Should I break up with the man I want to marry?
October 15, 2012 7:35 AM   Subscribe

There is a deal breaker and mismatched wishes about marriage to work through, but neither of us really want to break up. Can we, or should we try to work it out and stay together?

My partner and I have been together for 5 years and lived together for 3. I (female) am in my mid 20s, and he (male) is in his early 30s.

For the last year and a half, our relationship has been through some serious stresses, some on-going, but all resolvable and we continue to work through them together.

In addition, for the last year or so I have known I want to get married. I put off talking about it because I knew he wasn't ready and I hoped being more stable would change that. We have also both known from the start that he wanted kids and I do not, and I wasn't ready to confront that.

About 2 months ago, during a bad period, I brought it up. I was unsure about continuing to invest emotional energy when I didn't think we were on the same page w/r/t the long-term future. I got the answer I was expecting: not ready. I let it go, hoping he'd think more carefully about it now that he knew how serious I was, and because he sometimes seemed to waver about wanting children.

Yesterday I had a breakdown: I feel like we are delaying the inevitable. He said he still wants kids and is still not ready for marriage, though he can't articulate why. He doesn't want to break up because we are happy day-to-day and we love each other. He hopes things will work out. I feel desperately sad and confused. I think daily about whether I'm doing the right thing for both of us by staying. I feel sick when I think about leaving, but I feel like we're just putting it off.

He would like me to go to counseling to be able to live in the present and not agonize about the future. I would like him to go to counseling to work through why he doesn't want to get married, and I'd like us to go together because even if I stay the child/no child issue is something we can't ignore anymore.

My specific questions:
1) Are we delaying the inevitable? Is there a point to getting counseling over a deal breaker?
2)If I stay, how long do we keep hoping for the best?
3)If I leave, how do two people who love each other just walk away? How do I leave the man I want to marry?

He is aware of this question, and in fact suggested it. We will be reading your replies together.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
1) Are we delaying the inevitable?

Yes, unless one of you changes in some fundamental way.

Is there a point to getting counseling over a deal breaker?

Couldn't hurt to try if you both want to and your insurance covers it. Just don't expect miracles. Children are one of the issues it's impossible to compromise on - you can't have half a kid. But, again, couldn't hurt to try. A relationship counselor can offer insight to your relationship that AskMetafilter can't.

2)If I stay, how long do we keep hoping for the best?

Until one or both of you can't take it anymore and leaves.

3)If I leave, how do two people who love each other just walk away?

Painfully. I wish I had a better answer for you but I don't. It sucks. Disentangling your lives after five years is kind of nightmarish. Even so, imagine doing so after ten. Fifteen. Twenty. It can't be done well, but it can be done in a way that avoids being even worse.

How do I leave the man I want to marry?

A good start would be coming to terms with the fact that if he doesn't want to marry you after five years, he's probably not going to.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2012 [28 favorites]

It sounds like you are aware of the problem. Your future plans regarding having children are fundamentally incompatible. You can't both have what you want. It is impossible to compromise on procreation. Kids is a "deal breaker" for this reason.

It seems possible that he isn't marriage-phobic per se, but he realizes you don't want children, and he doesn't want to marry someone he can't have kids with. If having children is a top priority for him in the near future, but he is otherwise happy with your relationship, it would make sense that he is "not ready" for marriage, because your relationship wouldn't offer him what he wants out of marriage.

So either somebody changes their mind, or you both accept in a moment of incredible honesty that this isn't going to be a marriage-bound relationship and you enjoy it for what it is.
posted by deathpanels at 7:52 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Does he not want to marry you because he doesn't want to permanently commit to someone who doesn't want children? Or is his vision of a good future "kids but no legal commitment"? If that's it, he's quite unusual i think, most people want the legal protections once they have kids even if they have other issues with the idea of marriage. If its the former, it sounds like you really only have one issue, not two, not that it really helps.

Go to counseling, it can at least help you break up in the best possible way.

Good luck, this sounds very painful.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

So, lemme get this straight: you want to get married but don't want kids. He wants kids but doesn't want to get married.

This isn't a "deal breaker" it's two "deal breakers", yes?

Is there a point to counseling on this one? Possibly. You say he "can't articulate why" he wants certain things. It's probably worth doing what it takes to permit him to articulate that. Being unable to do so suggests that he doesn't necessarily know why he wants what he think he wants. Figuring that out can sometimes get people to realize that they want something different than they thought. Then again, it can also just help them realize why what they wanted all along is what they really wanted. There really isn't any way to tell before you do it, but you should be fully prepared for him to emerge from the experience saying "I do want kids, and I don't want to get married right now, and it's because of x, y, and z," in which case you've moved from ambiguously screwed to unambiguously screwed.

So counseling would probably benefit him quite a bit, but it doesn't seem likely to benefit you all that much, if we define "benefit" as "getting you married to this guy."

Which makes your real question "How do I break up with someone I don't want to break up with but really should anyway?"
posted by valkyryn at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

This is one of those things that is... just not negotiable.

This it's like decided to be OK with a bright orange rug. Compromising here by either of you will just ruin your lives by degrees.

Mid-Twenties+5 year relationship.. means you've been with this guy most of your adult life.

Look: I have deeply loved and been loved back by 7 people in my life.

You know what 6 of them have in common? They are my Exes.
posted by French Fry at 7:56 AM on October 15, 2012 [22 favorites]

I was going to say what valkyryn said: even if you both wanted to get married, the conflict about kids is still a deal breaker. That's a major difference that splits up people who are in agreement about marriage! It sounds like you are delaying the inevitable.
posted by Eicats at 7:57 AM on October 15, 2012

during a bad period, I brought it up.

Your timing pretty much guaranteed the response you got.

I don't know that this is a question where you'll be able to get a clear yes or no, since it hinges on a lot of unknowns, including what the reasons are for your recent "serious stresses."

The kids thing isn't necessarily a deal breaker -- my wife and I disagreed on that one for a decade. The default has to be no kids until you both want them, though -- a child isn't something to compromise over. You may change your mind eventually. I did. Or you may not, and that has to be okay.

On marriage: his position is self contradictory. Kids are a lifelong commitment -- more so than marriage, practically speaking. If he's ready for kids then he's ready to stay connected to you forever (or else hasn't really thought through the ramifications of having children.). Marriage is just a formality compared to that. This is not me saying you're right he's wrong, though. It's equally unclear why you are as set on having that formality as he is set against it.
posted by ook at 8:09 AM on October 15, 2012

He would like me to go to counseling to be able to live in the present and not agonize about the future.

This says it all, to me. You tell him you want to get married, and he tells you that you need therapy? As if thinking about marriage after five years together is some sort of mental problem?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:15 AM on October 15, 2012 [37 favorites]

My comment got erased, so I'll try to reword it with a little less condescension. There are reasons not to get married that are not, "I don't want a commitment." Perhaps one disagrees with the institution of marriage, as a whole. I have plenty of friends who have had long, fulfilling relationships without ever being married. I have one friend who has been with her partner for over ten years, they have two children, but they are not married, because they don't believe in the institution of marriage. The legal protections - child support, custody - remain, regardless of whether you get married. If it's a good relationship, I'd consider questioning your commitment to marriage. If not, then you can move on.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2012

It's probably worth doing what it takes to permit him to articulate that. Being unable to do so suggests that he doesn't necessarily know why he wants what he think he wants.

It's also possible that he can't really bring himself to say straight out that he doesn't want to marry you until you change your mind about having kids.
posted by elizardbits at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

You need to deal with this ASAP. He does not want to deal with it and accuses you of obsessing about your future (you're not) because he knows the moment you deal with it you will break up.

You both have all the right in the world to want what you want. In this particular case, having what you both want would make it impossible for you guys to remain together. It cannot happen. Logic says your relationship cannot work.

Deal with it now. It will be horribly painful, but won't it be even worse in a couple of years? You have my sympathy. It's a tough situation. :(
posted by Tarumba at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Are you each totally sure about your respective positions on children? If you are -- that is, if you are sure you do not want children, and he is sure that he does -- then of course your relationship will not be able to work out in the long run, and what would the point of getting married be in that case? Is a marriage where either (a) you have kids you don't want, or (b) he is not able to fulfill his wish of having children, what you really want?

So having established that this is a relationship that will need to end eventually, the question becomes do you break up now or later. That's your call, but I think it would be sad to stay in a relationship that you both KNOW will need to end at some point. And as others have pointed out, it's not like it will be less painful if you break up years from now. Plus, the sooner you part ways, the sooner you can each heal and then look for partners who want the same things as you do. Frankly, as the older partner and the one who wants children, I'm a little surprised that your boyfriend is the one less inclined to think about the future out of the two of you. I know guys don't have as much fertility pressure as women, but it's not like they have FOREVER, either.

On the other hand, if one or both of you is NOT completely sure about the question of having children, then you could stay together until that's resolved one way or the other. But it probably wouldn't be a good idea to get married until it is resolved.
posted by Asparagus at 8:38 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are in a grocery store. You need oranges for a recipe you really want to make.

The grocer sees you looking and, nice guy that he is, says he's out now, but he has soap. Wanna buy some soap? On sale. Your brand.

Do you stay at this store and buy what's for sale or go two blocks down to the other 15 grocery stores and find oranges? Or do you just buy nothing and go home? He really wants you to buy some soap. He's a helluva nice guy. Who thinks you need soap. Now. Lots. And he's allergic to citrus and will never carry it. But he has soap. Totally useful.

Why stop with this guy you have selected? You two are not selling what the other one is buying and there are scores of thousands of people out there who are selling what you ARE buying. Seems silly to stop here and settle, doesn't it? Frankly, you made an apparently bad decision choosing a guy who wants something you don't. Something big. He did, too. Why? Because you were drunk on lust.

At 5 years, your relationship is past the limerance stage where you make bad decisions due to hormone intoxication and well into the quiet zone where reason takes over. Reason has had its say. You're not going to change something huge like "WANT KIDS" and "DON'T WANT MARRIAGE" by argument, therapy, prayer or magic. Back when you were stupid with lust, he could have convinced you to have two kids and you could have convinced him to marry, because... well, you were both drunk. It wears off. Then, you deal with the hangover. Just like other intoxications except the hangovers need diapers.

You are both well into adulthood. Time for adult decisions, which are by definition, hard. No getting out of it. Life has some hard decisions. Boy wants you to sign up for decades of work, most of which you will do. He's not the guy you need.

Metafilter would close down but for the stream of questions along these lines, almost all of which have the same or similar answer.

Most folks already know what's right, and yet, refuse to see the answer, hoping some stranger has a clever way of framing a concept. There comes a time when you have to be an adult, own the problem, force a solution, live with the consequences, and repeat this every year. Make no mistake... you can fret this another 10 years. Don't. Assume the mantle of adult. Find what you need. Leave home and find it.
posted by FauxScot at 8:43 AM on October 15, 2012 [32 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with either of you wanting what you want, but neither of you can get what you want from the other person. This is a recipe for mutually-assured misery. I think it's kinder to both of you to make the break now and separate. When you do enter into a new relationship down the road, you will be that much more aware of how important it is to make sure that you and New Person are on the same page about what you're looking for from your future together.

Good luck with this painful transition--I know it's probably hard to separate when there's still love between you, but it sounds like the right thing to do.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:50 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In your question, it doesn't say, "He doesn't want marriage." It says he's not ready for marriage, which is different. And, it may or may not have a lot to do with you not wanting kids.

You say you don't want kids. You haven't said why, how malleable this is, whether you'd consider any alternatives (adoption, etc.) and how those might work for him.

He wants you to get counseling. Reading your question, I don't know if you need counseling but there is one thing you probably do need (which counseling would help with). It's to hash out the DETAILS of how you both feel on this topic and see if you can come to something you both agree on. Then if not, to move on.

Sounds like you aren't ready to move on because you haven't yet gone through the process of hashing out the details and concluding firmly, in your own mind, that you have to go. (Apparently he also hasn't done this.)

His suggestion to get counseling so you can "live in the moment" is wrong. It's avoiding the decision. However, you might get counseling so you can understand the details of what each of you wants, and get a better understanding of whether it can work. You should try to figure out how much flexibility you both have in your stances and whether there is any place to meet in the middle.

It's hard to decide to move on based on an assumption that a negotiation would fail, without having actually gone through the negotiation. That leads to confusion and what ifs. If you go through it and determine there is no middle ground (after you delve deep into what both people want), then you can move on with more certainty.

After 5 years, I think you should have a lot of conversations to get to the bottom of this. Agreed with the others who say you can and should find what you want, however I do think there is some usefulness to looking a little more closely at the current situation to see if it's what you (both) might want, with a little bit of adjustment or change of perspective. Then if not, you can move on.

I once read a book that said this is called "the long conversation" and people often have to get into it when they have a roadblock.

Also, Tarumba wrote above:
He does not want to deal with it and accuses you of obsessing about your future (you're not) because he knows the moment you deal with it you will break up.

This isn't true. He FEARS you will break up. It's different from knowing. You probably have fears of your own. Doesn't mean those fears are necessarily true. Either way, it sounds like a good time for you to both face those fears and start "dealing with it" in a really overt way.
posted by kellybird at 8:53 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

This says it all, to me. You tell him you want to get married, and he tells you that you need therapy? As if thinking about marriage after five years together is some sort of mental problem?

This is disingenuous. The OP also explicitly wants their partner to go to counselling; is not wanting to get married also a sign of a mental disorder? Is suggesting someone go to therapy for any reason equivalent to telling someone they have a mental problem? Sheesh.

OP, there may be room for compromise. I don't know. I've known people who always wanted to get married but settled for another form of commitment so that they could be with the person they loved. I've known people who always wanted kids who gave up that dream.

I think the most important thing is whether he's opposed to marriage as a specific institution, or whether he's opposed to the idea of a lifetime commitment. If it's the latter then yes, I think you have to break up.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have been in a situation not unlike this myself, living with someone I liked and loved but didn't want to marry. We broke up after ten years of living together and are both settled, married and happier for it. I don't regret our relationship one bit, and we still like each other. That said, I do regret the length of our relationship a little, because hindsight reveals that we spent our late 20s to our late 30s treading relationship water together and this wasn't the best thing for either one of us. When you're in a relationship that works on a superficial level (which is to say, you like each other, you're not fighting all the time, etc.) there can be a lot of reasons to stay together despite what may be some fundamental incompatibilities and deeper dissatisfactions. You have a life together, a circle of friends, a shared home, at least partially entangled finances, and it's nice to have someone else and not be worried about what to do on Friday night. But while the comforts of these advantages make it attractive to stay, the complacency can be perilous because, cliched as it may be, life is short and before you know it you've spent a significant chunk of it on something that's ultimately not fulfilling. This is no less true for him than it is for you, I should hasten to add.

Various articles have reported that it's quite common for couples to move in together with one party (usually the woman) having the idea that it's a step that will eventually progress to something more (usually eventually marriage) and the other party (usually the man) having the idea that it's just nice and convenient and not particularly having the idea that it will lead to some strengthening/deepening/formalization of the relationship. This was reported as a primary reason why couples who get married after having lived together for a while have higher rates of divorce compared to those who didn't live together beforehand (this would presumably be different for couples who moved in together with the mutually agreed-upon idea that it was a step on the road to marriage).

So... I don't often advise breaking up when giving relationship advice, but my own experiences as well as my observations of many others over the years (by the time you get to your late 30s, you will have far more divorced friends than you ever would have imagined) suggests to me that you should seriously consider pulling the plug on the relationship. I would almost bet money that this won't actually happen, however, because it's a tremendously difficult thing to do when you both care about each other and there are aspects of the relationship that work. But I would encourage you to think about it. You're in your mid-20s/early-30s now. This is just the age when a lot of "hold outs" are figuring out that they want an enduring committed relationship after all. And, I'm telling you, the relationship world will look different for both of you five years from now than it does today. If what you want in life is an enduring committed relationship and marriage, this is a pretty big and fundamental thing to want in life. And you shouldn't take yourself off the market for a guy who doesn't want the same thing with you. He could say something similar about taking himself off the market for a woman who doesn't want children. The irony of these situations is that often when a couple with incompatibilities like these breaks up, the next thing you know the man who didn't want to get married is engaged and the woman who didn't want kids is pregnant. But this goes to show that sometimes it's not really that you don't want X or Y, but that you don't want X or Y with that person and it just takes breaking up to figure it out. I always thought I wasn't the type for marriage, and yet I got married around 18 months after my ten year unmarried live-in relationship broke up.
posted by slkinsey at 9:19 AM on October 15, 2012 [22 favorites]

If he wants kids, then encourage him to go his separate way now. For people who want kids, it is by far the biggest joy in life - nothing else comes even remotely close. If you love him, help him have that joy by ending your relationship.
posted by Dansaman at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing about deal-breakers is that they break the deal. If the deal is broken, it's broken. Period. And you have two deal-breakers here: Kids and Marriage. Those are huge ones.

1) Are we delaying the inevitable?

It certainly sounds like it, yes.

Is there a point to getting counseling over a deal breaker?

If it's a true deal-breaker, no, there's no point. As was pointed out above, you have two deal breakers here, not one.

2)If I stay, how long do we keep hoping for the best?

That depends on what "the best" is. If "the best" would be the two of you reaching a compromise on children and marriage, then there's no point in hoping at all unless you, yourself, have a personal willingness to compromise on both of those points. You cannot control whether or not he is willing to compromise on what he wants. You can only control yourself. So are you willing to change your view on children and marriage - and would such a change happen with you still being happy in the relationship? If not, then there's no hoping for the best at all.

3)If I leave, how do two people who love each other just walk away?

In my personal experience and my observation of other people, a clean break is absolutely, unequivocally the best way. You can drag it out and maintain contact and all that, but it just means more of your live spent in a sort of dull pain that keeps you from finding complete happiness with someone else.

How do I leave the man I want to marry?

By reminding yourself that he does not want to marry you and that the only way to stay with him would be to give up the very reason you want to be with him. There will be crying. But it will be OK. I promise.
posted by The World Famous at 9:48 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

it doesn't say, "He doesn't want marriage." It says he's not ready for marriage, which is different.

When the issue has come to the point that it's a "do we or do we not break up over it" situation, "not ready" is functionally equivalent to "doesn't want."
posted by ook at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

after five years together, your positions have not changed. how many more years together in a stalemate will it take you before you accept that your positions will not change? you both need to move on so that you can both find someone with whom you are both more compatible with regard to such major life decisions as marriage and children. these are called "deal breakers" for a reason.
posted by violetk at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend and I had been together for five years and were fighting a lot about marriage. I wanted to get married like Gollum wants the Ring; he didn't, but couldn't really articulate why. I finally told him that I wanted him to come to counseling with me to see if we could get on the same side of this issue, and he agreed. After two years in counseling, we got engaged, and have been happily married now for almost ten years.

HOWEVER: we both wanted children. One of the big reasons I wanted to get married was because I wanted the legal and social protections that came along with marriage before I had kids, and one of the big reasons he was willing to be convinced to get married was because he understood why that would be a big deal to me. If you're not willing to work on being OK with the idea of having kids, I think you should end the relationship -- there's nothing wrong with not wanting to have children, but it's not something you can compromise on, and it's not fair to ask him to work on / confront his feelings about one dealbreaker if you're unwilling to work on or confront your feelings about the other.
posted by KathrynT at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

nthing the two dealbreakers thing.
I was in that situation 21 years ago, except I was the one wanting babies, him the marriage. I gave in, after a couple of years I got pregnant by accident (yes, really), we had the baby and shortly after divorced. It was wrong, so different values, meaning no agreement on how to live with that baby. The divorce was so painful, and the whole thing took many, many years out of my youth. Also, I'll never be the mother of four like I dreamed of.
A close friend was in a situation exactly like you (but the man), gave in to her wish, and now both seem trapped in unhappiness bordering on depression.
Dealbreakers are dealbreakers. It is painful to say goodbye, but after a while you may become good friends. And you will certainly both find someone good for you.
posted by mumimor at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Go to counselling and figure out why you don't want children. I used to think I didn't want children, but then I realized that I did, I just didn't want children in the situation I was in or the situation I saw myself being in in the foreseeable future. I was open to the idea if I was in a more secure situation or had more expressed support from my partner.

ymmv but if you turn out to be more situationally open to children then you should go to counselling together to find out what you(s) need to feel secure enough to marry and spawn.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:14 AM on October 15, 2012

My boyfriend and I have only been together for about a year, but the marriage thing (we both don't want kids) has been an issue pretty much from the start. I want to get married someday and he does not believe in the legal aspect of marriage. He has told me he would basically do everything but marriage - he'd be okay with ensuring that I would have the legal protections that marriage usually comes with, and/or having some sort of commitment ceremony - but the actual act of marriage is a dealbreaker for him.

I'm not advocating for you to change your beliefs or meet him halfway, bu I've done a lot of reading about marriage and children over the last few months to try and sort through my feelings about both of those things, what they would mean for me legally and socially, and the complications that they present. I think a lot of women are simply raised to believe that they will get married and have children without being allowed to form their own opinions on the matter, and I wanted to make sure before I made any moves in this situation that I was 100% certain about what I wanted.

It turns out that I'm not. The more I thought about having children, the more I became sure it was the right choice for me. The more I thought about marriage, the more I began to see the flaws in it as an institution and to think more clearly about where my boyfriend is coming from. Right now, we've agreed to revisit this discussion in six months, when we'll be more than a year into our relationship. I've told him that if I ultimately decide that marriage is what I want, as I originally anticipated, I will not wait around for him to change his mind and I will end things.

I know how awful this feels - I can't imagine being in this situation five years down the line. It may very well be that you feel 100% comfortable with what you want and so does he, and the twain shan't meet. But it might be worth it to think about if you, him, or best yet the two of you, want to explore your rationale for your feelings in counseling.
posted by anotheraccount at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

KathrynT absolutely nails it.

you definitely have Two Dealbreakers... but I think it's worth going to counseling to talk them through, and find out if both of you are 100% committed to your dealbreakers. Through the counseling (which will help both of you articulate your feelings), you will either soften your positions and come to a happy compromise, see that your positions might change in time (and possibly, stick around to see what happens), or see each others current positions as permanent and deal-breaking, and you will go your separate ways.

His suggestion to "live in the moment" may be him thinking that you'll come around (albeit, articulated poorly). There are a lot of women (and men too) in their mid 30s who are madly trying to have kids, after being absolutely certain that they wouldn't ever want them when they were in their mid 20s, and in a different situation. (There are plenty who don't change their mind, too... but I suspect it's less common)

With that said... if you are absolutely certain you don't want kids, not now, not ever, and he's absolutely certain that he does, then you should break up. It may not be that he doesn't want to get married... it may be that he doesn't want to be married to someone that he won't/can't have children with. His position is reasonable. So is yours. They're just incompatible, and the sooner you both fully come to terms with that, the sooner you'll each find the person who you are compatible with.

But you can't come to terms with that honestly until each of you learns to fully articulate why it is you don't want to get married and don't want to have children, respectively.
posted by toxic at 11:28 AM on October 15, 2012

43% of current gen-X (33-43yo old) women do not have children.
26% of married women in the same bracket don't have children.

That's 1 in 4 married women of the current generation who chose to forgo having children.

These numbers are historically high.

So I would say the common wisdom that this will go away with age is starting to lose it's grip. So don't talk yourself into what some future version of you might think.

based on a recent study by psychology today
posted by French Fry at 11:47 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he really wants kids, he will eventually make that a priority and:
-- you will get pregnant, or
-- you will get dumped.

Instead, you should get out now.
-- You want marriage. He doesn't.
-- He wants kids. You don't.

Be careful. It seems like you're placing your future in the hope that he will change his mind about some pretty big issues and you won't have to. That's very dangerous.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:50 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Breaking things off is bad, but the alternative is staying together and having one or both of you compromise so hard that you can barely look at yourself in the mirror without feeling a profound sense of loss and regret. Then comes the resentment and anger, which turn a formerly loving relationship into a daily struggle to be polite to the person whose desires continually prevent you from living the life you want to lead.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:32 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately I think your boyfriend plans to get married someday but not to you. You don't want kids and are therefore not wife material in his plans and yes, I imagine he will leave you for someone who is at some point. So you may as well break if off with him now if marriage is your goal.
posted by fshgrl at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

Unfortunately I think your boyfriend plans to get married someday but not to you.

Yes, this. He wants kids. The reason he's not ready for marriage is that he hasn't yet found the right person - the person who wants to have kids with him.
posted by The World Famous at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

I hate to say it, but I agree with fshgrl and The World Famous. He wants to get married, just not to you, but to someone who wants to have kids with him. I'm so sorry.
posted by carolinaherrera at 2:34 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems logical to me that your biggest roadblock is the disagreement on kids, not marriage. If you have kids together, that's a huge commitment and a lifelong tie. So if he's willing to have kids with you, he's probably willing to marry you. But if he really wants kids, it's understandable that he doesn't want to marry someone who doesn't want kids.

I would examine why you don't want kids. If you really just hate little balls of nasty slob and sweat and drool, sure, that's understandable. (Or you just don't want to devote the resources. Or if you want to be able to travel on a whim.)

BUT I'm a woman who used to say that I would never, ever, ever have kids, because I expected I would have to sacrifice my career. However, my partner is very enthusiastic about being a stay-at-home-dad and main caretaker of children, so I'm much more open to the idea now. This doesn't mean that either of us wants kids now, or even within a decade (we're in our mid-twenties), but that this is something we've agreed to has a potential solution and therefore not a problem in the longterm.
posted by ethidda at 3:07 PM on October 15, 2012

That's 1 in 4 married women of the current generation who chose to forgo having children.

A non-trivial number of these women did not make that choice. Infertility is a bitch, and more than 24% of childless women have sought fertility treatment before their 44th birthday. (cite)
posted by toxic at 3:10 PM on October 15, 2012

He wants you to live in the moment because when you bring up delaying the inevitable he knows you're right. If you guys are happy it means right now whenever "breakup" passes through your minds you think immediately about how wonderful things are right now: waking up next to each other, his special smile, your laugh, the in-jokes, the home you built together, the experiences you've had with each other and the mutual support and growth. And "breakup" creates that horrific, sinking pit of pain in your stomach your heart wants to avoid at all costs.

But love's dirty secret: If you want a serious, long-term relationship, "We're happy right now" is not a good reason to stay together.

Sometimes happy relationships need to end anyway because at some point either one of you is going to want to pursue their incompatible goals, or one of you is going to wake up and realize they're in a life they didn't want. And that's when things will be really miserable.
posted by schroedinger at 5:00 PM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

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