacia, I can see that.  If he really loved her for her, he would have at least stuck around a month or two and explored what the health risks were.  He may have made the same decision in the end but at least he would have tried.

      but it also speaks to his character to me, (giving up too soon when life throws you a messy curve ball) and it’s good for the OP he moved on.

  14. 14
    Michelle

    I can identify with the OP. It just sounds like she and her boyfriend were on different timelines – he was ready to have kids yesterday, and for him, her ambivalence was a dealbreaker. Bringing a new person into the world isn’t something that anyone should do lightly, so hopefully she made peace with the fact that they weren’t a match and that he had to take the decision to find someone who was 100% sure she wants kids and wants to have them within a similar timeframe as he does. Not to mention she didn’t rush in to having a child she wasn’t ready for, which is also a positive outcome.

    I too was ambivalent about having kids, in my 20s, then moved towards more wanting to have them between ages 27-33. I dated a few guys seriously, and imagined having kids with two of them, but none of the relationships lasted long enough for kids to be anything but a vague concept. Then I dated a guy who was adamantly childfree for about a year and a half. Although the relationship didn’t work out  for unrelated reasons, it was interesting that I felt absolutely comfortable about having a childfree life with him and felt no sense of loss or compromise about not having kids. So for me to no longer be ambivalent, it *did* take meeting “the right guy” (or type of guy) as well as my own personal development and maturity lending clarity to what I really wanted. In fact, when I was single again, on a third date with a man I thought was promising mentioned that he really wanted to have kids, and I knew immediately we weren’t a match – there was no question.

    I’m now in a very serious relationship with an amazing childfree man and we are planning a future together, without kids. Hopefully the OP will come to a similar result when she has more clarity  and she meets the right partner who shares her intentions about having or not having children.

  15. 15
    Sylvana

    I fully agree that you both have to be on the same page when it comes to having children.

    That being sad, it kills me how often I hear men who want to have their own family, but already have kids (possibly even from a previous marriage). If they spent half as much time making something special out of the family they already had, instead of looking for a new one which might suit them better, we might not have so many darn divorces.

    There are, of course, always situations where the man actually did want to work it out and the wife didn’t, or the wife cheated, etc.  But overall, I don’t see leaving a good relationship just because you want to produce more children. Why not focus on the child you already have?

    After all, you’ll likely end up just as bored with the mother of your new child. And then what? On to the next?

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