I’m 34 and Want Children. Should I Marry a Good Man Who Doesn’t Satisfy My Soul?

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I’m 33 and in a 2-year relationship with a guy who is stable, kind, dependable and attractive. He’s much less educated than I am but that doesn’t bother me in the least as he’s a hard worker with his own personal goals in life. He and I argue frequently about social issues (he’s insensitive and I’m sensitive, he’s conservative, I’m liberal). I respect his views are different than mine and he does the same, but we never seem to be on the same page.

I think I might want children someday and, given I’ll be 34 in a few months, it seems I have a choice to either go all in and make things work with this great guy (who may not be that great for me but would be an amazing father) jump ship, knowing it might mean never having children, or meeting a man who I “click” with but who lacks my current partner’s many admirable qualities.

it’s just not a soul-satisfying love

I do love this man I’m with, by the way, it’s just not a soul-satisfying love and I’m not sure it ever could be due to the fact we don’t see the world the same way, leading to a lack of that feeling of “connection”. (We are aligned on money, family, religion and life goals – we never argue about these things). What is your advice for women my age who feel the pressure to choose between love and the chance to have children? It’s a taboo subject, I know, but I think it’s a real dilemma that women have faced throughout time and I feel the same pressure now. It would be nice if we could address it openly.

Jan                                                                                                        

I’m not going to touch the politics of your question. I’ve done it before, but the truth is, your question isn’t really about politics. It’s about compatibility and the definition of settling.

It’s not my place to tell you if you’re settling, only to hold up a mirror so you can see yourself more clearly. So, Jan, what would you say to a friend who told you this about her boyfriend?

  • He’s insensitive.
  • He may not be that great for me.
  • I don’t “click” with him.
  • It’s not a soul-satisfying love and I’m not sure it ever could be.
  • We lack a feeling of “connection.”

You don’t need to be a dating coach to point out that perhaps this isn’t the best foundation upon which to build a marriage. That doesn’t negate that he’s a decent person and has the potential to be a good husband and father. That only acknowledges that, in this scenario, the only question that matters is whether he has the potential to be a good husband and father for YOUR family.

“Connection” is hard to measure, but it’s a real thing that matters a LOT

“Connection” is hard to measure, but it’s a real thing that matters a LOT. Your connection is what will sustain you through financial hardship, bring you joy when you’re tired with a toddler, and buoy you when your sex life starts to dwindle. Connection, to me, is different than chemistry; it’s less about a dizzying passion and more having a partner who feels like home. Despite different backgrounds and interests, my wife and I have that connection, and I would hesitate to recommend that anyone marry without it.

The fact that you’re 34 and want kids may be what drove you to ask this question, but it’s a smokescreen for the fact that you’re in a two-year relationship with someone who doesn’t fully make you happy. In other words, take away the fact that you’re 34 and want kids and you would know exactly what to do in this situation.

So, unless you want to be another statistic — either part of the 35-40% of those who get divorced or part of the 2/3rds of unhappily married couples — I feel it would be a mistake to march down a path that doesn’t feel good. Life is a really long time. Better to find your true love at 38 and figure out how to create a family together than to dive into a marriage that already feels wrong. Best of luck to you. You’re brave for asking the question and braver for taking the action that brings you the most long-term joy.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    shaukat

    Hi Clare,

    Thanks for the detailed response. The guy you’re dating sounds very nice, but you know, a 6 isn’t a 4, and (this pure speculation on my part) one thing I’ve noticed is that women tend to underestimate a guy’s level of attractiveness (think OKCupid), so it’s possible this fella would be a 7 to an objective observer;)

    At any rate, I personally have never said looks trump all, and I’ve always been careful to draw a distinction between physical attraction vs chemistry/connection–without the latter, looks become irrelevant. Still, I do believe that in terms of getting your foot in the door it’s about 70% in the initial stages. Guys like the one in Marika’s story are really the exception. I’ve known a few myself, they are below average looking but they have more charisma and charm than several average guys combined, and as a result they always have success with women.

    1. 41.1
      Marika

      Shaukat

      The thing is, though, these numbers aren’t objective. I know a few husbands of family and friends who I would rate a 4. They certainly don’t see them that way. Maybe I’m a harsh rater too..;)…but I’ve also had discussions about how hot I think so & so is while the other women look at me blankly.

      Surely you agree there’s some subjectivity here and something to be said for ‘the eye of the beholder’.

      1. 41.1.1
        Buck25

        “…there’s some subjectivity here, and something to be said for ‘the eye of the beholder’

        @Marika,

        In real life, and especially for women (in my experience, anyway), that’s quite true. Women may think most men’s looks are substandard, but there’s wide disagreement among them as to who’s hot and who’s not-one woman’s solid 8, let’s say, could be another woman’s 4 or 5. Men I think are a little more consistently in agreement,(especially on women’s faces) but beyond that, there’s some subjectivity; one guy likes a particular female body type so a woman of that type is a 9; to a guy who prefers a different female body type, the same woman might be a 3. That’s before factoring in pheromones, voice, personality, and a whole host of other variables in the real world environment.

        To me the League and SMV concepts are more valid online, where getting a “foot in the door” for either gender is largely looks dependent(mainly because, in the very beginning, there’s little to nothing else to go on, besides the person’s photos). I think even there there’s some subjectivity (a good thing, for those of us not gifted with matinee-idol looks). I do think Shaukat’s 70% looks comment on “getting a foot in the door” seems pretty valid online; might be 90% on apps like Tinder or Bumble. Real world, I’m not so sure; personality, charm, confidence and charisma go a long way in the real world setting, I think for both genders. though those are possibly a greater advantage for men. While a lot of women may focus on men’s looks, they don’t always fixate on that; men often do fixate on women’s looks (hence the number of guys dating physically beautiful women who are also certifiably more than slightly crazy).

        1. Marika

          That makes a lot of sense, I see where you’re coming from,  Buck.

          Really appreciate the way you and Adrian worded these explanations to help me understand how it works from the male perspective. Thanks 🙂

    2. 41.2
      Clare

      Hi Shaukat,

      Ok, I’ll concede to you, Buck25 and Adrian that in online dating (or apps) and when a guy is first deciding whether or not to approach a woman, gauging the level of attractiveness of the person is helpful and does account for a fair chunk of whom we decide to talk to. Don’t think anyone on the blog will argue with that.

      My initial pissyness with the whole SMV / leagues philosophy (and my longstanding gripe on the blog) came from people trying to use it to determine and explain long-term success, or lack thereof, in relationships.

      Also, I tend to agree with Emily that it’s become pretty clear to me from the discussion in this thread that men and women experience that initial attraction so differently. That experience that Emily described of feeling very drawn to someone who is not in any way above average in looks is something that has happened to me many times. It has  even  happened to me online, and I can’t necessarily explain it. Once I was on OkCupid, and a guy messaged me, and his profile picture was literally just of his feet in the sand at the beach. This is not someone I would normally have responded to, but something told me to reply, and I went on a date with him, and he was really attractive and we had great chemistry and connection.

      So, yeah… again, maybe for women attraction is a more gut level, intuitive thing, I don’t know.

  2. 42
    Marika

    Adrian

    The way you explained SMV and leagues in terms of approaching and ascertaining your chances etc does actually help. Thanks for explaining it with some dignity and humanity.

    Can I ask why you’re even thinking about the league of a 60 year old? Do.men size up the leagues of all women they come into contact with?

    Also, the flip.side of ‘He’s just not that into you’..do guys sometimes not call back because they go through the thought process like you explained and decide they can’t compete with/match or whatever, your league? That would explain a few things…like I.posted about a guy once who sent me a text after a date saying something like ‘I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see me again’, when actually, I would have – until I got that mopey message, of course!

  3. 43
    Adrian

    Hi Marika, Emily, and Nissa

    Nissa, I never knew of the match singles events but I will definitely try them now.

    Emily said,”You (and most of the men on this blog) experience things differently. THAT’s the disconnect, and I don’t think it can be fixed.

    Yes which is why I feel that now we are all just going in circles which has caused me to lose motivation to discuss this topic anymore (^_^)

    Emily said, “I have felt powerfully attracted to men   who I saw from across the room  comparatively average-looking and by no means the best-looking guys in the room

    Yes you and I are the only two who have acknowledged that “attractive” and “attraction” are different things; I think this is what has helped cause so much confusion in the comments when it comes to topics like this. I actually agree with all the women who say a guy can be really handsome (she recognizes his attractiveness) but she felt no desire to be with him (she felt no attraction for him)…. Unfortunately the way many men are wording it they make it seem that ALL attractive women elicit attraction within men and that is not the case. I too have seen many gorgeous women whom I felt no desire for, likewise attraction doesn’t always coincide with high levels of looks.

    Emily said, “but not for a lot of the men who post here. They won’t feel chemistry/connection UNLESS the women is extremely physically attractive.

    Careful Emily… Only one male poster has said this; why attack all the men here? What purpose does that serve? Jeremy tries his best to show compassion and understanding to both genders, Shaukat has always tried to be balanced and respectful with his answers even though he disagrees with many female comments, Tom10 even gave up using the words League and SMV for the sake of the women who post her… Well I haven’t figured Tron out yet so you got me there, so maybe 2 men.

     

    Marika said, “Can I ask why you’re even thinking about the league of a 60 year old?  

    Hahaha… I never used the term league before in my life until coming to this site. I guess I just always felt like it was labeling the entire human as being superior to another whereas SMV just focused on a person’s looks. However I needed someone who would fit Tom10’s definition of Leagues and she fit the bill because of her high level achievements went beyond looks and would intimidate most men. But no I never thought of dating my boss and guess why? Her personality makes me feel no “attraction” for her; yes I still recognize that visually she is “attractive” but her politics and views on people is a turn off… plus the 30 year age gap is not something I could explain to my mother (^_^).

    Marika said, “Do men size up the leagues of all women they come into contact with?

    I can’t answer that since I don’t use leagues. But I know that we DON’T generally size up most women we come into contact with even for SMV ratings. We might notice an attractive women in passing but once she is out of our sight we forget about her. I think most men only consider SMV ratings when they are assessing their chances of being rejected or if we need to quickly tell all the things they desire about her but don’t want to list 20 things. YAG speaks about assessing the odds of having sex on the first night but I can’t speak to that either since that’s not something I nor my friends, nor my male family members have ever done.

    Marika asked, “Also, the flip.side of ‘He’s just not that into you’..do guys sometimes not call back because they go through the thought process like you explained and decide they can’t compete with/match or whatever, your league?

    Okay correct me if I am wrong because I might be mixing you up with Malika again but I remember you saying that many guys in your past have been intimidated by you because of how financially independent and secure you are (for example the property you invested in); though they saw it as you being somewhat wealthy and wealthier than themselves.

    Guys who are not into you will treat you like a second option not but guys who are intimidated by your success and/or looks would be intimidated and act insecure. That guy you describe sounds insecure. Hmmm… The answer to your question is tricky because a guy who doesn’t really know you could easily get intimidated and feel like he didn’t have a chance with you but that’s usually done before the first date I’ve never heard of a guy getting intimidated after the date but Marika maybe in person you are a ROCK STAR! Women see the signs of guys who are intimidated by them when on the date the guys brag none stop about themselves or all the women who want them it’s a way of trying to boast their status in your eyes.

    Marika you should join the challenge with Tom10, myself and maybe Emily… Though you did say that you have become excellent with dating so I am not sure it would be a fair fight competing with you. Plus unlike me and Emily I doubt you need the virtual motivation and support of a wing man/woman.

    1. 43.1
      Marika

      Haha & aww, thanks Adrian.

      Certainly not a rockstar, but just ‘too good’ at dating. In terms of, I agree with Jeremy that dating and long term relationships require different skill sets. So I’m starting to feel a bit like I could quite easily date forever as I now have that skill set reasonably well mastered…but I don’t want that.

      I’m not scary or financially well off at all. I rent the place I live in (and share, not unusual in Sydney given that median property prices exceed $1 million). I just mentioned to one guy my investment property because he was talking about his sister having one nearby (quite cheap and small, nothing big deal). I had also had my hair done that day and it was looking way more groomed & perfect than normal. And clearly he was insecure.

      But I have read that men (more so than women) will sometimes decide not to see a woman again over things we wouldn’t consider or wouldn’t bother us – things that go back to concerns about provisioning etc. Like Jeremy mentioning not wanting to be with a workaholic woman, as that wouldn’t fit in with the life he envisioned. Or you mentioning your boss was a bit intimidating for men. I remember I listened to a podcast by John Gray – he was counselling a couple where the guy was dragging his feet on marriage. It turns out the woman had mentioned in passing an area she’d like to live in, and the guy got freaked out worrying about how he would support a woman who wanted to live in a fancy area etc…anyway, they sorted it out and he proposed not long after.

      “brag none stop about themselves or all the women who want them it’s a way of trying to boast their status in your eyes”

      Ahh, I’ve definitely experienced this. The last guy I dated did this All.The.Time. We’re friends now, and while he would never admit to trying to boost his status, he did mention that his friends all remarked on how smart they thought I was (not necessarily true, I think it’s just because of my degree – necessary for my field and there’s a difference between being ‘smart’ and being academic) – and he prides himself on his intellect, so maybe this was a dealbreaker for him? He also once sent me a message (though I think he’d been drinking) about how I needed a ‘real man’..whatever that means?

      I did mention (and I think Malika did too) that I had to remove my job title from my online profile as it was putting guys off. I won’t say what it is – I have an unusual name and an unusual job – I would lose all privacy if I mentioned it here :). It’s just not a well understood field and sounds way more fancy than it is.

      I thought the challenge was because you and Emily were not actually out there dating? I am well & truly out there. But happy to lend support and be a virtual wing-woman. Gooo team dating!!

      1. 43.1.1
        D_M

        Marika,

        Provisioning is connected to the life we think we should lead. Most men know that resources are a part of any relationship. If the guy only wants X out of life, it makes no sense to pursue a woman who wants T, U, V. The relationship priorities will be mismatched.

      2. 43.1.2
        Adrian

        Hi Marika,

        You said, “but just ‘too good’ at dating. In terms of, I agree with Jeremy that dating and long term relationships require different skill sets. So I’m starting to feel a bit like I could quite easily date forever as I now have that skill set reasonably well mastered…but I don’t want that.

        Jeremy said, “because the factors that lead to dating success aren’t those that lead to marital success.   In fact, they are often opposite…  Oh, and regarding what I wrote about qualities that make one successful in dating differing from those for marriage — it all depends on the purpose of dating, right?   If the purpose is to have sex with as many different people as you can, what I wrote applies.   If it’s to get your foot in the door with as many women as you can, it applies.   But if the purpose is to find the one right person and to weed out the rest, doesn’t apply.   Same traits.

        Do you mind explaining what you meant? I don’t understand it, especially in the context of what Jeremy said.

        You said, “I’m not scary or financially well off at all…  I had also had my hair done that day and it was looking way more groomed & perfect than normal.

        Read some of Evan’s old post when he advised men or read about Tom10 talking about his C.I.P. Men feel they need to be in a certain place financially before dating. To you it was nothing extraordinary but to this guy if he wasn’t there financially, then your small investment seemed like you were too good for him/above him financially. Add that to your physical beauty and guys can get overwhelming insecure “She will find out I’m not on her level and then leave me for a better guy… Why is a girl like this with me? When she realizes I’m not good enough she will leave me and break my heart.”

        You said, “But I have read that men (more so than women) will sometimes decide not to see a woman again over things we wouldn’t consider or wouldn’t bother us

        Yes this is true. This is why I asked you about the anxious attachment style. I have had women say they like me but their actions caused me to doubt their words. I feel like having this attachment style is akin to wearing those drunk glasses where everything’s so blurry that you can’t tell the difference between what you see and what is really there. Are they really busy with work or do they just not want to talk to me as much as I want to talk to them?

        What are some of the hurdles your attachment style is causing you in dating?

        You said, “Ahh, I’ve definitely experienced this. The last guy I dated did this All The Time. We’re friends now, and while he would never admit to trying to boost his status

        Do women do this? We have talked so much about SMV and leagues from men’s perspectives what about women? Do they ever feel intimidated by a guy on a date? What do they say or do to boost their status?

        I mean he asked you out, is initiating the calls, planning the dates, so you see his effort and know he likes you. YAG might disagree with me but I think most women can tell when a guy is only after sex, so if a guy who likes you is putting in the work to court you why feel insecure or intimidated, you know he likes you?

        You said, “I did mention (and I think Malika did too) that I had to remove my job title from my online profile as it was putting guys off  

        Yes If I remember correctly your job involved you growing over 3 meters tall, turning green, and saying Marika SMASH while Malika went around swinging a large hammer while talking about Norse mythology… So you both are in construction right?

        But now you have me curious and I’ll have to ask Tom10, which is more intimidating for men a woman that he sees as financially above him or a woman that he sees as physically above him?

        If it was online then how did you know that your title was turning men off? Did they tell you? Why would men be okay with contacting women above them in looks but be scared to contact women above them financially?

        You said, ”  I won’t say what it is — I have an unusual name and an unusual job — I would lose all privacy if I mentioned it here 🙂

        I have actually though a few times about posting my picture when I was catching flak from some of the posters for saying a guy can be physically attractive but still not be confident in dating (some people believe looks are some kind of magical all access pass to the opposite sex) but like you I am too afraid of someone I know or someone I might date reading about the numerous personal things I’ve wrote on here about myself… so yeah Privacy.

         

        1. Marika

          Adrian

          Re questions about dating vs marriage. Dating requires: the ability to attract a range of people, to be fun/interesting/engaging/sweet on dates, to come up with ideas for spending time together, playing it cool to some extent (eg not oversharing or giving too much or saying exactly what you want too early), getting over people when it doesn’t work out, figuring out ways to not attach too quickly or easily so you can not stay in a bad situation, or have a mismatch of interest….

          Quite a different skill set to marriage – in fact in some ways the opposite to what it takes to make a marriage work.

          Re questions about feeling intimidated by a guy..

          Don’t think I have experienced this. I don’t think I mix in intimidating circles! I don’t like it if I feel they are going to pressure me to do something I don’t want to do, or do often. Like if they mention the gym/church/adventure sports/getting up at 5am non stop, I do wonder…are they going to want me to go too?? Not sure if it’s a Sydney thing, but there’s a massive focus in online profiles here about all the 14 sports all the guys are apparently doing all weekend! 😉

          Also the things that could bother/intimidate a guy are often impressive for a woman. He has an investment property – nice work, son 🙂

          Questions re anxious attachment style

          I would say this is my biggest challenge in dating/relationships. It affects pretty much everything after the first date. Unless I’m not that interested or only mildly interested. Makes me second guess things, avoid focusing on the present..

          I promise I will write more Adrian, but just realized the time & will be late for yoga

        2. Adrian

          Hi Marika,

           

          I’m still trying to conceptualize and basically understand what the phrase “too good at dating means” so if my questions get to redundant for you just let me know.

           

          You said, “Dating requires: the ability to attract a range of people, to be fun/interesting/engaging/sweet on dates, to come up with ideas for spending time together, playing it cool to some extent (eg not oversharing or giving too much or saying exactly what you want too early), getting over people when it doesn’t work out, figuring out ways to not attach too quickly or easily so you can not stay in a bad situation, or have a mismatch of interest….

          My first question is this: how do you know the difference between when you are just feeling apathetic and when you have actually learned the skill of controlling your emotions?…

          Everything up until playing cool seemed normal but the things you list after that seem to me that they could easily be mistaken (at least by me) for just not feeling real excitement for the date. If I remember correctly you are the first one to coin the term “beige date.”

          So as far the last 3-4 things you listed have you been able to successfully apply those skills to all guys in your emotional color spectrum or just guys that are beige?

    2. 43.2
      Emily, the original

      Adrian,
      Emily said, “but not for a lot of the men who post here. They won’t feel chemistry/connection UNLESS the women is extremely physically attractive.
      Careful Emily… Only one male poster has said this; why attack all the men here? What purpose does that serve? Jeremy tries his best to show compassion and understanding to both genders, Shaukat has always tried to be balanced and respectful with his answers even though he disagrees with many female comments, Tom10 even gave up using the words League and SMV for the sake of the women who post her… Well I haven’t figured Tron out yet so you got me there, so maybe 2 men.
        Well I wrote most. Not Jeremy and not Shaukat, but you, too, Adrian, have gone on and on about gorgeous women. You just posted about some woman you approached at the gym with a “perfect body.” You have written that you don’t feel desire for all gorgeous women, and some have seemed “good on paper,” but I can’t remember a time that you wrote you feel very attracted to an average-looking woman, which is what the female posters have written about. I’m merely pointing out the differences in experience.

      1. 43.2.1
        D_M

        Emily,

        A Guy maybe drawn to a woman, but very rarely will he fall in love without the physical. Our host and resident blog whisper has reminded us on many occasion about the male paradigm. Quite a number of us look for sex and find love in the process. A lot of men connect with women through the act of being physical, so by default, he must be aroused by her.

        Our hypothetically female needs to have enough titillating attributes for her hypothetical pursuer. We all have our own versions of “god damn, she could get it”. As Shaukat has mentioned numerous times, the stylized depiction of beauty on Tv is culture dependent. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the various categorizations. Buck highlighted a perfect example of the divergence of male preference.

        1. Emily, the original

          D_M,
          A Guy maybe drawn to a woman, but very rarely will he fall in love without the physical.  
          I’m not saying that a man should fall in love without the physical (nor should a woman). I’m saying that I have been very attracted to men who were average-looking. They didn’t need to look like a young Robert Redford to spark my interest, whereas this conversation about SMVs seems to imply, for a good number of men, that only the most attractive women will spark the initial interest.

    3. 43.3
      Emily, the original

      Adrian,

      Yes which is why I feel that now we are all just going in circles which has caused me to lose motivation to discuss this topic anymore (^_^)

      Sorry, just read this part after I posted my last comment. I agree. I’m exhausted by this topic.

      Plus unlike me and Emily I doubt you need the virtual motivation and support of a wing man/woman.

      To be honest, and I don’t want to get into detail, I’m going through some health problems right now. Nothing life-threatening, but certainly very stressful and I just don’t have the emotional bandwith to deal with dating. So you’ll have to tell me about your adventures. And I want DETAILS.     🙂

      1. 43.3.1
        Marika

        Hope you’re feeling okay, Emily.

        1. Emily, the original

          Marika,

          Thank you. Appreciate it.

      2. 43.3.2
        Adrian

        Hi Emily,

        I hope you feel better. Have you noticed there are people out there who believe that getting dates is a cure for everything

        Person 1: “I just broke my leg”

        Person 2: “You should go out and date you’ll feel better”

        Person 1: “My boss just sold the company, I’m out of a job”

        Person 2: “You should go out and date you’ll feel better”

        1. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

          Person 2: “You should go out and date you’ll feel better”

          Well, sex is a great distraction.   🙂

  4. 44
    Marika

    Hi Adrian

    For me it is very obvious when I’m trying to control my emotions vs apathetic. When apathetic, you can forget to answer texts, miss calls without being bothered,  or not be excited to even hear from the person. When trying to control myself, I have to stop constantly  looking at my phone!

    With all the skills I listed, I was just trying to make the point that the better you get at all of them..not really a good preparation for marriage. I certainly haven’t mastered them all, and definitely not when I really like the person.

    Which is why that argument over being attractive necessarily equating to confidence in dating was soo frustrating. How on earth would your physical appearance trump years of upbringing & all your childhood messages and socialisation?? Anxious attachment style is tricky. It makes you overthink everything, forget your own needs or what you even want and feel like you constantly have to proof your worth, often to an unworthy person. Big challenge for me.

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