My Serious Boyfriend Doesn’t Know If He Wants to Have Kids

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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  1. 31

    I am 6 months out of a 10 year relationship that he ended. I never made it a secret that I wanted marriage and a family one day.

    He would never talk seriously about it. Just strung me along and I was not strong enough to leave.

    So now he is gone and I have wasted 10 years on a boy who never wanted to change and grow up.

    Don’t waste your life like I did!! 10 years people!!

    The only way I would take him back is if he had definitely decided he was serious about marriage and family…but I know he won’t come back. Perhaps he does want them, just not with me, and didn’t have the guts to say it.

  2. 32

    All she has to do is marry him and then poke holes in the condoms.

  3. 33

    This is an older post but I’ve found myself in this situation I’m 27 and he’s 37. He’s not sure if he wants kids, I do. He wants a few more years to decide, we’ve been living together for 7 years. I love him but am scared he is waiting me out for I may not be strong enough to leave. Worst situation I could have ever gotten myself into.

  4. 34

    As someone who doesn’t want kids, I can state it will rule you out to many women, many of whom may want them someday.

    My experience is that guys in their 30’s (particularly late 30’s) who say they are open to kids are really ‘gilding the lily’ more often than not, so that they have more options. It’s not a lie, yet it isn’t a yes-or-no statement of principle either.

    Guys who probably don’t want kids will say this so that they can keep their options open, and have the option of more women.

  5. 35
    Lisa Lisa

    7 years is a long time. Are you married?

  6. 36

    I would have liked to have had a girlfriend for seven years.

  7. 37
    Lisa Lisa

    What’s the point? Longevity means nothing if you aren’t moving forward together, and if you both have significant differences…you want children, he’s not sure…

    When will he be sure?

    I was with my ex for 10 years and he never said he didn’t want children, until the night he ended it with me and said he wants to want them, but doesn’t desire them. To try and avoid the pain of breaking up, at the time I said I wasn’t even sure that’s what I wanted, but we both knew that wasn’t true. Mind you, it wasn’t just about children. We had been struggling for a while, but that came from lack of communication and real time together. Nothing I thought wasn’t worth at leasty trying to fix. I heard many reasons, children was just one of them. Strangely they were all about me and what I was or wasn’t doing.

    I doubted his commitment to me for a long time…who wouldn’t after that long? Why do people stay together without commitment? I did, and now I am gutted.

    Hard lessons to learn. Still love him, but he has moved on, rather quickly I might add. All the pressure is off and he is loving life with someone new.

  8. 38

    My boyfriend wants to get married and have babies so badly and worries and hems and haws over it weekly…he’s 31, I’m 24….I’m not really ready to get married but he keeps threatening to end things b/c he worries I am too young to take idea seriously and give him a serious answer about it….which is sort of true, but sort of not. Either way he wants it sooo much more than me.
    I really don’t want kids either and he brings it up every now and then… It’s actually sort of cute the way he’s asked before he’s been like “so you don’t wanna have my babies? aww i want to have babies..”….and uck its so damn cute how he asks me all pouty and cute and I can’t just flat tell him “No” lol…so i just give him a confused look and say i donno…lol
    I just worry my work life is in complete shambles now…and my relationtship otherwise is awesome….i worry having kids would pronounce the fact that i’m not bringing enough money home for myself and i mean i am still in college right now…
    why do guys want to get married so badly at a certain age??? He really freaked out several months ago when turning 31….was just unbearable….maybe i’ll consider the idea down the road but not immediately like he wants so badly. : [

  9. 39

    I agree with Evan that if two people do not share the same aspirations, like about wanting to start a family together, the relationship is just treading water.
    I am 32 year old woman and have just broken up a two relationship with a 50 year old man over this. He has 4 adult children. He is such a great dad and so thoroughly engaged in the experience, I was really shocked when he told me that he didn’t want any more kids.
    I never wanted kids before and I have never been “clucky” but it seems that recently my biology has been catching up with me. This was our deal breaker. We tried to work it out and change each others minds but it was a core issue to both of us and neither of us could compromise on it.
    It has been so hard as we still love each other deeply. For me it was the first time in my life that I was actually committed to the idea of developing and working on a long-term relationship. So, pretty devastating.
    I don’t know if I will ever meet another man I will want a family with. But I do know that I would regret not giving myself the opportunity. This knowledge made the decision simple and I don’t regret it.
    Being prepared to ‘walk away’ opens up your options and allows you to be true to yourself. If your partner changes their mind and you get back together – GREAT! If not, at least you’re on your way to finding someone else whose future vision is more inline with yours.
    Best Wishes.

  10. 40

    KJ, this is the most heartbreaking of situations.  Where everything is there, it’s just something major or timing just isn’t there. 

    I give you huge credit for your courage and maturity to decide you needed to pursue what you really wanted in having childing.   That was tough.

    (P.S. I totally can understand why a 50 year old man would not want to start a new family.  That is such a huge, long term commitment.  I give him a lot of credit too for being honest with you, knowing he was probably going to lose you.

    Hey, I’m looking for a 50 year old man of good character and family oriented, wanna give me his contact info???  🙂

  11. 41

    Thanks for your words of support Denise, you have mirrored the truth there, for both sides. Most wise 🙂

  12. 42
    Gregg Tenbusch

    I am the mother of two teen girls and I love the show as much as my kids. I am sooooo sad to see it go. It is really one of the best shows on TV!

  13. 43

    I have just come across this issue for the first time. I am 40 and my BF of one year is 35. I was never that desperate for children. He is great with Children and loves them and I honestly thought from his actions that he wanted a family and if this was the case I would be prepared to go down this route. However when we discussed it the other night he said he did not want children. I accepted this with a bit of sadness as I think the two of us together would be good parents however I am not devastated at at my ages I can accept it and look towards it being the two of us only. My only worry is that he is 35, his friends are all younger than him so his view in life is that of a few years younger than his age. I fear that in 5 or 6 years time he will suddenly change his mind and want kids but I will be too old and he will decide that our relationships can no longer work. He said he cannot guarantee this wont happen but at the moment he doesn’t see it in his future. When a man says he does not want kids is that it ? I only ask because women do tend to change their minds as they get older but I was under the impression that a man’s decision on kids is final.

  14. 44

    You can always adopt.

  15. 45

    Another male brainwashing. “You don’t need a ring, you don’t need kids, you don’t need a house, all you need is just cater to some appendage who rides on your back, and, since there is nothing he contributes, and you assure him that it’s fine, he is happy. Why is that you are with a man who is afraid to do something that YOU need? You put out for him, you clean after him, cook for him, listen to his whine about how he is better than others, and you need nothing in return? Ask this old leech what he is going to contribute to your relationship, and as the answer be “nothing”, move on to some man who actually does something for a change, instead of saying how he is afraid that you’d ask him for something back.

    1. 45.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      You must have reading comprehension difficulties, Air, because there’s no “brainwashing” going on here. We’re saying the same thing. Tone down the anger at men or find a new blog.

  16. 46

    It would be a shame to leave such a wonderful man who hasn’t done anything wrong. BUT, if you are so determined to be a Mommy, you will only end up destroying him if you stay in the relationship. A man I was with wanted kids and I didn’t, so he cheated on me repeatedly to punish me for my “selfishness”; rather than breaking up and finding someone who wanted children. He said it was because he loved me and I was the one for him. But if you love someone, you love them for themselves and don’t try to change them or hope they will change, so clearly he didn’t love me and should have moved on. I was VERY young, but after a couple of years, I realised I needed to call it off. After many years of bad relationships, I am with someone who respects me and, nearly 20 years later, we are very happy together still (just in case anyone was interested in how it turned out).

  17. 47

    Sitting in my office crying my eyes out as I read this.  Completely hit the nail on the head as I 100% relate to Allison.  I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with my boyfriend of one year.  I initial put it off because I thought bringing it up before a year was too soon (didn’t want to be “that kind of girl”), now I’m afraid I may have waited too long.  This definitely gives me the courage and validity I needed to have ‘the talk’.

  18. 48

    I have the reverse situation and I’m 33. My boyfriend (37) of 18 months (who already knew where I stood from day one as I made it clear and continually reiterated it) revealed recently that he does indeed want children some day.

    I almost threw up when the words fell out of his mouth, but was not that surprised as I’d picked up on one or two signs that I’d been scanning for, and I’m very grateful we talked about this before marriage, etc. It was still a very emotional – and for me morbid – few hours.

    I say, the sooner the better and continue to review the issue until you’re on the ‘safer side’ of the natural fertility zone. I simply prefer the Childfree/DINK lifestyle. 

    Best of luck to all.

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