Should I Get Married Even Though We Have Strong Differences on Religion and Children?

Should I Get Married Even Though We Have Strong Differences on Religion and Children?

I’m not sure whether you respond to men asking questions about women for your blog anymore, but as a long time reader I would really value your thoughts regarding my dating situation.

I’m coming up on 6 months with my girlfriend. I decided to take a big risk after our first month of dating and invited her to live with me, mostly because she was the 1st person in my life to ever want to commit 100% to me and also because her upcoming teacher’s course would have made her so busy that we’d never have time for each other otherwise.

However, as we come upon 6 months now some of the big questions are causing doubts. She is *very* child oriented. She spends her days with primary school children and definitely wants to have kids before she’s 30. I find myself somewhat lacking in paternal instinct and while I’m not ruling out children completely, I cannot honestly tell my girlfriend that I definitely want to have kids with her in the next few years. Currently, I’m nearly 25 and she’s 24. I’m wondering, how old were you when you *knew* you wanted to have kids. What were your thoughts on the matter when you were my age? I’m torn by the fact that it’s fair of her to want some concrete answers as our relationship goes on.

Another issue we have is over spirituality. I know you’ve answered this question in various forms before, but I’m curious as to how your relationship functions in a practical way. My girlfriend is very much a believer in things like psychic readings, tarot cards and astral projection. She wants to have conversations where I engage with her over her latest spiritual experiences, but as an atheist who’s worldview is shaped by rigorous scientific scrutiny, I find it difficult to suspend disbelief and affirm her visits to a fortune teller or what have you. I’m happy for her to have her thing, but she’s hurt by me wanting to avoid such conversations. What I want to know is, does your own wife expect you actively talk about her spiritual experiences with a god you don’t believe in. How do you resolve things in your day-to-day?

Jerome

You’re young, my friend. Really young.

When you’re young, you not only tend to believe everything is deathly serious, but you also lack the experience to know that life takes a really, really long time.

In other words, not to give away the ending, but this won’t be your last girlfriend.

Sorry ‘bout that.

You have a 24-year-old girlfriend with baby fever. Yet despite sleeping in the same bed with her, you haven’t caught the virus.

If it’s any consolation, here’s a statistic from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: There is a 75% divorce rate for kids getting married under the age of 25.

I know, right?

That should be a big red flag if you think you’re going to be the exception to the rule.

You’ve already moved in after six months – not because it was the next organic step towards marriage, but because, by your own admission, you’re both really busy. This is the wrong reason to take that next step, but, well, here you are.

Which leads us to the real problem: you have a 24-year-old girlfriend with baby fever. Yet despite sleeping in the same bed with her, you haven’t caught the virus.

This is dealbreaker material for a number of reasons. Some will say that it’s because you’re not sure if you want kids, but I’ll defend you on this one. It’s not your job to be sure right now. You’re 25. You’ve got a career to build, a house to buy, a long-term relationship to procure. There’s no reason to have babies on the brain yet.

While I ALWAYS knew that I wanted to be a Dad, it wasn’t “being a Dad” that caused me to date so prolifically from 25-35. I didn’t go into first dates thinking about whether she was going to be a great mom; I was thinking about what she looked like naked. Kids would be the result of a happy marriage, not the reason to get into the marriage itself.

Thus, your girlfriend has got the cart way before the horse. As does anyone who is making plans like, “Must have kids before I’m 30”. Such plans only force people like your girlfriend into making the wrong decisions – such as marrying a man who is completely out of alignment with her long-term goals and values.

The goal – for both of you – should be to marry the person with whom you can be your best selves and see yourself spending the rest of your life. For your girlfriend, it should not be about mapping out a future and then slotting you in to suit her narrative. “Married by 27. First kid by 29. House by 30. Second kid by 31.”

Kids would be the result of a happy marriage, not the reason to get into the marriage itself.

Listen, I would have loved to have figured it all out at a younger age – married by 30, kids by 35. But I also know I wouldn’t have chosen my wife when I was 25 or 30. I needed to have the wisdom and experience of a 35-year-old dating coach to see why she was the best fit for me. Whether we like it or not, the fact is: people change. And they’re never changing as much as they are between the ages of 25-35.

This alone means that your actual question is somewhat inconsequential – interesting, perhaps, but not likely to dictate the outcome of your relationship.

Your girlfriend – the one who wants to be a mom yesterday – is immature. What’s worse is that she thinks she IS mature.

But maturity is about having a clear understanding of how the world works, the consequences of our choices, and the ability to compromise. She has demonstrated none of this. Not in her desire to get married fast. Not in her desire to procreate fast. Not in her refusal to accept your spiritual differences and agree to disagree.

She’s a little girl who wants to be a woman, but doesn’t see that playing house is really different from growing up.

The woman you marry, Jerome, may or may not want kids, and may or may not believe in otherworldly things.

The difference between her and your current girlfriend is that you will be able to navigate these issues together and end up on the same page.

Don’t worry; you’ve got a lot of time to find her.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    david

    beautiful reply.

  2. 3
    Sunflower

    Nice response Evan.

  3. 4
    Henriette

    Your response is pure perfection, Evan.  They certainly DID move in too soon, and for the wrong reasons.  They absolutely ARE both way, way too young to even contemplate marriage & tots.  
     
    Jerome, you sound like a fine fellow who’s on his way to becoming a fine man.  In 5 years, you can start thinking about “forever” with a woman.  Until then… please keep reading Evan’s blog.

  4. 5
    starthrower68

    I was married at 22, mom at 24, 2nd child at 26.  Very tough to do when you don’t really even know who you are yet.  I don’t regret having my children at all; I love them dearly and they are wonderful people.  I have advised them however, not to marry as young as I did.  I’ve told them to do what they want to do and find out who they are before they settle down.  
    Fortunately you at least had the wisdom to ask the question.  An atheist might be able to live with someone who engages in pagan practices.  But probably not a Christian or Muslim.

  5. 6
    WaterDragon

    All I could think while reading this was, dude, dude, dude…
     
    Evan was much more articulate – and right on.  Although if I read the OP correctly, they moved in after only one month, not six.
     
     

  6. 7
    Zann

    A very thoughtful and kind response, Evan. Oh man, I do hope he takes your advice. There are already too many people getting married for the wrong reasons and way too many having children before they are ready to take that on. Or with little or no forethought about what have the most major impact on your entire life.  You can love children and want children of your own, yet there are so many compelling reasons to wait until you know yourself better (which, sorry, only comes with aging and life experience) and know a solid, long-term relationship when you see one.

  7. 8
    loadsafreckles

    That reply could not be more spot on.
    I hope he takes your advice.

  8. 9
    Jerome

    Thanks for responding Evan, and of course, you were right.

    It’s funny, I posted the letter after she had left to catch up with an ex she hadn’t seen in 5 years (which I was totally fine with). That morning she hit me with those two issues, as if it were a test. It’s what compelled me to write to you. When she returned, she prompted the discussion of us breaking up. Fortunately, it’s been perfectly amicable thus far. We’re currently in strange transitional state where she needs to organize to remove her stuff from the apartment though.

    I realize how naive it was to ask someone to move in with me after a month, and yet, I don’t regret the experience. It was nice to live that life for a little while. I’ve never done that before and it seemed such a wonderful thing to meet a person who would say yes without reservation. But then, her total commitment was also my undoing, because suddenly it seemed wrong for me to have doubts on any front with regard to settling down further. I got nervous when she wanted us to buy a cat. :P
    Surprisingly, actual marriage was not something we had specifically discussed, but I can see how that would be assumed considering how we rushed into everything else.

  9. 10
    Jerome

    Oh, I should probably clarify something because I may have confused some people. She didn’t want to have kids *now*, she wanted me to be as excited as she was about having kids in a few years time.

  10. 11
    kiki

    Evan,
    you might be/most probably are right that 25 is too young to be married, with the statisctics and all.
    However, the two things that this guy is concerned about – that she is “very” child orented and likes to read horoscopes/visits fortune tellers – I am amazed that those two are potential dealbreakers for him.
    Chances are, many girls he meets in his life will be child oriented to the point of having a very strong preference to have a first child before the age of 30.  Today the marriagable age has of course increased, but for women my age (40) and in my part of the world (Europe) it was kind of mainsteam to have such expectations.
    As for fortune tellers, horoscopes, extra-sensory experiences and the like – women tend to like to get engaged in such activities much more than men, similar to the fact that women tend to read self-help books much more than men. As Evan himself nicely put it, “Men need help, women seek help”. Obviously, not all women equally fall for this kind of, um, way of seeking help, but most of us have tried to sneak a peek of the future. With age, we learn not to tell and/or give too much details about this to our boyfriends/husbands, because it freaks them out.
    I love this blog, I am practically addicted to reading it. It gives me some amazing insights into the male mind. Honestly, the girl in this story would be SHOCKED if she were to find out she would be disquallified because she loves children and horoscopes! Very, very informative to me!
     

  11. 12
    Tom10

    “I got nervous when she wanted us to buy a cat”
     
    I just love that. I think Evan gave you great answers to your questions.
     
    “I’m nearly 25…I’m wondering, how old were you when you *knew* you wanted to have kids”
     
    For the majority of my 20’s I definitely didn’t want kids, so much so that I seriously considered a vasectomy. I had researched the clinics, the costs, the medical implications etc. and was aware that one has to approach the procedure as if it is irreversible.
     
    However at 27 my sister had her first kid, and then her second a year later. It really surprised me how much I fell for the little critters, so much so that it changed my whole perspective on kids. I’m 29 now and about 50% sure I want kids. I reckon a few more years and I’ll be up at 90%. At 24 you have lots of time to consider the issue.
     
    “My girlfriend is very much a believer in things like psychic readings…but as an atheist…I find it difficult to suspend disbelief and affirm her visits to a fortune teller…does your own wife expect you actively talk about her spiritual experiences with a god you don’t believe in”
     
    As a fellow atheist I would find it very difficult to take someone seriously who believed in that stuff, but the belief itself is not a cardinal sin (ha). The problem here is that she is effectively trying to change you and your beliefs. I personally think views on religion, finance, and children are the big deal-breakers between people and your relationship had two of these factors so was probably doomed from the start.
     
    “her total commitment was also my undoing” and “she was the 1st person in my life to ever want to commit 100% to me”
     
    As Henriette said you sound like a good catch Jerome and I reckon your ex-girlfriend recognized that and wanted to nail you down before you begin to recognize your own true potential. Just wait until you hit 27 – 30 and you will have the world at your feet. I think it’s important that you live your life at your pace, and that you wait until you are fully ready – the consequences are too serious not to.
     
    Kiki #12
    “Honestly, the girl in this story would be SHOCKED if she were to find out she would be disqualified because she loves children and horoscopes!”
     
    I think it’s reasonable to love/want children, and men will probably presume that most women will want them unless told otherwise. However, taking horoscopes/psychics seriously is a huge black mark against a girl (imo). It immediately raises serious questions about her intelligence, and her ability to rationalize and solve real-life problems.

  12. 13
    bluewoman

    Kiki, from the letter the issue was not with her being into psychic readings and all that jazz as noted in “I’m happy for her to have her thing,”. The issue is rather with “but she’s hurt by me wanting to avoid such conversations.” She needs to not force discussions on topics he isn’t interested in.
    Also, there is nothing wrong with wanting children before the age of 30. See, most guys know about the woman’s biological clock. I just find it’s the pressing deadline that scares men away. It’s like telling them on the third date that you are interested in marrying someone after one year of being a couple and then you are wondering why they disappeared. Remember, guys love independence, so anything that ties them for a lifetime is scary. Please, no contracts. Feel free to test the waters, but leave it at that.
    Additionally, not every girl is seen as a ‘mother’ material by guys. You may have potential to be a wife, but that doesn’t immediately qualify you to be a mother.
    Jerome – from what you say, she is not the one for you. A cat requires a lot of commitment which you are not willing to settle for with her. Wishing you the best in finding that special someone who you will want to be with long-term!

  13. 14
    LC

    She’s right to want to have children young.  Just try and find a man when you’re over 30 and would like to have a child.  Good luck.  Men have it so easy because they can pretty much always have children.  She’s just wasting her time on a man who’s not really interested, but he’s interested in the sex.  There are plenty of men who will waste your young years for you and not want to commit and be your husband. 

  14. 15
    BeenThruTheWars

    I was married at 24. I told my husband then I wanted to have kids “someday.” I think I knew even then I really didn’t want to, but women were expected to want and have them. When we divorced 10 years later, it was very amicable, and not over kids; he said he would stay with me and just not have them, because by then I KNEW I didn’t want them.  I said no way, it’s too important of a life decision for him to give up having kids for a marriage that wasn’t on all that solid of a foundation.  Fast forward 10 years, when I was 44.  I’d just started dating a great guy, ten years younger than I, who loved the fact that I wasn’t baby-crazy like all the women his own age. I told him I was getting myself “fixed” for a Christmas present, and was that okay? He asked if I needed a ride to and from the hospital.  :-)  We’ve been married 7.5 years and thank our lucky stars every day that we found someone who is totally in sync with never reproducing.  Kids just aren’t for us.  Not everyone should have them. I respect and admire others who have them, and I like kids, I just wouldn’t want the responsibility of raising one. Our friends with kids tell us they’re envious of our freedom. So Jerome, if you are ambivalent about having kids, listen to the little voice inside telling you that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be childfree (or have 10 kids if that’s your desire). There’s room in the world for both kinds of people, and many different types of lifestyles.  You sound like you have a very good head on your shoulders.  Good luck to you.

  15. 16
    BeenThruTheWars

    P.S.  My first husband found someone new within a year, was remarried within a year and a half, and they had their first child the following year. They had two kids and couldn’t be happier, and I’m delighted for them.  He and I are still friends.  :-)

  16. 17
    kiki

    Jerome,
    I posted my comment before yours (10 and 11) appeared; now of course the whole situation is much clearer.
    You were very excited at first, thought it was a good idea to have a live-in girlfriend, tried it for six months, discovered eventually that you don’t like her all that much and cohabitation is too much trouble, so you find fault with her eagerness for children and psychics…Well, we all have the right to change our mind.
    Women are (in my opinion) brought up to seek committment from a man as a designation of being successful in the relationship… Men are very well aware of that (Tom 10’s comment that “she was trying to nail him down because he was a good catch”). Good for you that you both figured at 6 months (and not after 2 years) that you are better off parting ways.
     

  17. 18
    John

    Evan I think this is good advice. But I do think it is somewhat unfair to compare your situation with his. When you said you dated, all you thought about was how they would look naked and if things went well, then marriage and kids. No problem there because that is the norm. Most people tend to think that way.
     
    But if you are an outlier- a guy who doesn’t want kids- then you cant just worry about how someone looks naked. Because if you do then you have a heartbreaking choice to make in the future if things go well- end the relationship or do something you know you don’t want to do (have kids to please her).
     
    But in your case and most guys who want kids, you don’t have to worry about that future decision. Its hard enough to date with trying to find the right person. But imagine trying to find out the right person and then if you do, knowing you will have to make a heartbreaking choice to have kids or not. You never had to worry about that because most people if they want kids assume the person they are with will want them too. That’s the default.
     
    As someone who knew early on that I didn’t want kids, I needed to know very early in a relationship if she was OK with that. I can relate to the OP on this one probably because both of us are outliers. To the OP I would say to move on. Its is hard but you will find women that don’t want kids. Shrinks your dating pool but it is doable. I am proof of that.

  18. 19
    Laura

    The OP was obviously rushing too soon into something he wasn’t actually prepared for. I also moved in with a guy at the age of 25 after a couple of months of dating and the guy wanted kids bad (he was 28). I didn’t for multiple reasons that seemed logic for me: was just 1 year after my masters degree, returning my studying-loan and just wanted to live for myself for some time, we were in a relationship for a short time yet, lived in a rented apartment, he didn’t have a stable job cause of the recession.
    Of course, we broke up, as he kept saying I’m being childish for not wanting kids and pressuring me for starting a family (even asked me to marry him on our first anniversary). In 4 months he married a girl who got pregnant with his child.
    Looking back, as I’m 30 and single, I could regret I let the fatherhood-prone guy go, yet I don’t. I’m still not crazy about the idea of having kids (though I think I would probably want them if I met the right guy). The main thing is that even then I knew I don’t want to marry for such a wrong reason as some sort of life-schedule (married by X, first kid by X and etc.) or the fear to stay unmarried. So for the OP I’d suggest evaluating such choices by asking: is this what I really want now? Or am I just trying to adjust to someones expectations? If the visions don’t match, you should be honest about that, so that each party would be properly informed and make the decisions that suit them.

  19. 20
    Clare

    John,
     
    I am a woman who doesn’t want kids, and I realise how in the minority I am amongst my sex.
     
    But having been in a committed relationship in which I was very pressurised to have kids, and how awful that felt, I realise it is best to stick to your guns.
     
    I do enjoy those rare guys I meet who don’t want kids.  They tend to take life at a more relaxed pace, and not to be so timeline-orientated and fixated on these goals.  Suits me very well.
     
    Also, call me selfish, but I want to be the most important person in my significant other’s life, and with children of course, they tend to come first.  So it’s kind of for selfish reasons I don’t want children, but I’ve decided it’s far more preferable to find a guy who is selfish in the same way :)

  20. 21
    witness

    it should not be about mapping out a future and then slotting you in to suit her narrative. “Married by 27. First kid by 29. House by 30. Second kid by 31.”
     
    Excellent advice and I couldn’t agree more. My question to Evan now is, what if the couple is in their late 30’s and only been married less than 2 years? I know a man who says these exact same words about his spouse – that he feels like a puzzle piece in her storybook. Not just about children, but everything. She wants kids, he is in strong doubt of wanting them. She hangs on that his answer is not a resounding, no, but that there is a small window he will change his mind. I’ve done my best to counsel him in the direction to see this is not going to work for either of them, but for some reason he’s sticking it out and believing he should change. He does not want the world to see his marriage failed in less than 2 yrs.

  21. 22
    judy

    LC – No. 15 That is a truly sad comment to make about not being able to find a man over 30 to have a child with.
    Yes, I agree.  They should not marry.  It’s not so much the age thing that worries me – these are just figures – as the things they are discussing which sound to me as if there may be some maturing needed. I say this in the kindest possible way.

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