In this week’s Ask Sally column, Keren, 32 from Manchester talks about finally meeting the right man. He’s perfect every way except one – he doesn’t want kids and she does. Should she move in with him or cut her losses and move on?
I’ve finally met a lovely guy after years of dating no-hopers. We’ve been together for six months and he’s asked me to move in with him. We share a sense of humour and a love of books and music, we never stop talking. The only blip on the horizon is that he says he can’t see himself ever wanting to have children. As well as having a full-on job as a creative director at an ad agency, he’s passionate about triathlon and spends his holidays doing Ironman competitions in different countries. He says he can’t see children fitting in with that and thinks we would have a better quality of life without them. But I’ve always thought I’d have children at some point, and time is ticking by as I’m 32 next year. Do I move on now and hope I meet someone who does want children, or move in with him and hope he changes his mind? Keren, 32, Manchester
Ahh, the female biological clock. You finally, finally meet a solvent, smart, nice guy that you click with – and we know how hard that can be – but instead of being able to relax, and enjoy that pink cloud of love, you find yourself compulsively doing secret mental arithmetic…’if we moved in together next year Christmas, then got married the year after, then started trying, and it took six months, I’d be nearly 36…’ Few women enjoy thinking like this, but while men have the luxury of taking their sweet time to mull over the whole ‘maybe baby’ debate, we’re on a deadline. Yes, we’re having babies later than ever before, but evolution needs more than a decade to catch up. Female fertility still takes a big nosedive after the age of 35.
men have the luxury of taking their sweet time to mull over the whole ‘maybe baby’ debate but we’re on a deadline
But Keren, you’re not just up against the clock, you’re up against a man who has no real desire to have children right now. If you’ve shared your dilemma with friends, you have no doubt been on the receiving end of lots of advice. A good friend of mine in a similar situation was shocked at how many people advised her to ‘accidentally’ get pregnant in a year or so. It will be fine, they’d confidently assure her, he’ll come round and thank you for it eventually. But tricking someone she loved into becoming a parent felt so wrong to her on so many different levels that she never even felt tempted. She went with the ‘hoping he’ll change his mind’ option instead. And he did – the only problem was, by the time he felt ready, she was 42, and couldn’t get pregnant. There is a happy ending – but they’re still together, and they have one of the strongest relationships I have come across – but she still feels sad that they never had children.
Keren, you’re not just up against the clock, you’re up against a man who has no real desire to have children right now
Your boyfriend argues that you can have a better quality of life without children, and there are plenty of statistics to back him up. Studies show that while both partners get a lasting happiness boost after marriage, happiness levels stay the same after the birth of a child. A recent study found that both parents and non-parents scored the same average levels of contentment with life. Other research has shown that parents report lower levels of general wellbeing and in both life and marital satisfaction than non-parents. If you’ve ambivalent about the thought of children, studies like these might help you make up your mind. But if you have a deep-down yearning to have a baby, they won’t make any difference whatsoever. And the fact that you’re even contemplating leaving this lovely man that you have waited so long for suggests that actually, having children is important to you.
the fact that you’re even contemplating leaving this lovely man that you have waited so long for suggests that actually, having children is important to you
Your boyfriend has not only been honest about his feelings about children, he’s also given you a pretty clear picture of how he sees your future together. In his ideal world, life would remain pretty much the same as it is now, but with you at his side. I suspect he has no intention of seriously cutting back on the time he devotes to what you describe as his ‘passion’. I wondered where you saw yourself fitting in this picture? By his side on those all-day weekend cycle rides, after-work long runs or early morning swims? At home making power smoothies for when he gets back? Or using the time for your own social life and hobbies?
I suspect he has no intention of seriously cutting back on the time he devotes to what you describe as his ‘passion’. I wondered where you saw yourself fitting in this picture?
At the moment, you’re buoyed up by a cocktail of endorphins and oxytocin, at a stage of your relationship that psychologists called ‘limerence’. You’re feeling relaxed, compassionate and super-tolerant (and isn’t it fantastic?). But how will you feel about organising your life around his training when you’re no longer coasting on that heady hit of hormones every day? Will it be frustrating or just plain irritating that he’s never there to help around the house at weekends, or meet your friends for dinner? Will you feel like you live parallel lives and have little in common?
what’s worrying is that at the moment, compromise in your relationship seems to be one-sided.
Few partners start out with exactly the same vision of the future and carving out a life together that suits both is what relationships are all about. It’s an ongoing negotiation of give and take which nurtures not only the relationship, but also personal growth in the individuals. In the initial stages, we can feel extra motivated to compromise because we want to give our relationship the best possible chance of surviving, and we want the person we’re in love with to be happy. But what’s worrying is that at the moment, compromise in your relationship seems to be one-sided.
However funny and lovely your boyfriend is, he’s given you two choices – fit into his way of life, including giving up on your dream of having children, or move on
However funny and lovely your boyfriend is, he’s managed to leave you feeling like you have only two choices – fit into his way of life, including giving up on your dream of having children, or move on. But you have so many more choices Keren. You can choose not to move in with him until you feel more certain about your future together. You can spend some time thinking about how important children are to you and what a child-free future would mean to you. You can be as honest with him as he’s been with you about what you want. And you can wait to see what he’s willing to do to make your relationship work long-term.
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Sally Brown, is Healthista’s resident therapist and agony aunt. She loves finding out what makes people tick and will winkle out your life story if you sit next to her at a dinner party. She feels lucky to make a living from hearing those stories, and helping people make sense of their lives and reach their true potential. Registered with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, which means she has the qualifications and experience to work safely and effectively, she also writes about emotional and psychological health for the national press. Find out more at therapythatworks.co.uk.