Tell Me About It: ‘I always said I didn’t want a baby and that remains true now’
PROBLEM: I’m very confused at the moment and hope you can help. I broke up with my boyfriend last year, having been together for five years. Our relationship was brilliant in every respect except one, he wanted us to start a family and I didn’t.
This is not a timing thing for me, I have no desire to be pregnant or have a baby, now or ever. He was aware of this from the beginning of our relationship and there didn’t seem to be any issue. However, after our joint 30th more than a year ago, he started looking for commitment on this and on our future. He seemed to think it was normal for me in my 20s not to want children, but that I’d change my mind once into my 30s. This was a deal-breaker for me and we parted ways, but still kept in touch.
I haven’t dated over the time we’ve been apart, and recently have been spending more time with my ex and I realise that he is the person that I want to share my life with. He’s already been clear with me that it’s what he wants. I just have no idea how we resolve the children issue. Right now he’s saying he’ll forget about it, but I’m not sure that he will.
Am I making a big mistake making any plans for our future together without this resolved?
ADVICE: You seem to have come up against a common misconception – that someone will change their mind about having children once they hit their 30s as many of their friends begin having families. Of course, many couples find that their focus turns towards having a family after several years of dating, however, this does not mean it can be assumed.
There has been a considerable change in the options open to women since the first wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Women’s identity used to be linked to motherhood and many had to endure curiosity and comment if they chose not to have children. This is no longer the case and women can now have fully productive and successful lives and relationships without parenting as part of it. It seems that you are fully acquainted with this sense of self and have been clear and vocal on it for many years. The difficulty is that your partner is only now realising the truth of what you have been saying and it is a situation where you both cannot get what you want.
Your partner may need to grieve for the family he will not have if you choose to commit to each other. The difficulty with you supporting him through this is that you may feel you are the cause of it and so may occupy two roles: comforter and creator of loss.
The fact that you know each other so well and have parted and come back together may mean that the relationship can handle this conundrum, but it will be challenging. As always, communication and conversation will be at the core to resolving this difficulty. Him saying that he’ll “forget it” is a grand gesture on his part but you will need to hear the whole of the journey (hurt and pain) that he goes through if this relationship is to be the close and intimate one that you both deserve. Can you sign up for this? Will you be able to enquire about his thinking and sadness as you both attend family christenings, nieces and nephews’ birthdays, etc? Will your partner be brave enough to love you completely even when his dream is not being fulfilled? If you both are willing to face into these questions and choose each other in full knowledge of what you are committing to, then your relationship stands a great chance of thriving.
There are great examples of successful relationships that do not follow the expected path. In fact, we now have second and third marriages, blended families, reconstructed couples and singletons who are all forging lives worth living. The aim is to enjoy life, to have love in it and to find meaning and purpose in everyday existence. How this happens is determined by you. You say you are unsure or distrustful of your partner’s choice to commit to you without the possibility of having children – yet he is an adult who is choosing to spend his life with you regardless. That is a wonderful thing, and it should be given full and serious consideration.
Get talking and listening, and commit to continue doing this for as long as it takes and enjoy the fact that you are both getting a second chance at love. Should you struggle with these conversations, get the help of a couple’s therapist (familytherapyireland.com).