Broody and brooding
A woman copes with her man's sudden desire for children
For the past seven years, I’ve been dating a man five years my junior. I was previously married and divorced in my twenties and have no children from that relationship. Throughout this time, the current boyfriend and I have always been on the same page about our relationship—we did not see ourselves having children. Now, he thinks he does want kids, and I’m at an age where that’s not going to be easy—in fact, it might not happen at all. I don’t know how to feel about this sudden change and it’s creating a lot of stress in our relationship. I’m still not convinced that I want children, and I’m also worried he’ll leave me for someone young enough to bear them. Maybe he already has someone. I don’t know what to do or how to feel about this. Help!
I generally don’t like to dictate a person’s feelings about a predicament. However, since you mention not knowing how to feel, words like betrayed and disappointed come to mind. Ticked is very apropos. You know what you want (or in this case, didn’t want) and you’ve been clear and consistent about it. Relationships sometimes get messy because there is another person involved and unfortunately, expectations are put upon said person. Your person has not been consistent. Your person changed his mind. You want to know what happened. You want to fix this thing.
When two people enter a relationship, there is a period of infatuation where everything is hunky-dory and everyone’s agreeable because they want to please the other person. They love the other person. They might say or do things that don’t necessarily align with their values to gain acceptance. A lot of times this stems from being afraid—specifically, fear of rejection or the fear of being alone again. They don’t want to lose the significant other and make all the associated pleasant feelings disappear. So, they’ll make sacrifices to keep the other person happy. Some people can actually spend a lifetime forfeiting what they want for the sake of someone else and be completely okay with it. Others can be torn apart.
You’ve spent a lot of time dating this man. Seven years is longer than some of today’s marriages. I would imagine you both have done your share of compromising, peace making, and people pleasing throughout the years. Having children is usually considered one of the non-negotiable items couples need to address early on in a relationship. It sounds like you’ve done that, and I believe you when you say you’re not convinced you want children. It seems your partner wasn’t as forthcoming, or he simply changed his mind. While the latter not an excuse and probably not what you want to hear, people change their minds about things every day. I’m guessing that when you met, he was probably not thinking about settling down or having children. Sometimes it takes men longer to catch up to women in the “adulting” department.
In order to move forward, you have to have a very frank and open conversation about what has changed in the relationship, your future, and specifically, children. Staying together is certainly possible but will require compromises that will not be easy. There is a clear winner and loser in either outcome. For you to concede, it means considering adoption and/or dealing with the cost, stress, and potential disappointment in undergoing fertility treatments. Depending on your age, you may also have a high-risk pregnancy. If all is successful, you are still caring for a child that you hadn’t initially planned on having. That’s a lot for someone who isn’t entirely convinced she wants children, but some people grow into wonderful parents when the opportunity presents itself. For your partner, it would mean giving up the experience of fatherhood. If he secretly always wanted kids or simply decided he now wants a family, that’s a significant loss where resentment may grow. Are you able to live with either of these outcomes?
You’ve expressed concern over the possibility of his leaving you for someone young enough to bear children. Sure, that could eventually happen. However, it’s also possible for you to end the relationship if you feel your needs are no longer being met or that you are being pushed into motherhood when you didn’t sign up for it. You don’t have to become a victim in this scenario. You don’t have to stay with someone out of fear of being alone again or because of the amount of time invested in the relationship. Both of you deserve to be happy and have the things you want in the long run—even if that means enduring the temporary pain of ending this relationship.
Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer and artist currently located in Rochester. Follow her at @thestaceyrowe on Instagram and Twitter or find her work online at staceyrowe.com.