When you can't have it all.
February 10, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

How do you let go of a "the dream"?

When I was little, I used to spend hours picking out names for my children, planning my wedding dress, imagining walking down the aisle with my parents, dropping my first son off at kindergarten, etc. It never mattered much that I didn’t have an idea of who Mr. Right would be; I figured I’d fall in love with someone who wanted exactly the same things.

Mr. Right and I have been dating for the good part of a year. He made it clear early in the relationship that he didn’t want to get married (He’s going on 60 and has never been married), and definitely no kids. At the time, I was mostly agreeable to this, as I’d never wanted marriage or kids in any of my previous relationships (I’d never, I guess, been really in love.)

Well, the tides have changed. My biological clock is going CRAZY. A lot of my friends are getting married, my younger siblings’ friends are getting married, etc. (My Facebook friend’s status list is a constant series of “SoandSo is ENGAGED!!!11ty!!!”) And I’m jealous. I’ve talked with Mr. Right (who is honestly the best man I’ve ever known, handsome, brilliant, kind and loving) about my shifting feelings, and it’s made him uncomfortable. He’s VERY career-minded, and expects me to be the same (I am, mostly.) He said he “might someday” change his mind about marriage, but that if we ever accidentally got pregnant, he’d plead with me to abort (not an option, as I reiterated to him.)

If I were to choose between Mr. Right and marriage/kids, I pick Mr. Right. But how to I let go of the ache of wanting everything else?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He's not Mr. Right.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:52 AM on February 10, 2009 [57 favorites]

If Mr. Right is stopping you from having these things that it sounds like you really want, he's not Mr. Right.
posted by meerkatty at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2009 [8 favorites]

Just a thought, but if marriage and children are very important to you but out of the question for Mr. Right, he might actually be Mr. Not-Quite-Right.
posted by dersins at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

A year is not a very long time, normally I'd say he might warm up to the idea if given more time, but you state that he's 60. I think it's more than reasonable for him to not want to be raising a 17 year old at the age of 77, so don't go about expecting him to change.

Perhaps the best way of letting go of the ache of wanting is to look at some of the hard facts? If you're biological clock is going crazy then there must be a 20 year age difference if not more? Have you considered that there's a fair chance you'd be the only remaining parent of the child in the next 15-25 years? That might help to convince your dream is no longer an option, more so if the age difference between you and Mr. Right is under 20 years.
posted by furtive at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, if Mr. Right is really truly Mr. Right, then maybe you need to separate yourself from the people who have goals and life plans different from yours, since they are causing so much stress. Stop friending/following the types of people who are getting married/having kids and get more involved in professional organizations/social clubs that cater to childless women.
posted by muddgirl at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Imagine that you're five years old, and someone asks you to draw the house you want to live in when you grow up. Over the years, you keep going back to the original drawing and adding details you think would be ideal -- fireman pole from the third floor, helipad, doors with hinges at the top instead of the side, a permanent lemonade stand at the end of the driveway. Pink shutters.

By the time you're actually old enough to buy a house, is THIS the house that you really want to live in as a grownup? Of course not. And yet, people really do cling to these childhood fantasies when it comes to making decisions about their adult lives. I think we all need to reach the point where we can appreciate that we were so imaginative as children, and not be afraid to relegate the house-drawing to the scrapbook where it belongs.

Sure, the things you're talking about are not so fantastical, they're well within the realm of reality. But are they a part of your life NOW, and your future as you see it? Doesn't really look like it. That inner child may cry and whine for certain things, but she shouldn't be allowed at the steering wheel. It sounds like you really need to figure out how much of your feelings are based on what you WANT, and how much are based on the deep-seated sense of expectation that you've fostered since you were a child. Explore this with your partner, take all the time you need, and I'd say this is a good thing to discuss with a therapist, because your friends and family are going to be pretty heavily biased one way or another by their own priorities.
posted by hermitosis at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2009 [11 favorites]

He sounds like "Mr. Right But..."
Being with a Right But can be sad and frustrating because there is this awesome, wonderful person who is everything you want and need but this one thing. And the one thing, if it is important to you (and marriage and kids are important issues) can be the dealbreaker. Which means, as has been said above, he is not Mr. Right at all. It sounds like you are trying to give up your dreams not because your priorities have changed but because you want to be with this man. I don't think this will necessarily end happily. There's a decent chance you will come to resent this decision to give up these dreams.
I think you haven't met Mr. Right yet.
posted by pointystick at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think a lot of the answer to all of this depends on how old you are and how close to the end of your childbearing years you are. Less than a year is not a long time, and it's certainly not enough time to really judge if this person is right for you in the long-run. If you have a year or two to wait to see how you feel about him, I'd do so. But if you're nearing, say, 40, you might be better off cutting your losses and pursuing the kind of life you really want.

I'd also keep in mind that, because of the age difference, you might be trading in caring for children with caring for him, if your relationship lasts, say, twenty years. This might be worth it to you, but I'd think long and hard about whether this is the life you want to lead. Remember, you only get one shot at all of this. I'm a firm believer that good relationships help us to see our life goals through, rather than keeping them us from our dreams. I'm sort of at a loss as to how he's doing this for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mr. Right is going on 60, but your biological clock is ticking? What's the age difference between you two?
posted by prefpara at 11:08 AM on February 10, 2009

I don't know . . . i struggled myself with the concept of what defines Mr Right (and MeFites have a lot of insight on this issue) and one of the basics is that you want the same things out of life. Not to mention that you haven't even been together for a year . . . I just don't know. Obviously it's hard to say, not knowing you or the situation, but it sounds like you could find someone you're more compatible with. You can be in love with someone who you aren't actually compatible with. I'd have to say that, even though I do believe you love him- the fact that what he wants from life prevents YOU from getting what YOU want out of life, makes him, by definition, NOT Mr. Right. Sorry for all those commas. Here are some of the links to questions I mentioned:
The one I asked
To which someone replied with this related question

You deserve to have what you want. I hate to be blunt but how will you feel in 15 years if he dies and your childbearing years have passed, and yet you still have many years ahead of you. Will you regret it?
posted by lblair at 11:09 AM on February 10, 2009

To let go of the ache, maybe try to spend a ton of time with kids. Find a kids' program to volunteer with or be a babysitter for extended periods of time for any kid you can find. Maybe you'll discover you don't want kids that much after all....?

But honestly, reading your question, I don't think he's the right guy for you. Differing wants surrounding marriage and kids... ? That's a HUGE dealbreaker. This isn't some minor pet-peeve detail of the household habits that you can just say to yourself, suck it up and move on. There are some things you cannot compromise on if you want to have any peace in life, and reproduction is one of them. You probably have a little more clock-leeway than you think (if your friends are getting engaged in droves, I'm assuming you're in your 20s, and you can still have a baby without much hassle into your mid-, maybe late-30s if you want). So if my guess about your age is right, tell yourself to relax and give it a while to think it over.

But while you're thinking, consider this: why are his feelings of "I don't want kids" more important to appease than your feelings of "I think I want kids?" THEY ARE NOT. You do not have to make a major compromise and suck up lifelong wistfulness to keep your mate happy. Mr. Right will be Mr. Right. Not because "he's so amazing", but because your life desires will be congruent.

Love isn't gazing into someone's perfect eyes; it's sitting side by side and gazing out at a shared future, together.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:17 AM on February 10, 2009

I don't know that this is something that is very easy to let go of at all. You're talking about giving up a (reasonable, common) desire that has been with you all of your life. entering into a relationship with the hope that someone will change their mind on an important issue is a recipe for heartache.

As an aside, I think that any man who would plead for his wife to abort the baby that he knows she has wanted all her life is a cad.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:19 AM on February 10, 2009 [9 favorites]

Children are something both people need to agree on or a relationship is probably not going to work out. So I think your Mr. Right might not be so right. I see where he is coming from: I don't think i'd want to raise babies when I'm 60.
posted by chunking express at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't want to put too much stock in the concept of "Mr. Right," but it's always been my understanding that there shouldn't be a choice between the right partner for a person and that person's major life goals and dreams: the right partner is someone whose goals and dreams are compatible with yours.

That said, there's a huge difference between the millions of things you might want and the several major goals of your life. For instance, I had been toying with the idea of spending a year or two teaching abroad when I met my now-partner; I decided to give up that thing I wanted at the time (moving to Europe) in order to be with this person I was falling in love with. I still get jealous of people whose blogs/facebook updates tell me all about the fabulous time they're having in Berlin or wherever else, but when I think about Berlin vs. my partner, my partner wins, no question. I think it's important to identify which desires you can pass up with only a little wistfulness (and whose value is outweighed by the happiness you have with the partner you gave them up for) and which goals you will truly and deeply regret having given up.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:25 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mr. Right is going on 60, but your biological clock is ticking? What's the age difference between you two?

Hear, hear. Big age differences mean big differences in not just things biological, but a whole host of other things. This is not Mr. Right.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:26 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's also worth noting that your lifelong desire to have kids is not some random "dream" like learning to play the guitar or someday visiting Madrid. You are biologically programmed to desire children. This ache is likely to never leave you, because your biology makes you ache at its absence. You can remove the ache only by changing your biology. The best you can hope for is merely coming to terms with the ache.

Mr. Right might be Mr. Right. No one here can tell you otherwise. All we can say is be advised of the bargain you're agreeing to, lifelong ache and all.
posted by ericc at 11:36 AM on February 10, 2009

Seconding that he's 60, which is really late to be a dad. Could he even have a biological child with you without medical intervention? Are you well off enough you could afford college for a kid and medical care for him at the same time? Do you want a potential child to deal with his father's poor health or death at a young age? Are you prepared to raise a teenager alone?

There are a million reasons you're probably not well matched with someone 30+ years your senior, and kids is just an obvious one. The fact that you also have drastically different views on abortion is another. Enjoy your relationship while it lasts, but realize this is never going to start going in the direction you want and so it probably has an expiration date.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Mr Right is 60 years old, completely career oriented, expects you to be too, and doesn't want to marry you or have kids. Even talking about this stuff makes him uncomfortable? I'm sorry, this is a case of mistaken identify.
posted by xammerboy at 11:40 AM on February 10, 2009 [8 favorites]

Sorry, I think this will sound harsh, but I'm trying to be objective (and definitely not mean).

You have life goal X, he has life goal Y. I am having a hard time figuring out how his is so much more important or reasonable than yours for you to decide that it's okay to give yours up and ask us how to deal with the resulting emotions.

To you, he is so Mr. Right that you are willing to give up a dream for him--to you that is, it seems, love. Why would he not be even remotely willing to do so for you? He may have plenty of valid reasons, many of which have been stated above. But you have to know whether any of them have to deal with how he feels about you versus how you feel about him, and whether he deserves what you're offering.
posted by penchant at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2009

If you somehow want to lose your childhood dreams for "Mr Right", there is a good chance that your "Mr Right" ideals are still stuck in your childhood dreams. I don't buy your claim that you didn't think about Mr Right when you were young. You did have an idea of your wedding, you had an idea of your kids, and you had an idea of what your Mr Right would at least give you. And your terminology of "Mr Right" shows me that, guess what, your Mr Right is colored by your ideas of what you'd end up with.

What you're trying to do is convince yourself that you'll be happy without being married and without having kids. What you want to do is justify to yourself that your wants aren't necessarily as important as you feel they are. You want a magic silver bullet to somehow make these urges disappear and that whatever feelings you have for Mr Right will trump whatever other feelings you're having. So you want one feeling to trump another. This won't work.

What you need to do is take a look at yourself and what you want five years from now. Your feelings are incredibly valid and they are reasonable. So figure out the reasons behind them. If they merely are extensions of your childhood dream, then you should easily be able to replace them with valid reasons. But if they're not just extensions of your childhood, but deep seated wants and needs, then your Mr Right should be able to meet them. If he's not, then it's time to meet someone else who can or fill some of these needs on your own (you can be a single mom you know).
posted by Stynxno at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

slow graffiti: Could he even have a biological child with you without medical intervention?

He's not yet 60. --Look, I'm not defending the guy, but if you think this way I hope you're only in your 20's.
posted by applemeat at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2009

I've been in your position before. There was a 25 year gap between us, and we held it together for a few years but then I realized that if I allowed his choices to dictate the rest of my life, I would resent him for it.

He had adult children my age and didn't want any more, and he wasn't interested in getting married again. But I held on for longer than I should have because I just couldn't imagine it wouldn't work itself out. After a fashion, it did; we broke up. If we'd ended up having children together, I would have been caring for small children as well as an ailing spouse, and that's not a position I can recommend.

Some age gap couples work when they're both on the same page about big ticket issues. But if you have different futures in mind, no matter how much you feel for each other, your relationship will start to fray.

It's okay to change your mind. It's okay to decide that you really want children after all. What's not okay is for either of you to force, guilt, or push the other one into doing something he or she does not want to do. That way leads to resentment.

If you'd like to talk about this further, my email is in my profile. Best of luck.
posted by crankylex at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2009

The advice here has been pretty unanimous, so I hate to add to the chorus. I only have a few things that you can think about:

(1) Contrary to popular belief, love is not the sum and substance of a long and lasting relationship. Love is the nexus of a lasting relationship, the center it turns on, but lasting relationships require. Lasting relationships require a common aim and goal to work toward. This is not to say that Mr. Right lacks those things; companionship in a dynamic drive for success is indeed an aim and goal to work toward. You sound as though you believed wholly in this aim when you first started seeing Mr. Right, but you sound as though you've come to doubt that belief.

(2) It is possibly for two people to love each other dearly and yet be a bad match for a long-term partnership. It can be painful, but if a person finds that she or he is in that kind of situation, that person should try to be loving enough to act on the behalf of both partners. If you love each other, you'll each understand that you must allow the other to pursue what will make them happy.

(3) I know that it may seem that no one here is actually answering your question, since you say clearly: If I were to choose between Mr. Right and marriage/kids, I pick Mr. Right. If you're really secure in that decision, then all these people who will tell you that you're making a mistake are quite wrong. I think that it's natural for people who notice that you sound as though you're somewhat younger than he and that you sense you might not be getting what you want out of this relationship to encourage you to seek freedom. As you well know, however, you're the only person who can make that decision.

(4) You really can't have it all, you're right, but you can think hard and long and choose the thing that makes you most happy, and doing that carefully will help you to accept the decision you do make and make it easier to let go of whichever dream you choose to leave behind.

(5) You use a lot of different terms to describe the change in you: "the dream," "shifting feelings," "my biological clock," "the ache of wanting everything else." You need to decide which of those things this is. Every human has hormonal changes and desires certain things on the basis of those hormones; one might call that a "biological clock," but one rarely calls that a "dream" or says that's something they want so much it aches. Your language indicates that you might not have fully appreciated how much you desire these things, or that you're stifling this desire for the momentary comforts of a relationship. If so, don't.

(6) If, after long, hard consideration, you decide that you've made the right choice, and that you really don't want to get married or have kids, you might find that your maternal instincts are mollified by babysitting for friends or joining a youth mentoring program.
posted by koeselitz at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sorry to say "kind and loving" is in no way, shape or form consistent with "if we ever accidentally got pregnant, he’d plead with me to abort"--which strikes me as being beneath contempt.

My own personal ask.me cliche: everything's tendencies... but with the above mentioned stuff and any number of other things to include what seems an enormous age difference, 25 years from now, would you rather be changing your grandchild's diapers or his?
posted by ambient2 at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree with "pseudostrabismus" -
- sorry for questioning you, but as a parent, I would absolutely make sure having kids is something you actually want and not just a daydream. Spend LOTS of time around babies & kids. Honestly, they are a pain in ass quite a bit of the time. (flame away!) Babysit a few weekends in a row. Being a parent has its benefits to be sure, but I am sure I'm not alone in saying that I had no idea what I was getting myself into and that preconceptions were not based in reality. Also, you mention that you're jealous of other people getting married, not that your jealous that people are having babies.
All that said, good luck to you and I'm sure you'll make an informed decision that's right for you.
posted by mrmarley at 11:56 AM on February 10, 2009

When I read the front page question of this, "how do you let go of the dream", I assumed this question was going to be about how you deal with recognizing you aren't going to win the Nobel prize or become a world-famous author or something. And I can totally understand the draw of having children. But I would never think to call it "the dream".

Which is to say, this seems very important to you, and it sounds completely realizable. I agree with others above that if the age difference is that great, and you have been together less than one year, you should allow yourself to take seriously the possibility that this relationship is not meant to last forever. That doesn't mean you won't love with all your heart, but sometimes affairs are not marriages.

If raising a family is part of what you to experience in your lifetime, and you're still on the hike up the mountain in terms of your age, it's possible that practical matters will be more important to this decision than you are currently thinking. Imagine the long term, and the best and worst case scenarios with either decision. Let yourself consider all possibilities.

If you do decide to stay, you can consider that perhaps you'll be able to adopt a child later in life or spend a lot of time with children of your sister or friends, if that would make you happy. Or perhaps your dream was never really your own dream, just something you were taught to think, and on reflection it is less important than sharing the next ?15-40 years with this man, and focusing on your lives and careers together.
posted by mdn at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2009

Wanting children isn't a "dream" like wanting to be a fireman when you grow up, or an astronaut. It's about human beings, relationships; you won't achieve another "dream" that replaces birthing, loving, raising children, and ultimately loving them and living with them as part of your life, all of your life. While I never had the clearcut dream of having children as you did, when they came along, the love and devotion their advent engendered was (and is) breathtaking and not to be compared to anything else I've ever done/experienced in my life. Mr. Mums feels just the same way.

There was a place in my heart that perfectly fit two beautiful daughters. I have tried to imagine life without them, and the lack of depth, meaning, and joy that would be my life minus each of them is unimaginable. They are in their twenties now. They are our dearest friends, greatest joy and add a meaning to our lives like nothing else we ever could have done.

I wish you the Mr. Right who cares deeply enough for you to want to share with you something that will bring you--and him-- such joy and meaning.
posted by mumstheword at 12:00 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

He's going on 60?!? You realize he'd be pushing EIGHTY by the time the FIRST child would b graduating high school, right?

You've made it clear you want kids.
He's made it clear he'd want you to abort.
How much more obvious can this answer be?

Whatever you do, please don't do a classic 'oops'. You need to be more careful than ever regarding prevention because you've arrived at a relationship impasse. For your own sake, please be careful.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:11 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you genuinely want children you should leave this relationship. A wedding is for only one day. Being childless is forever.
posted by Fairchild at 12:18 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

What is it about marriage you want so badly? Jewelry, attention, fancy dress, a big party, or a formalized legal/religious commitment?

Same for the child- do you want the pregnancy/childbirth/newborn/breastfeeding, lots of attention part or is it raising a child and then having that relationship for the rest of your life? I guess I'm saying I hear friends say a lot that they want to have a baby, but what about after the first year? Okay, my mom still calls me her baby sometimes, but you know what I mean.

You've got at least half your life in front of you, can you live with never having children? Is there something about this man that is impossible to have with someone else?

Best of luck to you in making a good decision, this is one of the biggest ones of your life.
posted by variella at 12:24 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are 2 things that really trouble me in your question.

"He’s VERY career-minded, and expects me to be the same."
Seems like he expects you to stop being who you are and start being who he wants - no marriage, no kids, career oriented. When do you get to be you?

"but that if we ever accidentally got pregnant, he’d plead with me to abort (not an option, as I reiterated to him.)".
I'm totally pro-choice, but this squicks me. He's not saying that he'd leave you and you'd be alone to raise a child. He's saying that he'd want you to something that is not an option for you.

Maybe's got a lot of good qualities, but there are many men with good qualities. Try to find one who's goals match yours.
posted by 26.2 at 12:39 PM on February 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

So you're going to sacrifice your childhood dreams...

From your description, he sounds kind of arrogant, self-interested and inflexible. That's not unusual for slightly older guys and if you look forward another 10 or 15 years you can probably expect him to progress further down that path. Why shouldn't he? This "me first" behaviour has paid off in spades. He's got it all, a career, no children to be responsible for and even a younger girlfriend who supports herself. It also sounds like you may be giving more respect than you're getting in return. It might be comfortable right now but it doesn't sound very nourishing in the long term. At some point as you grow and he remains mentally entrenched, you're going to surpass him. That'll change the dynamic of the relationship and you'll have to ask yourself if your love for him justified the sacrifices you've made. It sounds like you might be planning to stick with him through this level of incompatibility because you want to validate the love you're feeling for him at the moment. If you've only been dating a year, then you need to keep up this kind of self refection.

I heard a guy say that he didn't date much younger girls anymore because "you start out feeling like a hero but you always wind up looking like a clown".
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is not "Mr. Right," this is "Mr. Right Now." For the moment, he's a boyfriend/partner that provides love and companionship for the time being. But if he was truly "Mr. Right" he wouldn't unilaterally insist you abandon your dreams. From your description, he is unbending and stolid (which is to be expected, considering his age) and you have compromised your beliefs/wants/dreams in order to be with him. He's giving you a "my way or the highway" choice, and that's not the basis of a lifelong relationship.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2009

Ahem. Bucking the trend, and actually answering the question on the assumption that it is what you want (which you very clearly say in your post: If I were to choose between Mr. Right and marriage/kids, I pick Mr. Right. But how to I let go of the ache of wanting everything else?), I'll add that I too - at one point - truly wanted children of my own.

How did I get over it? I got over it by realizing that there are a lot of children and potential children in this world who have a mother and a father or some geometric permutation of that combination, but who need something MORE.

Harry Potter had parents, and then custodians, neither of which did him a damn bit of good. What he needed was Dumbledore. I got over needing to have my own children by realizing that I would be HONORED to be someone's Dumbledore. I have three sisters. One has two children and another is moving steadily in that direction. I have a close first-cousin who is having her first child. I am surrounded by fertility in the same ways that you are via this technological age. But today, when I see babies and small children, I don't get a pang of pain thinking that they aren't mine and will never be mine. Instead, my heart leaps for joy when I realize that I will be FULLY available to those children someday when they need it the most. And I'm so proud to be in that position.

You can be too.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2009 [7 favorites]

Never live for someone else - you only have one life. Don't waste it for someone else.
posted by plexi at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2009

My sister wanted children desperately. Then she met a man she adored, but he had 2 kids, a vascectomy, and not willing to have more.

She married him.

Years later I met a woman who mentioned wanting kids from time to time, and I didn't (and don't) want kids. So I went to my sister and asked her how she did it, how did she give up kids. Her response was simple and to the point: "I asked myself which would make me happier, a life without him in it in which I might find someone else to have kids, or a life with him in it. Given that he's the perfect man for me, any other man wouldn't be as good, so even the kids wouldn't help. This was the perfect man for me, I couldn't imagine life without him, so I gave up wanting kids. And all that happened in a quarter of a second."

And my wife made the same choice. By choosing to marry me she has told me that she can't imagine a person who is a better "fit" for her than me (her word), and so there was no question. No kids.

So you need to ask yourself this. Is he REALLY Mr. Right? What would a life without him be to you? And if you can envision life without him and you're okay with it, move on. If not, then choose HAPPINESS with Mr. Right.
posted by arniec at 2:05 PM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Spend LOTS of time around babies & kids. Honestly, they are a pain in ass quite a bit of the time.

This is not, unfortunately, a good predictor of enjoying parenthood. I do not enjoy most children. I enjoy my own child.
posted by rodgerd at 2:15 PM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I don't think you can.

I've always wanted kids. Always. Anyone who knows me for FIVE MINUTES knows I want kids. I'm a nanny and I miss "my kids" on the weekends. I've taught preschool. Just today, I watched a two year old simultaneously throwing a tantrum and wetting herself and just sat there waiting for her to calm down and thinking to myself that this would be a very good advertisement for birth control.

I was married to a guy who I was head-over-heels in love with. Totally, totally in love with him with every fiber of my being. Our relationship was great. We totally meshed. We even had our own kind of "code" language of in-jokes, pop-culture references, and hand gestures. I could never in a million years dream that it would be possible to recreate that experience.

He decided that he absolutely did not want to have children.

It ate at me. I would spend hours weeping out of grief that I might not ever be a mother. It made me crazy; I felt like my soul was being torn in two - the part that wanted children, and the part that wanted a life with my husband. It made me do and say crazy things. I mean, CRAZY.

And eventually, it destroyed the relationship. I couldn't take it and he was never going to change his mind. There was a lot of resentment on both sides. What had previously been good turned VERY, VERY ugly. We divorced and it was the most painful, awful thing I've ever had to do.

You may have to accept that the man you love can't give you the life you want. If you can't let go of what you want to be with him, you need to find someone else before you start resenting him for it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:15 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I were to choose between Mr. Right and marriage/kids, I pick Mr. Right. But how to I let go of the ache of wanting everything else?

There is a really great book called stumbling on happiness that covers some of these topics really well. Not so much from the point of view of what you should do, but the psychology behind what makes people happy or unhappy.
posted by magikker at 3:51 PM on February 10, 2009

You have to ask yourself if not having kids can be *your* choice as well as his.

If the answer is no, you can't be with him - you'll regret your unlived life too much when it's too late.
posted by jasper411 at 4:31 PM on February 10, 2009

slow graffiti: Could he even have a biological child with you without medical intervention?

applemeat: He's not yet 60. --Look, I'm not defending the guy, but if you think this way I hope you're only in your 20's.

Men have biological clocks, too. The risk of birth defects goes up dramatically with paternal age over 50; male fertility rates start falling at 40 and decline sharply from 55 on. So this is not a silly question in the least, applemeat.

Quite apart from the issues of parenting small children being a pretty significant strain on most people over 60, there really are important reproductive issues to be considered for men over 50, just as there are for women over 40.

I mean, this is all moot, because the guy is not going to change his mind. I'm nth-ing the "Sorry, this isn't your 'Mr. Right' OP--this is 'Mr. Really Fun Boyfriend But Not My Life Partner'."
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:40 PM on February 10, 2009

(Thanks for the science, Sidhedevil, but slow graffiti's comment clearly questions whether a 60 year old man can have a biological child.)
posted by applemeat at 5:04 PM on February 10, 2009

You want kids. There's a huge difference between childfree and childless, you're either one or the other - and I think we all know which one you'd be.

You only get one life! You can't ever do this over again. So you have to do the things that will really make you happy. As much as you might love him, I fear that staying with this guy will leave you with a terrible heartbreaking regret. Find someone with the same goals you have.

(And he's going to be dead in 20 years, you'll have to find someone new, but it'll be too late to have kids by that point. So ... find that person now.)
posted by The Monkey at 5:37 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

To clarify, I meant exactly what sidhedevil says- sperm motility and viability% drop off with age, increasing the chance that IVF or other forms of assisted conception would be necessary. I don't doubt he can still have kids period, I doubt if he can have a smooth natural conception and pregnancy the way a couple in their 30s could, hence the qualifier "without medical intervention."
posted by slow graffiti at 6:47 PM on February 10, 2009

I’d never wanted marriage or kids in any of my previous relationships (I’d never, I guess, been really in love.)

The fact that you didn't feel the need for marriage or children in previous relationships is not a factor in whether they were "the one" as it is probably related more to the timing in your life. Once you have finished school and feel secure in your career it seems like a good time to think about relationships, commitment and family - this sounds like the stage of life you are in now.

He says he does not want marriage, I assume he willing to talk about commitment and what that looks for him. Can you think of shared goals for the two of you? Maybe moving to another country, creating a business together, buying an old house to fix up together, or investing a lot of time in a charity you both believe in. Would something like that be sufficient replacement for marriage and children for you? When you are old and looking back on your life what accomplishments do you want to be proud of? Being individually successful in your careers is not a shared goal.

Since others have touched on it upthread, if you plan to be together long term without a legal marriage you need to investigate issues such as power of attorney, wills, property and income division (if you live together), living wills, as well as state/provincial/federal laws regarding access and decision-making in hospitals where you live and travel, since the likelihood of needing healthcare is increased.

There is no 100% effective birth control if you are having sex (was just talking to a SW whose client had a child after both her and her husband were "fixed"). Do you think he will honour his responsibilities if you become pregnant? You need to continue having these conversations even if he is uncomfortable because that is what adults that love each other do.

I also knew I wanted children, either biological or adopted, my entire life. I maybe could have given up that desire if I had found something else that fulfilled that need, and the choice whether to have children or not was entirely mine (or for a physical reason beyond anyone's control). However, if I had chosen to give up something that important because of another person's choice, I know the eventual resentment would have poisoned the relationship, especially if it was getting close to the end of my biological clock. You may be different. Know yourself, first.
posted by saucysault at 6:53 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just to expand a bit on part of Saucy's comment above....

What if you were to become pregnant... would he still feel like Mr Right as he begged you end a pregnacy that you truly want.

You need to think about how you carry on with Mr Right after either choice?

As was mentioned there is no 100% effective birth control if you are having sex so even if you decide to stay and not plan children you are going to have to have made that decision in advance also.
posted by Weaslegirl at 7:23 PM on February 10, 2009

He's 60 and he's career minded. He is aware that death is just around the corner, right? What the hell is the career for? I guess this is why I will never be an A-type personality.

If he loves you, he should be willing to compromise. At the very least, he should be willing to marry you. It's totally unfair that he's opposed to this if it's something you want.

If your biological clock is ticking, you're probably under 40. That's just a guess. He's in his late 50s. So optimistically, you have another 30 years with him, max (assuming that he decides that he doesn't want to start dating someone else since you never married). Something to keep in mind before you commit to someone who's not willing to commit to you.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:24 AM on February 11, 2009

Oh, and this is going to sound totally crazy, but in my experience sometimes you can have insane love for someone and feel like you can't live without them and actually the one you really want is the person who comes later, who doesn't make you feel "crazy" but is such a perfect match in their motivations and desires and makes you feel totally and completely comfortable. They generally show up just after the person you are madly, madly in love with. That's who you want to live the rest of your life with.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:30 AM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

the one you really want is the person who comes later, who doesn't make you feel "crazy" but is such a perfect match in their motivations and desires and makes you feel totally and completely comfortable. They generally show up just after the person you are madly, madly in love with. That's who you want to live the rest of your life with.

Oh hey, this is totally the story of my life right here. I met 'moonMan after my ex and I split, and while our personalities don't create the same kind of psychic bond, we live together much better - life is totally peaceful - and our future plans actually *match.* Yeah, there's no "head over heels" feeling, but life is actually better that way, in the long term. It was great to be crazy in love, but it's even greater to no longer be CRAZY.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:51 AM on February 11, 2009

You know that old saying about how there are lots of fish in the sea? It's true. There's someone out there who has 90% of what you like about your current guy, but who wants to get married and have kids. Get out there and find him.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2009

I've been mulling this question over since I read it yesterday. Sorry to respond so late, but just one more thought that I don't see posted above.

He's 60, never been married, no kids, and is career minded. Have you looked at why he's not in a committed relationship at this point? What is his pattern? How long is he typically with anyone? What makes you think that he'll be with you in 1 year, 3 years or even 5 years? What makes you think that you're the one for him? When you look at his pattern, look at what ended his previous relationships. Hopefully, you'll see some truth and not some smokescreen of blaming others.

I'm not trying to be mean and I'm sorry to sound harsh. However, people have patterns and you should seriously consider what his is to see if your relationship is following his normal pattern.
posted by onhazier at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2009

He can't be Mr. Right if he's not interested in what you are with the regards to your relationship. I know that's a tough pill to swallow, and honestly, the only reason I ever "saw the light" was because my supposed Mr. Right left me.

After, I realized I had totally compromised my life for him and that I probably would have ended up fairly resentful, waiting around for a ring I might never have gotten and wondering if he'd be 100% on board with having kids. I also don't know if I could ever be ok with those things happening if I felt like I begged him for it, or talked him into it.

When I considered the options at the time, I figured it was better to be with someone who seemed near perfect and NOT be guaranteed marriage/kids, than to risk losing them and never finding someone else, ultimately leaving me with nothing I wanted.

I won't call it luck, but I'm now with someone that does want the same things sometime in our future. I love him, he's wonderful and I don't feel that thing at the pit of my stomach about something being a little off.

I don't think if you're single and looking back on things that he'll ever be "the one that got away".
posted by patientpatient at 9:50 AM on February 11, 2009

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