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Is love worth the risk?
July 12, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Relationshipfilter : is this a recipe for disaster, or do I need to learn to accept more risk?

I ended my LTR this past March, and soon afterwards, ended up having what I *thought* was a fling with someone who'd been a classmate of mine. Neither one of us were interested in a relationship - he'd ended a 4 year relationship the past October, and had decided to not get wrapped up with another while he was still in school. I was planning on finally enjoying being single for the first time in quite some time. (4 years for my relationship, too.)

Fast forward to now - we moved in together. (!) Yes, we're in an exclusive relationship. Things are freaking awesome. We communicate exceptionally well, have lots of common interests, and are extremely compatible sexually. The L-word was declared abut two months in, by both parties. :) He's funny, kind, thoughtful, my cats love him, you name it. We love our new place and have all kinds of fun playing records, decorating, dancing around, cooking food together - it's probably the best relationship I've been in. We even argue well, and it never lasts long.

So what's the problem? There are a couple, mainly due to Problem 1 : age difference. I'm 13 years older than him. (38/25) Initially, it weirded us out a bit. However, his last partner was 7 years older than him, so he says it doesn't bother him.

So the age difference is fine, but:

1. We're both in school. He's finishing his first degree, I'm working on my second. He's a full time student, so he'll be finishing in two semesters, ie. next May. He doesn't know where he'll be after that - he's considering grad school. So am I, but my graduation is further off (I work full time), and I'm not sure where I'd want to go.

2. He's not sure if he ever wants kids. Understandable, but I don't have a lot of time left to have them, if I decide it's something I want.

I get scared that I'm setting myself up for heartbreak, but then I think - well, this relationship is only 3.5 months along, I'm probably taking this a bit too seriously. We talked about this yesterday, and he said that while he couldn't say what would happen, he wanted to share as much of his life with me as possible. He wasn't sure if he'd want me to try to come with him if he left for grad school etc..., "Let's see what happens between now and then." Sounds reasonable, right? My brain automatically turns this into "He's going to leave you, flee while you still can!"

So the question is : what would you do? I feel like I'm in a relationship that has a looming expiration date on it, i.e. after he graduates.
posted by HopperFan to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would see what happens between now and then. Unless you decide right now that you want children, why not play it out? If you definitely want little ones and are not willing to adopt, tick tock on the biological clock.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neither one of these are necessarily problems, they are just potential problems. I mean, if either of you ends up in grad school, then you can cross that bridge when you get there.

So you both aren't sure if you want to have kids. This isn't a problem until either one of you feels strongly about the issue.

Enjoy the love and the loving and the sex and compatible interests. When either of you makes a decision, then you can address that then.

THAT SAID...this concerns me:

So what's the problem? There are a couple, mainly due to Problem 1 : age difference. I'm 13 years older than him. (38/25) Initially, it weirded us out a bit. However, his last partner was 7 years older than him, so he says it doesn't bother him.

So the age difference is fine, but:


It it fine? You say what he thinks about the age difference, but what do you think about it? Does it still weird you out? It was important enough for you to bring it up as the first concern you mention, but then you dismiss it. What's up?
posted by inturnaround at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2012


Normally I'd say roll with what you have for now, except for the kids thing.

I guess the question is, if you hadn't found this awesome guy, would you be doggedly looking for the father of your children? Would there have been any guarantee that you would be in a great relationship in time to procreate?

My first suggestion is stay where you are and enjoy the hell out of yourself. What's a year or so out of your life?

But, if having children is the number one thing you'd like to do, and frankly, you kind of have to decide that RIGHTNOW, then you need to get on getting with your baby-daddy.

If you are not right now, burning with desire to bring a child into the world, based on my experience, that urge diminishes with time. I wanted kids in my twenties, and as I aged, it became less and less attractive to me. But everyone is different. I think older parents are nuts, but that's me.

I doubt very seriously that this is a forever deal, but honestly, doesn't a year or so of fun sound good right about now?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:59 AM on July 12, 2012


Take every chance you get to be happy. Looking for problems that may come up eventually doesn't make you happy. There will always be potential problems lurking in the future, no matter how perfectly you think the two of you line up.

Are you happy? Then be happy.
posted by Etrigan at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


The age thing doesn't bother me, but the fact that he hasn't made plans for what he wants to do post graduation when you might want a baby could be potentially messy.
posted by discopolo at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neither of you knows what's next? That's fairly normal, with or without the age difference. If you want to have children then you really do need to decide that ASAP, but what I find far more potentially problematic is that you live together now, love is in the air, and everything is great... but he isn't sure if he wants you to come with him IF he goes to grad school? I don't know what that means but it stuck out to me --
he wanted to share as much of his life with me as possible. He wasn't sure if he'd want me to try to come with him if he left for grad school etc

being kind of not the same things, actually. Unless he meant it more in a "you don't have to follow me, follow your dreamz!" way, I suppose.
posted by sm1tten at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


A couple of quick answers :

Age difference : Yes, it still weirds me out a little. Mainly when we're out together, for silly reasons.

Coming with him (or not) for grad school : My first reaction was the same as sm1tten's. Thought about it a little bit, and decided that I also couldn't predict if I'd want to follow him or not - yet. Told him it was ok that we were unsure and that we should have some kind of State of the Union discussion in 6 months or so.
posted by HopperFan at 8:13 AM on July 12, 2012


He wasn't sure if he'd want me to try to come with him if he left for grad school etc

I would do a LOT more exploring here. You're thinking about having kids, and this sentence reads as if he's up in the air about whether or your relationship will last more than another year. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be the fling you were looking for, just in a longer term than you thought. Just make sure that if he's undecided about whether the relationship lasts beyond the next year, you are too, or you may be very disappointed when that time comes.
posted by cnc at 8:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


You could keep a journal and sort out some of your concerns. That might help.

As for the baby thing, leaving him now does not guarantee you will find someone more interested in having kids (I mean with you specifically). I think most Americans vastly overestimate how much control they have over that.

I seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. In contrast, my sister went through years of fertility treatments. So, in spite of my jokes about my ex giving me babies in place of presents (because first child was born the day after my birthday and second child was born on our wedding anniversary), it really isn't possible to "schedule" your babies.

We can make choices that make it more or less likely we will have a baby. But most humans seem to be the result of either "oops!" (whether the parents are married or not) or "we tried for this one forever". So I really don't think that's a very good reason to leave.

I think since you seem to be happy now and your expressed concerns are mostly hypothetical future scenarios, the best thing you can do is give yourself to this relationship with gusto. You only live once. Either one of you could be hit by a bus tommorrow. Drink deeply of this while it's there. Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow's decisions.

My 2 cents. I had to nearly die to learn to live for the day, so it's possible I am a tad biased.
posted by Michele in California at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


'Wants as much as possible' creates a very serious cognitive dissonance when placed next to 'isn't sure he wants me to come with him.'

Very serious.

But the thing that really would make me run is the possible difference in wanting kids. There are a lot of reasons you need to decide whether you want to try to get pregnant, and the sooner you do that, the better. If you don't want to be pregnant, you definitely need to think about whether you want to add children to your life some other way. And then be at least in the same book as your partner, if not on the same page.

For now, go watch the YouTube video Sliding vs Deciding. I'd link directly to it but I'm on my phone on a bus.
posted by bilabial at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


(I've been the younger person in a relationship like yours, but not the older, and not with the biological clock thing.)

The only issue I can see is Issue #2.

This is what I'd do. Keep doing what you're doing. See where things go. This is still a fairly new relationship, and even a year from now (i.e. next May) will still be pretty early in the game in terms of having kids with someone.

Think long and hard about your ideal time frame for having kids. Do you want to be pregnant by the time you're 40? Something sooner? Something further down the road? How important is all that to you?

It seems to me that if you know that you will be miserable forever if you don't have a bun in the oven by the fall (or whatever), you need to get out of this relationship, stat. Because this dude doesn't sound like someone who is going to suddenly decide he wants to be a dad next weekend.

If you can live with having a kid in 2 or 3 years, or maybe adopting later on, or you'd be fine not having kids if it never happened in an organic way, then wait it out. See where this takes you. Maybe the dude will come around. Maybe this relationship isn't meant to be, anyway, and you will meet someone else who is already ready. Who knows?

FWIW I have dated a 38 year old who was freaked out at the prospect of being a parent. I have also known dudes in their 20's who were dating older women and were totally happy/excited/ready for fatherhood. So I don't think this is necessarily an age difference issue.
posted by Sara C. at 8:20 AM on July 12, 2012


It's a lot easier said than done, but try to let go of your expectations about the relationship and just enjoy it. The relationship may last, it may not. If it lasts, great! If it doesn't, you'll meet somebody new, in time. Learning to enjoy this moment is where you will find peace and joy. Let the future take care of itself.
posted by strelitzia at 8:21 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, you all are moving really fast for 3 and a half months which would be fine if you were on the same page, but you're not. I'm not sure if financial stuff was what encouraged the move-in or what but I would maybe backtrack and calm things down a bit. You're basically putting all you have into this relationship before knowing if either one of you is even committed to it, and that can lead to a situation where you keep dragging things out because you've already put so much into it.

The kids thing is such a huge deal, too. Staying with this man might mean never having kids. You need space to clear your head and think about this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 AM on July 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


The kids thing is the major issue here. Otherwise I'd be all "enjoy the moment" but given your age if you're interested in biological kids you already might be looking at fertility treatments, much less a couple years down the road when you guys have worked things out. Is having kids something you need to do with someone, or could you do the Murphy Brown thing?
posted by schroedinger at 8:24 AM on July 12, 2012


Speaking as a man, "Let's see what happens between now and then" is pretty much exactly how I would have spoken to someone I was dating in my 20s about whom I wasn't too serious and didn't want to get pinned down with. Those aren't the words of someone who is certain about his relationship. Just my POV though. If you're living together (a far more serious move than many people realize) then you need to be crystal clear with him about where the relationship is going.
posted by fso at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


About the age difference, I think it would be less of a big deal once you two get older. My parents are respectively 63 and 53 and people don't question it anymore. But if they do, who cares! You know what works for you two. From what I've seen, age doesn't matter as much as being in the same stage of life does.

It seems like you two want different things from life or are uncertain about certain things right now, but i think it's worth the 'risk' just to see where you two end up by next May.

If you two are still together then you can slowly figure out the pieces between where you two should live and the whole having a kid thing.

As for now, enjoy what you two have together because good relationships like this are hard to find.
posted by livinglearning at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2012


Told him it was ok that we were unsure and that we should have some kind of State of the Union discussion in 6 months or so.

I'd stick with that plan. You're enjoying yourself right now and discussing relationship trajectory at 9 monthsish sounds reasonable. If he's still pretty stalwart about not wanting kids, that's a good time to revisit the issue, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re the grad school thing, going with him, not, etc.

Dude hasn't even started applying to grad programs yet, right?

If that's the case, then definitely table any concerns about who moves where to be with who. A lot of undergrads make vague hand-wavey plans for another degree, but when the time comes they don't end up going to grad school at all.

I was totally going to get a PhD in linguistics when I was where your boyfriend is. Then I graduated, got a job, and never really looked back until one day I realized I was almost thirty and had a career and was not ever going to be a linguist.

So yeah, don't sweat that until he has an acceptance letter in hand.
posted by Sara C. at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2012


Your question is "What would you do?" and your only mention of wanting kids yourself is I don't have a lot of time left to have them, if I decide it's something I want. So here is what I would do: Enjoy the year, and spend it deciding if kids are really something you want.
posted by tomboko at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This type of unease is fine for three and a half months.

The kid thing is a big issue, though, but it's only a matter of egg production. I believe you can carry embryos to term post-menopausally. Since you're not sure and you are entering the "iffy" age range, maybe see about freezing some eggs/embryos, and that might take some worry off your mind.

Embryos show better viability after freezing than eggs (I think) so it might be worth it seeing if you can get someone to fertilize them first. If you've known this guy for a while, perhaps you can propose it to him as less of a "this is a child with you because we'll eventually get married!" and more of a "this is a personal insurance plan for myself and I'm asking you for help, but I can ask someone else if you're uncomfortable with it."
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2012


Coming with him (or not) for grad school : My first reaction was the same as sm1tten's. Thought about it a little bit, and decided that I also couldn't predict if I'd want to follow him or not - yet. Told him it was ok that we were unsure and that we should have some kind of State of the Union discussion in 6 months or so.

This is really tricky. Maybe you guys should stop living together and you can date other people. Because he's young enough to change his mind about you.

Do you have the money to freeze your eggs?
posted by discopolo at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2012


As for the baby thing, leaving him now does not guarantee you will find someone more interested in having kids (I mean with you specifically). I think most Americans vastly overestimate how much control they have over that.

I think if you date aggressively, know what you're looking for, and put a lot of energy into it, you could find someone who wants the same thing. You can't just wait around hoping Prince Charming shows up and magically wants what you do.
posted by discopolo at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you are right - you should probably get out while you have the chance.

This person is not committed to you beyond "playing house" for the next few months. Everything about the relationship and how it started sounds like rebound/playtime for both of you.

Is this acceptable for you at this stage in your life?



If not, you know what to do...
posted by jbenben at 10:10 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


what happens if he does want kids, but not now? what if he wants them in say, 8 years? at his stage i don't think too many men are looking to have kids, especially if they haven't established their career yet...but that won't stop him from wanting kids later, when maybe it would be more difficult.

it's become fashionable to act like one doesn't want kids when one does...not saying that is what you're doing, but if you want kids for sure, and if you are looking at him wanting him to father those kids and marry you or commit for the long-run in some other way, and he's just not sure...well, leave, and find someone else. make sure you let him know why.

if he wants to, he can always tell you that he doesn't want to lose you over anything, and commit to you and having a baby.
posted by saraindc at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


YMMV, etc.

If you'd accept a date from someone who was going to graduate in a year then I'd say there's no reason to end this over it. Who knows what will happen?

The kid thing is more pressing but I think you should ask yourself how you'd be approaching this if he wasn't in the picture. Would you feel a time pressure between now and next year when this other potential decision point comes up? If so then you should examine how you might approach the problem if he hadn't come along. Single parenthood? Egg preservation?

Speaking as a man, "Let's see what happens between now and then" is pretty much exactly how I would have spoken to someone I was dating in my 20s about whom I wasn't too serious and didn't want to get pinned down with. Those aren't the words of someone who is certain about his relationship.

I don't think that's necessarily an unfair metric but I also don't think it's unfair to have a bit of that reservation at the 105 day mark. It took four years for my now-wife to get me to agree to cohabitation - not all of us do it with the same meaning or outlook on its import. Since these two did it with knowledge that there'd be a major decision point next year I don't think it's wrong for them to have a certain amount of belief that this is a bit of a test drive.

But that's why I think you need to examine your life goals as they pertain to you regardless of whether there's a partner in your life. If having kids with someone else in the picture is critical to you then you may need to decide if you're going to fish or cut bait. If having kids regardless is critical then you may need to tell your live-in here that you're going to start down a certain road and he's going to need to decide by X time whether he's coming with.
posted by phearlez at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2012


I realized that I didn't relay a critical bit of information - I've already talked about ending the relationship several times in the early stages, for a number of reasons that weren't really logical, i.e., mainly due to fear. I said things like "Let's break up while we still like each other" ... so that probably doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in him that this is "forever." He's never talked about breaking up, not even once.
posted by HopperFan at 11:08 AM on July 12, 2012


I realized that I didn't relay a critical bit of information - I've already talked about ending the relationship several times in the early stages, for a number of reasons that weren't really logical, i.e., mainly due to fear. I said things like "Let's break up while we still like each other" ... so that probably doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in him that this is "forever." He's never talked about breaking up, not even once.

It sounds like you don't want to leave him yet. No one can force you to and you might not be ready to reason yourself into it until awhile.

But be honest with yourself. Part of this phase of love is being like, "Zomg! I can't believe I met him! This might be it!" you want to do what feels good.

Melissam suggested "Attached" in this other thread to another asker. You should read it and figure him out more and figure yourself out more.
posted by discopolo at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2012


In response to your update, let me reiterate "keep a journal" or even see a therapist.

I had younger men hit on me during my divorce. I was incredibly uncomfortable with it. They were not uncomfortable with it. Several younger men helped me feel less weird about it and one was important to me for a time. I've thought a whole lot about that and I think being in a different place is the crux of it. The one who stuck around was someone I didn't feel "ahead of", for lack of a better term.

Since neither of you have kids and you are both in school, it doesn't sound like you are in extremely different places. Unless you can come up with a more meaningful objection than his age, I suggest you view that as "neurotic" and "something I need to work on". And then work on it, until either it no longer matters or you have figured out what's really bothering you. (Like maybe what you really mean is "he's emotionally immature" and making noises about his age is a proxy for that.)
posted by Michele in California at 11:53 AM on July 12, 2012


As someone who is 8 years older than her husband, I can say that the age difference thing isn't a big deal for us and few people figure it out unless we tell them.

But the kids thing, well, that's a whole other issue. The two choices right now, within your control, are to let this roll and face the possibility of not having kids (could be fine) or be a single parent with a donor/through adoption (not as easy as writing this sentence, obvs.) If you would rather be a single parent with kids than happily coupled without kids? Well, that is something to think about.

I did get pg at 39, but we adopted the second one (a 4 year old) a few months ago. (And that process took 3 years/was very expensive). I'm a 46 yr old mom with a fairly flexible p/t job and in good health, AND with a 6.5 and a 4 year old. I'm exhausted. Happy but super tired. I would have had a LOT more energy for this when I was younger, but my husband and I switched roles where he became the top earner shortly after we were married (I made more before that) and I'm the primary caregiver parent. It works and we love it, but it is not always easy and both of us very much wanted kids.

YMMV, as always. Just sharing my own experience, FWIW.
posted by jeanmari at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2012


Not to sound too harsh, but if you are 38 and haven't yet come to a decision about having kids, and you're now living with a 25-year old who is not sure about kids...I don't know, I get the impresssion that maybe, long ago, you already did decide that you don't want kids, but that you've never really admitted it to yourself?

Or, maybe you don't really have any idea how all-encompassing, life-changing, and time consuiming it is to have children? I had kids when I was in my very early 30's and now wish I had done it 5 years earlier than that! It is exhausing. And that's with two parents...I cannot fathom how difficult single-parenting must be, and why some posters above are nonchalantly mentioning that as just another option that you should consider.

You asked, what would I do? In your case, I'd just decide (admit?) that you don't want to have children! And then continue living with your boyfriend, and enjoy your new relationship without that question hanging over your head.
posted by see_change at 1:30 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


He's not sure if he ever wants kids. Understandable, but I don't have a lot of time left to have them, if I decide it's something I want.

You don't have a lot of time left to decide either -- were you undecided before you met this guy? Or have you decided to be "undecided" so the two of you will be on the same mind on this?

You can consider what you want as far as kids independently of this relationship, independently of any relationship. By that I mean you don't have to be in a relationship with a specific person that you would be having the kids with to decide, or even be in a relationship at all.

Deciding on that will be a risk though -- at 50 you might think "Oops, I forgot to have kids?", or you have kids (or a kid, unless you are planning on having them all at the same time) and regret that, or you could have a child with some sort of lifelong disability that you would be caring for until nursing home time. Or you could be perfectly happy with whatever decision you make.

You might also want to consider how your saving for retirement is going, and how the expenses associated with a child will affect that, as well as how much time you would take away from work and/or school, and what your finances would look like if you had to take more time off than you anticipated before or after the birth.

If you do want to have kid(s), before you make any big relationship decisions based on that, you might talk to a fertility specialist to see if it's possible to verify that you would be able to do that. (I don't know if this is possible or not)

As to what you are risking in this relationship, it seems like it's pretty much the same as in any relationship. You risk that things might not work out -- you'll have this problem in a new relationship too. On the other hand, if things work out then it ends in death -- so you may as well have some fun while it's here!
posted by yohko at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2012


You are both in school...

Kids are a worry, but to expect graduated him and grad schooling/preggy you to be able to economically support a child is quite a big worry too, no?

Even if you wait to shore up his esteem to be a parent, it may take time and money to get a kid... and then time and money to raise him. I sense this 25 year old is still in lala-land about what the real expectations of your wishes places him.
posted by Bodrik at 9:56 PM on July 12, 2012


Kids are so much more important than any other issue--not only any other issue you are facing, but nearly any other, period. I did a double take when I read that you weren't sure whether you want to have kids. How does a woman reach 38 without realizing
that her reproductive time is short, and facing this issue head-on? How can you be undecided? Are you in denial about your true feelings, whether yay or nay?

Close your eyes. Picture what you want your life to be like 5, 10 years from now. Picture it with and without a child. Which is more satisfying? Which will you regret more, not having a child, or having one? Try on different scenarios--a difficult child, a pleasant child, a healthy child, a sick child, a gifted child, a slow child, being a single parent, being a part of a couple, etc. Can you handle these? Would you want to? Would it be worth it? How bad will you feel if you are 50, clearly past reproductive age, and have no children?

I though the egg-freezing suggestion was interesting until I looked up the prices. JEEZ. Unless you are wealthy, you'd have to be very much COMMITTED to definitely having children in order to go that route:

"Clients should be prepared to spend $9,000-$13,000 for one egg freezing treatment cycle which includes standard medical, science and service fees, egg transportation and the first year of storage. Subsequent treatments are priced between $5,000-$9,000.

In addition to these fees, clients should expect to pay $3,000 - $5,000 per treatment cycle for medications that are ordered directly from Freedom Fertility Pharmacy, our specialty pharmacy partner, and several hundred dollars in laboratory costs for required infectious disease screening. "
posted by parrot_person at 3:28 AM on July 13, 2012


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