No Tingles, But My Chance at Having a Family...
November 27, 2013 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm with a great guy who's ready to have a family with me. I'm in my late 30s, near the end of my childbearing years and definitely want a family. While he is a very good man who I love and respect — I'm not feeling much in the way of butterflies, tingles, or excited feelings to be with him. He's nice though! If I were 22, I'd probably take a break for awhile and date around more. But I worry that if I did this now, I will risk never having children of my own. What to do...?

I feel totally stuck in a better-than-average relationship, with an almost deafening biological clock roaring and a huge chunk of uncertainty about what to do next. It's gotten to the point where I am feeling pretty depressed every day. I go home and he makes every effort to be loving and kind but I feel pretty empty inside.

I am old enough to know that giddy crushy feelings don't usually last. I know that character is more important than charm. I have had my fill of crap relationships with bad boyfriends who push all my romantical buttons and then treated me like garbage — so, intellectually I want this relationship to work, but I am not always feeling it. What to do?

Some information:

—He treats me better than anyone I've ever dated.
—He loves me totally.
—He is the most supportive partner I've ever had, and would make it possible for me to achieve a lot in my career.
—He is wonderful about responding to relationship issues and problems. When I bring up major concerns, he listens and usually responds or changes behavior. He is happy to work out our issues together and takes ownership of his share of our challenges.
—He is eager to start a family and would be a wonderful father. (I have never dated a guy who wanted a family or would be a good parent).
—He takes on his equal and fair share of household duties and responsibilities.
—No addictions, no hangups, loyal friends and takes his family responsibilities seriously.
—He makes me feel totally safe, secure and loved.

— We don't have much to talk about.
— We have very different senses of humor. I like dry, sophisticated (British) wit. He likes fart/sex jokes and frat humor I sometimes find inappropriate and off-putting.
— We are from different social circles. I travel easily in his (but am bored sometimes), he is uncomfortable and bored in mine.
— His job is a dead end service job he hates; despite saying he wants to, he's made no moves to change that about his life.
— I have tried, but can't really talk to him about my career because he doesn't understand the specifics.
— Before we moved in together, he worked on art projects, threw dinner parties, made plans to take trips and be active. I don't care much about appearances, but I do care about being active and healthy, and since we started dating, he stopped working out, gained a significant amount of weight and now his life seems to be on a loop of work, make dinner, watch TV, play video games, sleep.
— He has said his own lack of activity has made him less interested in sex.

Neutral facts:
— I am older and rather professionally accomplished; I would always be the primary breadwinner for us. He could stay home and do childcare if needed.
— I do not want to raise a child by on my own as a single parent.
— I definitely want a natural child of my own (may adopt later...) I have a medical issue that can make it challenging to conceive. I am in my late 30s and do not really have the luxury of waiting 5 years to try.
— My previous significant relationships have been with troubled people. Some abuse and alcoholism were in play. I chose to date him specifically because he WASN'T like the people I'm normally attracted to, since I was looking for stability and kindness.
— I live in a city with a bad male-to-female ratio. Dating is brutal for professional women my age. My single friends warn me not to jump in the dating pool as the pickings are slim.
— He knows I'm having doubts. He knows the areas I'm (generally) struggling with. He is supportive and willing to work on improving whatever he can to make the relationship work.

I also know the MeFi bias is towards true love at all costs. I know that most of you will say I should break up with this guy now because this is a recipe for divorce later. But wait — aren't I lucky to find a caring guy who treats me well? Shouldn't I just learn to appreciate what I have rather than holding out for some fantasy-prince-charming-fairy-tale-of-perfection? So what if we can't talk about politics or books or music or anything? He loves me and is good to me — shouldn't that be enough? But then, why am I so depressed and unhappy?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (60 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Do you seriously want to ignore your own clear emotional cues and have children with someone you plainly appreciate but do not love?

Love is not something you "should" feel. You aren't really fully compatible with this nice man and it is no favor to him or your wished for children to maintain a relationship that is never going to be more than a friendship.
posted by bearwife at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Is having a child more important to you than a partner you feel truly close to? For me, a lifetime spent with someone I "don't have much to talk about" with would feel very, very lonely, much lonelier than raising a child on my own would be.

Maybe you don't feel that way, though. I don't have that drive toward procreation so I don't feel like I can speak to that side of things - but I would just try to ask yourself: If this relationship is the same for the rest of your life as it is right now, would you feel like you made the right choice in making him the father of your children? Do you think it's fair to him to marry this person and have children with him knowing full well you don't really love him? If he knew that, would he still want to be with you?
posted by something something at 11:27 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

So what if we can't talk about politics or books or music
You're right - so what? It's OK if you don't really share the same interests or even social circles. Relationships are about sharing values.

But that's not your problem. From a few phrases in your question, I wonder if you share the same values. It sounds like you value motivation - does he?

If he's eager to change, and wants to change, why not try couples counseling to get a toehold on what you can both work on together?

And individual therapy might be good, if only to release you from the bondage that is past abuse. That sounds like it's playing a pretty big role in your situation and decision-making here, so you might want to investigate it further.
posted by k8lin at 11:30 AM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

What happens if you get married, and then, for whatever reason, find you are unable to conceive?
posted by phunniemee at 11:34 AM on November 27, 2013 [30 favorites]

You've described a good man who I suspect you will come to have contempt for as time goes on. I believe the family dynamic of such a relationship would not be good for a child, regardless of how much you both loved them.

I'm a pretty strong believer that the most important thing a couple can do for their child is love each other. He may love you, but you appear to tolerate him.
posted by Mooski at 11:37 AM on November 27, 2013 [41 favorites]

I'd turn this around for a minute: he loves you, but it doesn't even sound like you LIKE him. If you're that desperate for children, it is your call, but I'm getting a picture of a sincere, caring man who is worthy of, if not storybook love, then just a bit more reciprocal feeling than is shown here. If "he's nice though" is the best you can muster, do you really think you can build a family?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

Just a few questions to get a better feel where you stand in regard to him:

Do you like him? By this I mean, if he wasn't a potential mate for you, would you say "I think Guy is amazing!"

Do you respect him? By this I mean, do you see him as a peer? On the same level as you in every way? You say that you respect him, but your cons make me question that.

The reason that some of us have a true love biased is because when you choose to make children with someone, you are choosing to spend the next few decades tangled up with that person in various ways. Are you okay with being shackled to this person for the next two or more decades? This person will be your children’s father, are you okay with him modelling his "cons" to them? Would you be proud of them if they turn out exactly like him?

The most important question: what does your instinct say? What is your gut reaction to him? I know that your biological clock is screaming at you right now, but if you're having to force yourself to be on board with this guy just because he happens to have similar life goals and isn't a ragging asshole, then you stand the risk of eventually losing respect, and possibly even becoming revolted, by him. You could end up even more depressed and trapped than you are now, and you children will see and learn from that.

Do you want to live with him, exactly as he is now, for the next twenty years? Are you looking forward to that, or are you just picturing the children that you would have with him, and not he himself?

Before you have children, you really need to ask yourself the hard questions, unromanticized. Don't picture walking hand in hand with your children at the park, picture just being with him. If he was unable to give you children for some unexplainable biologic reason, would you still want to be with him?
posted by Shouraku at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

If I were 22, I'd probably take a break for awhile and date around more.

You wrote a whole lot of stuff, but this line was pretty much all I needed to read. If you were younger (and therefore felt you had more options/time) you wouldn't continue your relationship. And then you said that you feel "totally stuck". And then most of your cons are (for me) pretty important things. You don't have anything to talk about, you don't share sense of humour, you have different social styles, and apparently a not-so-satisfying sex life. Other than a possibility (not a guarantee but a CHANCE) to have him knock you up, what are you staying for?!

Seriously, you are lacking what is in my opinion some very fundamental parts of a relationship that contribute to it being a happy healthy long term one. It sounds like the main thing keeping you in this relationship is his sperm. I know there are a lot of other good things about it, but the building a family and having kids seems to be your main reason for why you aren't ending it. A relationship cannot be built around the ability for someone to impregnate the other.

You don't love him. You like him, you respect him, but you don't LOVE him. You are with him because he LOVES you and because he (potentially, no guarantees) could get your pregnant. That's about it. As Mooski said, you seem to mostly just tolerate him. I get the sense that if you knew today that he couldn't get your pregnant you wouldn't even be asking this question. I get the sense if you felt that you had any other options you wouldn't be asking this question.

That is not a family environment that I'd want to raise kids in. That also isn't a situation I'd want to spend the rest of my life in.

So what would happen if it turned out that YOU were unable to bare children? What would you do if he was fertile and good to go but you were unable to conceive. What then?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:40 AM on November 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

"Why am I depressed and unhappy?
Should I have a baby with this guy?
Should I be with this guy?

I am in a relationship that by all accounts, is normal for where it is for nearly everyone else at this stage. "

This is the way it works. Might be why you are depressed and unhappy. It's probably because that's the way relationships evolve. READ some metafilter and do your own stats. Most everyone here is a) exactly there b) headed there c) been there. It is probably one reason that 70 year marriages are rare, and really happy 70 year marriages are unicorn-rarity things. A relationship is exceptional if it even LASTS 10 years.

The goal is to have a baby. It is quite separate from having a persistent nuclear family with N>2. The clock is the constraint and these days, it's subject to negotiation if you have money. Sperm is (relatively) cheap. If you don't want this guy to have property rights on the pups, get some elsewhere, frozen. See how it goes. Relationship doesn't work out, you are none the worse off.... baby and no hubby. Not exactly a novel problem set. He might be grateful to be able to exit with no financial strings once you add the kid-specific problems to your personality constellation.

Boy sounds way above average in the PITA score.... low stress. Did you think you were going to get a static entity? Did you think if you changed things that they would not change? Do you realllllly know anyone who has a long relationship where most aspects of it have NOT changed? At the very least, all the parties age. Do people change when they age? Do different things assume different importance just due to the aging factor alone? What happens when you add desensitization that comes from constant exposure to a stimulus, like another human?

He's maybe a little lazy and a little pudgy and a little too complacent. How do you think he'd describe you? Are you a pristine example of how you were when you first connected with him? If it's time to end this thing, that's OK. You statistically will not find anyone better or longer-lived and you may find no one. That's a general life risk. We all have it and encounter it.

It's why we have that persistent unhappiness and depression. Part and parcel of the human condition. Coupling is simple, but it's not easy.

Really, have that kid. Boy hunting can wait if you do it right.
posted by FauxScot at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think your biological clock is telling you to break up with him ASAP so you can find a suitable partner to have a child with.
posted by bearette at 11:46 AM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Please don't do this to your potential kids. They deserve to have two parents who love their family, not just their kids.

Think about a potential daughter you might have - you've raised her to adulthood and she comes to you with this dilemma. Don't you want more for her?
posted by headnsouth at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

And for the record, the things you are missing in your relationship like good conversation, shared sense of humour, and good sex aren't "Fantasy prince charming" things. They are perfectly common, reasonable things to expect/demand from a relationship, especially one where you are hoping to bring kids in to the mix. The things you are missing and wishing you had are NORMAL parts of healthy relationships.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

It's gotten to the point where I am feeling pretty depressed every day.

I'm in the camp that believes that when it comes to serious relationships, you do actually have to have to let your head rule over your heart to a certain extent; butterflies don't always mesh well with a feeling of security and trust, and so chasing them and disregarding all else can lead you down a pretty bad path. And in fact, on their own, I wouldn't say any, or even all, of your 'objections' need to be dealbreakers - I think people often expect all of their social, intellectual, and conversational needs to be met by their partners, and I'm not sure that's ever really possible. And a loving, supportive guy who is cool with being a stay-at-home dad sounds like a pretty great find to me.

BUT. If going home to your partner makes you feel depressed every day, what the fuck are you planning to do about that, sister? Are you like, oh, well, being miserable forever is just the price I'll pay for having a baby? Christ on a cracker, what a terrible deal for everyone involved. If you really loved this person and wanted a life with him but you found yourself depressed and thought maybe a lack of butterflies and romance were the reason, I would have lots of suggestions about how to try to make yourself happier, and then maybe the relationship itself would improve. But if you're basically like, "Yeah, being with this person makes me depressed," (which it sounds like you are) then it isn't about making the "smart" choice; you need to break up with him ASAP.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2013 [15 favorites]

You mention him disliking his job, becoming more sedentary, gaining weight, ect. Are these factors impacting your level of attraction to him now?

Would you still feel so ambivalent towards him if he had a job he enjoyed more, was thinner, and didn't do the work->eat->video games->sleep routine?
posted by stubbehtail at 11:48 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

See if this paraphrasing seems accurate:

Pros: He loves me, he's good to me, he's a good person at heart.
Cons: He's not interesting to me, he's unmotivated to improve his career, he's unmotivated to improve his health/appearance
Neutral: I need someone to achieve my life goals and it's not likely I'll find anyone better.

You're not in love and that's necessarily the worst thing. There's nothing wrong with starting as a pragmatic partnership, if both parties are on the same page. Would you be able to lay it out for him in the practical terms you've laid it out for us? Would he stay? Would he feel like he was getting equal value from the relationship, or would he feel used? Once the children are born and growing up, will you resent him for being the way he is?
posted by the jam at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you want to live with him, exactly as he is now, for the next twenty years?

No offense meant, but where can I sign up to be exactly like I am now for the next 20 years?

This is the essence of the OPs issues. Peeps are variables, not constants.
posted by FauxScot at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Please don't do this to your potential kids. They deserve to have two parents who love their family, not just their kids.

Or a single mom who loves them a lot. There are tons of kinds of families. I'm not saying stay with this guy, but there are other ways to get pregnant, through donation, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:51 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pro, from Lori Gottlieb's Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough: "My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics."

But you wrote: "I go home and he makes every effort to be loving and kind but I feel pretty empty inside." Do you feel empty because you're dealing with the disappointment of realizing that Mr. Pretty Good isn't Mr. Ideal? Or do you feel empty inside because you have no emotional connection with him?

More from Gottlieb: "What I long for in a marriage is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks."

You don't have Prince Charming. But "He makes me feel totally safe, secure and loved." That goes a long way. You'll have to decide whether it's enough.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:54 AM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Or a single mom who loves them a lot.

Of course (I am one). Or a single dad, or any combination of loving capable grownup guardians. Whatever the makeup, kids deserve a home filled with mutual and shared love and enthusiasm in every direction, not tolerance or settling.
posted by headnsouth at 11:56 AM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you had described this guy as someone who maybe you didn't "feel butterflies for" but with whom you were content, I'd say go for it. But you're not content. You're saying you're depressed, unhappy, and bored, and that's at the outset.

Don't bring a child into this situation. Your child needs contented parents who love each other. Break up with this man and find someone else. You're better off adopting with someone else than having a biological child in an unhappy relationship and then winding up single later on anyway.
posted by orange swan at 11:58 AM on November 27, 2013 [13 favorites]

you both sound pretty depressed and bored with this situation, and that doesn't seem like an ideal setting to bring a child into.

"I live in a city with a bad male-to-female ratio. Dating is brutal for professional women my age. My single friends warn me not to jump in the dating pool as the pickings are slim." This is not a good reason to settle for someone whom you might feel contempt for later on. In a good relationship, there is both a lack of mistreatment/abuse and a positive affirmative sense of passion on some level, but not contempt.
posted by zdravo at 12:00 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you want to live with him, exactly as he is now, for the next twenty years?
No offense meant, but where can I sign up to be exactly like I am now for the next 20 years?
This is the essence of the OPs issues. Peeps are variables, not constants.

What I meant was, what if he doesn't change, or the things you don't like stay the same or get worse.

Aka: It wouldn't be going from good to bad, but potentially bad to really bad.

posted by Shouraku at 12:04 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there any possibility of you raising a kid with someone you are not romantically partnered with, like a friend that you're very compatible with and with whom you share parenting values? Because that sounds like a better option than marrying this guy just because of your biological clock.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:06 PM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need to feel "butterflies" with the man you are going to marry and have children with. But you do need to love him the way he is, and enjoy spending time with him. From your description, it doesn't sound like that is the case with you and your boyfriend. So I would not suggest that you consider having children with this man.
posted by barnoley at 12:10 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm kind of backing off my own advice now, and I want to say this instead: if you are committed to being in a long-term partnership, then attraction will ebb and flow, and you will go through good times and bad times. There will be things you're passionate about that he won't be able to access (your work, for example) and vice versa. Things will, at times get rough. This might be a low point in your relationship, and if you work through it, things will improve; if so, this is not so terrible of a low-point, considered over the course of a lifetime - there hasn't been any cheating or egregious cruelty; you guys are still're just bored and unhappy and frustrated. I can't imagine that over the course of 50 years together, this doesn't happen to everyone sometimes.

I think the question is twofold: one, if this is the low point, what was the high point so far? Were you two ever happy together? If you could recapture that happiness, or something like it, would surviving the bad times be worth it to you? And two, what can you do to make it better?

You're describing this relationship in very stagnant terms. He is X, I am Y.., should we have a baby? The answer now, obviously, is no.

But could things improve? Can they change? Could you go to counseling together, do activities together, exercise together; could you support him and help him get to a better place physically and emotionally? (For what it's worth, he sounds very, very depressed.) And even apart from that - if he stays the same - could you figure out a way to make yourself happy? Could you gather a stronger support network around you, and maybe start therapy, and get yourself in a mental place where you're not blaming him for all of his flaws?

This relationship may be fixable, but only if you want to stay, and if you're committed to making it better. I think that's the difference between dating as an adult and dating at 22; you recognize that you can't just keep trading people in when the shine wears off. You have to find someone you love and respect and commit to fixing the inevitable problems when they arise.

Whether to stay with him or not is your choice. You won't find anyone who is flawless; you will only find someone whose flaws you're willing to accept. But what you absolutely cannot do is keep being depressed and accepting that depression as the tradeoff for having a baby. Forget about the kid and either commit to trying to fix this, or go. Those are your only two options.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:10 PM on November 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

One more thing - IF you decided to get pregnant (not by this guy, this relationship isn't healthy) and be a single mom, that doesn't mean that you absolutely will be single and a single mom FOREVER. You seem to feel it to be an either or, when it can be both. Single parents date and fall in love all the time and get married all the time. There are a lot of people out there that are more than happy to be a step parent. I am married to a man who has a son from a previous marriage. He is anything BUT a single parent. I love that kid like he were my own bio kid and I am pumped that I get to help raise him. AAAAAND I know that I give my husband butterflies still, we have a truly wonderful, exciting, loving, hilarious, sexy, respectful, satisfying relationship. You really can do both. He isn't your only option. You don't have to choose between having a family and having a good relationship.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:13 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also consider that if you have a child together, it will be his child too, and from how you have described him, I would guess he would love that child a lot. This isn't just about you getting the child you want. His parental emotions may turn out to be deeper than yours, or at least comparable. I've seen too many divorced men who are devastated by their children's absences after a separation.
posted by bibliowench at 12:21 PM on November 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

He knows I'm having doubts. He knows the areas I'm (generally) struggling with. He is supportive and willing to work on improving whatever he can to make the relationship work.

Does he really know the extent of your doubts? Does he really want to have children with the person who wrote this question? I think you, he, and any potential children deserve more.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:26 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Imagine yourself in 30 years. Your daughter comes to you asking for advice: stay with the guy who is bad in the sack and not particularly interesting or funny, or break free and risk it. What would you want her to do? What kind of life would you want her to live?

You and your partner are going to be teaching your children what love means through example. If it were me, I'd want to teach them what a loving, supportive partnership really looks like--not that they should just settle for "good enough."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:29 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The lack of sexual chemistry doesn't bother me as much as the lack of connection. Really nice guy, but you don't talk. If you have a child with him, it seems like you would be kind of using him. People do, all the time, but still. You sound a bit contemptuous of him, and that tends to destroy marriage.

You could have a child with him, but I think you have a bunch of other things you want in life that you don't expect with him. So, is having a child that important to you? Can you put aside your doubts and be a loving spouse? Don't marry him otherwise.
posted by theora55 at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2013

Guy here, for what that's worth....

Of course he "loves" you and is nice to you; Mr. Service Industry put on a nice dog-and-pony show to hook you and acts like he's set for a life of being able to be kinda lame and not have to live in a crummy studio apartment, live that lifestyle.

That aside, the proverbial good catch, good match question.

The former, I'd say not so much.

The latter? No.
posted by ambient2 at 12:39 PM on November 27, 2013

If being with someone makes you depressed, you should move on. You shouldn't take up years of his life being with someone who finds him just "meh" because of the urgency your biological clock.
posted by jayder at 12:45 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Remember that if you have a child with him, he or she will be a mirror of him in many ways. I think it's fair to say you find him dull-- how would you feel if your child turned out the same way?
posted by charmcityblues at 12:58 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider is that even if you leave him to go find the right guy to have children with, the right guy might not come along soon enough - what if it takes years to meet someone you are compatible and happy with? What if by the time you meet that someone you are unable to have children? Would you be devastated about not having biological children, or would you be happy that you found someone who is exciting to you, even though you have no children? I am not saying this to scare you into staying in your current relationship, I am saying you have to consider all "what ifs" I am just saying this so you honestly think about your current life. Are you happier with this guy than you would be if you were single for the next 5 years? Or would a weight be lifted off you if you were single and didn't have the pressure from yourself to make this relationship work because you think it should?

It's a hard situation because neither option is ideal - stay and have children? Leave and potentially never have children? Leave and potentially be a single mom? But I think you need to think about your day to day happiness, what would truly make you happiest every day before you bring a life into this world.
posted by at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow. I feel for you. If I were in your predicament I think I'd feel torn. I have a backlog of unhealthy relationships and wonder occasionally what I'd do if I met someone decent who loved me. I really don't understand why it seems like such a mare to meet reasonable male prospects in your 30's... is this the (crap) 'sweet shop' of internet dating or what? I remember years back my mate/colleague literally trampling on me to get to the relatively attractive and nice trainer that ran our course and hurled herself at him to the extreme. I found it such an embarrassing spectacle. I don't know why it's so hard out there, but I for one just hide away from it (perhaps not a solution either)... because (and here I'm contradicting myself, as we do)... the other part of me says "I would only bother going through all that again.. if something really felt like it had a chance.

Maybe you're like me a bit.. you've been magnetised by chemistry and kind of like excitement, in spite of learning how it burns. I spoke to my good friend a while back who has a lovely, 1 in a million long term man and said I liked a bit of excitement and maybe this was my problem. She said "I don't want to feel excited. Feeling excited is feeling sick. I want to feel loved and secure". It's a mind field and I hope you find your middle ground.

Btw you might find it interesting to study attachment styles.. securely attached people (ie from their initial caregiver relationship) tend to take the view there will be lots of romantic options, should they be sought. They tend to fare better in the romantic jungle out there.
posted by tanktop at 1:00 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't date someone if you have contempt for them,
buuuut ask yourself if you are judging them by your own, or societies standards?

If you are a motivated professional, you probably don't *want* someone who is super job-motivated, because who is literally going to be left holding the baby in that case? You!
Someone willing to stay on the backburner and be the stay at home parent sounds kinda perfect, honestly, but you can't then judge them by your own standards.

Interests? Meh. It's about whether you have each other in common.

It doesn't have to be a fairytale, the one, exciting new-relationship-energy passion, and if you are both job focused, you'll probably be screwed in the parenting department, even if current situation is against gender norms. It has to be two people willing to work together.

If you want to have kids, you are going to have to do it soon. What is the worst case scenario?
Would you be ok having divorced this person, and having shared custody and a child together with them for the rest of your life? If they are a decent person, and you can imagine that not being horrific, that's actually a kind of good sign. Which will you regret more, that, or never having kids?

Ultimately, no one can judge if this is 'good enough' except you.
BUT - If you can't stay with him without contempt creeping in, not even if you have counselling, you have to go.
If you CAN imagine staying with them, just accepting who they are - then go for it.
posted by Elysum at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2013

Don't have a child of you're not willing to be a single parent. Period. Have you not been watching Downtown Abbey?! Sybil dies in childbirth and Matthew dies in a car accident. All kinds of things beyond our control can make single parents. I think of you got pregnant now as-is you'd just end up divorced anyway. Babies make things harder and MORE intense.

I think this relationship only looks really good compared to previous efffed up relationships. For me, kind, loving, and safe is sort of a bare minimum. I can't believe no one's suggested this, but therapy. you need to recalibrate and figure out what's going on for you. Then, if you stay, It sound like he's game to work, so couples therapy.

I think you should be looking at babies and partners as two separate issues right now.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

He could stay home and do childcare if needed.

Non-rhetorical question that sounds like a rhetorical question: going by his behavior now and assuming that becoming a father isn't going to flip some switch in his head, do you think will he be any more motivated to do a good job of this than anything else?

Some aspects of his personality that you describe point to "yes," but many point to "no." What are you basing the judgement of his potential ability as a father on? What are you leaving out in that assessment?
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I suspect that this relationship will end in divorce and you end up being a single parent anyway. Or if it doesn't, you're a parent of two kids: him and the baby.

Right now I think you are seeing it through the prism of "Either I have a baby with this guy or I will never, ever have a baby at all." I unfortunately can't really help you with that dilemma or give you guaranteed hope that a better man comes along in time, but it does sound to me like a totally loveless relationship on your end is going to end badly. And then you end up a single parent anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:31 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

First, you can have any kind of relationship you want. It doesn't have to have butterflies or abuse.

Second, every relationship is settling.

So what you have to decide is whether or not this is an acceptable mate for you. What would the ideal mate look like for you? Have you ever met a person who turned out like that?

Also, the older you get, the more women and fewer men there will be in the dating pool.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:33 PM on November 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

"He's nice enough" is not going to endure through several years of sleepless nights and jam in your couch cushions and screaming toddlers and thrush and jam in the back seat of your car and random fevers and unexpectedly having to replace electronics because, hey, jam. You are probably not going to be able to have absolutely everything you want in life, but that is one thing I would not compromise on.
posted by Sequence at 1:36 PM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I want to second Phunniemie: "What happens if you get married, and then, for whatever reason, find you are unable to conceive?"

If you wouldn't be with him without children, then you are effectively making any children you do have responsible for your marital (un)happiness. That's a huge burden.

If you only want him as a co-parent, then ask him for that. As harrowing as it may be, it will be less bad than negotiating child custody and child support at the same time as divorce and alimony (and bear in mind that with the work and financial situation you are picturing, you could well be paying him alimony and child support while he has primary custody). IANYL, TINLA. As awful as it is, for myself I might consider an oops pregnancy followed by a breakup to be slightly less heinous than that.

Marriage is a big commitment and I think it has to be considered in and for itself, apart from kids and almost everything else. This is what I hold in front of me as my cautionary tale: My grandmother told me that her second marriage was not for love but to not be alone, and all the perks of not being single that come along now and that came along even more so when we were yet more unequal. After not too long, her husband came down with Parkinsons and she spent the next few decades with progressively increasing nurse duties until he died.

I think you are depressed at least in part because you are not clear with yourself on your own wants and priorities.

Do you want children badly enough to have them without a partner, or no? Do you want a co-parent badly enough to nurse someone you don't really love through decades of poor health, or no? Do you want THIS baby daddy badly enough to risk losing custody and paying him alimony and child support until the kids are 18?

I think you should talk with a family/matrimonial law lawyer to understand what you're getting into, and then I think you should talk with a therapist to really sort out and get clear on what you want and what you're willing to pay to get it.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:43 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Gosh I don't know.

I don't have kids and I'm pretty sure I don't want kids but from what I've heard from good friends and family who HAVE had kids, is that they test even the strongest relationships.

So I personally wouldn't knowingly get pregnant if my relationship was nothing short of solid in the first place. Babies don't tend to solve the kind of relationship problems you are describing, in fact, they seem to highlight them.
posted by JenThePro at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please don't take this wrong - I know you've said you want children, I don't say this to be mean.

Consider backing up from this question and ask yourself:
Why do I want to have children?

You've said your biological clock is ticking, and you have fertility issues.
We don't all have to bear children to parent - there are a multitude of 'parenting' opportunities available (Big Sisters, fostering, tutoring at a local school, etc) which can be (nearly) as (or, to some, more) fulfilling.
Seriously - children are not a hobby, and they are time-consuming and expensive.
They are also humans, and deserve deep forethought about the kind of home and family relationships you'll bring them into.

So, I invite you to meditate on your reasons to bear children; it may lead to some interesting answers about partners.
posted by dbmcd at 2:50 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I feel totally stuck in a better-than-average relationship, with an almost deafening biological clock roaring and a huge chunk of uncertainty about what to do next. It's gotten to the point where I am feeling pretty depressed every day. I go home and he makes every effort to be loving and kind but I feel pretty empty inside.

Do not bring a child into this relationship. Don't even think about it. A child should not be about filling a hole, and s/he won't. What you'll end up with is the same relationship, same hole, and a kid... who may later resent you for bringing them into this world to try and make yourself feel better.
posted by sonika at 3:17 PM on November 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

You make a list of pros and cons. The pros are actually pretty great! The question is: do any one of the cons or the aggregate sum of the cons constitute a dealbreaker? And if there's a dealbreaker, then move on pronto.

Given this, I'll provide some thoughts on your cons, and how they may interact with the pros.

In my experience (as a parent of 2) kids will help with a couple of your 'cons':

"We are from different social circles." and "We don't have much to talk about."

Kids gave us stuff to talk about! I'm kinda a quiet guy. And our stuff to talk about -- Not exciting stuff, for sure, but stuff to talk about-- yes!

Kids helped me develop a common social circle with my spouse that consists of parents of other kids. In my experience, this actually takes a long time to develop (really takes off in late preschool and then in gradeschool years). But it does develop... And they are meaningful relationships for me. For instance, on Sunday we walked with another family of four with similarly aged kids to the theatre, watched a live performance of Willy Wonka, then walked over to a nearby restaurant had dinner, then walked home having a continuous friendly snowball fight (all 8 of us). But had I not had kids, then only two of us (my wife and I) would have been part of that lovely afternoon stroll/theatre/dinner.


I think you pointed out something remarkable about your mate: "He is happy to work out our issues together and takes ownership of his share of our challenges."

If this is really true, it's golden and may give hope to your other cons, such as, "he worked on art projects, threw dinner parties, made plans to take trips and be active."


Many of the "DTMFA" responses above are I think saying, "Don't stay with him and have kids with him ONLY because of FEAR." And I think there's truth in that sentiment. But man... if everyone could "work out our issues together and take ownership of their share of our challenges" -- ask.metafilter would be missing a lot of relationship questions.
posted by u2604ab at 3:28 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seriously --

You are both depressed to be in this relationship. You said it yourself.

Think about the kid who is going to grow up in this relationship.

Mom and dad both unhappy to be there, barely taking care of the kid's emotional needs. Kid sensing as he grows up that his existence is the Big Lie of the relationship.

You want to have kids. But you have an obligation to give any kids you do have a good life. This is something you can't settle on, because it's not just about you. If you roll the dice with a shitty relationship, it's the kids who will suffer the most.
posted by grobstein at 3:35 PM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

This might sound harsh, so please believe this is not coming from a harsh place. But all your positives about him were actually about you, your household, your imagined family, or an absence of strong negative qualities. You didn't list a single positive quality that he has in and of himself, as an individual. You know, like, "he plays the guitar really well" or "he tells amazing stories" or "he's super sexy" or "he draws comics in his spare time that show he makes these amazing observations about the world around him". Whatever. It's all about how he treats you, how he makes you feel, how he works on the relationship with you, you, you, you.

This is completely understandable, particularly with the abusive relationships in the background. It's actually pretty healthy to emphasise your own needs and requirements, one of which should be good treatment from your partner. That's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is that your list seems to me like you need to give yourself what you want. That you may not love yourself, trust yourself, feel secure with yourself - and these are pretty basic things. You feel empty inside.

So if he's only helping to meet your basic needs, and you're not actually interested in him as a person, if he has nothing of his own that he brings to the table besides fart jokes, inertia and computer games, he is not a good partner for you.

This doesn't answer your question about whether that matters - should you have a kid with him anyway, or at least try to? Go back to the feeling empty inside. Will a child make you feel less empty inside? Would you want to have a child to try to feel less empty inside? People have kids for all kinds of reasons, not all of them good, but this doesn't strike me as a very good reason to have a kid.

I think that if you want to stay with him and raise a child with him, you need to actually want to be in the relationship. You need to want to be with him. You need to meet your own basic emotional needs or at least have a relationship with yourself that doesn't leave you feeling empty inside. And you need to want to have a child not to fix a negative, but for a positive reason.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:38 PM on November 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

I sympathize with what is obviously a difficult situation for you. While I'm a 29-year-old guy who doesn't feel a strong need to be a parent and therefore I obviously can't know exactly what you're feeling, I think your feelings are quite understandable and normal. That said, my own position on the matter is as clear as that of pretty much everybody else in this thread.

Basically, don't have kids with someone that you aren't 100% sure you want to have kids with. You obviously, just from the fact that you wrote this question, are having serious doubts about whether this guy is someone who you want to have in your life for the long haul as a partner and as the father of your children. That's more than enough to make having kids with this guy a terrible plan.

Now, you might say "well, worst case scenario we split up and I raise the kids as a single mom. Lots of single moms raise perfectly good kids who are loved and well cared for, so what's the big deal?" And that's true as far as it goes. There are tons of single moms (and dads) out there doing great jobs and raising great kids. However, if that's the outcome that you're looking at then you owe it to this guy – who seems like a perfectly decent guy that for whatever reason you are just not that into – not to make him a part of that without his consent.

If you have kids with this guy, he'll be their father. Fathers obviously have a right to be a part of their children's upbringing, as long as they're doing a halfway decent job of it. They have emotional investment in their children and have just as much stake in the whole parenting endeavour as mothers, and it would be deeply unfair to this perfectly nice-sounding guy for you to enter into parenthood with him under false pretenses. Most people assume that when someone intentionally starts a family with them, they are committed to raising the resulting children as a pair unless something truly serious happens to disrupt that partnership. Unless this guy explicitly and wholeheartedly consents to having kids with you despite your having serious doubts about him as a long-haul life partner, you would be doing him (and your shared kids) a big disservice by having kids with him.

If you'd rather be a single mom than risk being childless, and if you think you're up for that, then that's fine. It's a harder path than raising a kid with a loving and committed partner, but women are out there kicking ass at it every day and in principle there's no reason that you couldn't be one of them. But if you're looking for a sperm donor, get a sperm donor. Either get this guy (or some other guy) to impregnate you after explicitly waiving all his legal rights to co-parent the child in a binding contract, or go get impregnated using a donor from a sperm bank.

No matter what though, you aren't in a place to have this guy as the father of your children. Certainly not right now – maybe the whole dynamic of your relationship will change in time, although probably not. I think you'd have a better chance breaking it off with this perfectly nice (although not quite right for you for some difficult-to-specify but nevertheless perfectly valid reason) man and freeing both of you up to go find someone else with whom you can be totally 100% mutually enthusiastic about raising a family.

I know that's probably hard to hear as a woman whose 40th birthday is on the horizon, especially since you obviously want kids, but intentionally entering into shared parenthood with somebody to whom you are less than 100% happily committed is a bad idea and a recipe for heartbreak – not only your own, but that of the father and the kids, who have as much right to happiness as you do. You and your kids would be much better off if you look for another partner with whom you are more compatible (and maybe bank some eggs for later in vitro fertilization in case it takes you a while to find that nearly-perfect partner) or find a sperm donor and just go it on your own.

Finally, there's no reason you can't get impregnated via a sperm donor (either in a clinic or the "old-fashioned way" but in any case with everything explicit and legally black-and-white) now, raise your kid as a single mom, and continue looking for a partner. It's quite common for single mothers to eventually find a partner who happily settles down with them and assumes the role of father of their child(ren). You shouldn't enter into single parenthood unless you're comfortable with the idea of going the whole way on your own (or with whatever part-time support you can count on from friends and family) but being a single mom doesn't doom you to always be a single mom.
posted by Scientist at 4:57 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

this is a recipe for divorce later


But wait — aren't I lucky to find a caring guy who treats me well?

Not in this particular scenario, because

this is a recipe for divorce later

Also, a lot of your "cons" would be father cons for you, too. If you don't titter at fart jokes now, your irritation will probably be through the roof when your kid[s] are all full of fart jokes thanks to their father.

He sounds like a potentially solid co-parent, though. If you both really want a child and you love each other but not enough to be married, it's 2013 and all sorts of arrangements are possible.
posted by kmennie at 7:21 PM on November 27, 2013

I feel for you, OP, and appreciate the honest vulnerability you're showing by posting this type of question. So you've gotten society's messages about what it means to be a woman who is "not 22" loud and clear. And you buy into it. You should go read this Dear Sugar column.

When you have a kid with someone good and kind and decent, who you also can't stand to the point you're depressed over it, he will be a part of your life forever. You will never be rid of this fine and wonderful and demoralizing man. He'll be at your kid's school plays, baseball games, dance recitals, graduations, weddings... For the rest of your natural life, he will orbit you always. Give that some thought.

Since forever is a damn long time (if we're lucky), go ahead and show him your question. Share with him that honest vulnerability of yours we're reading here. See if he truly is "happy to work out our issues together and takes ownership of his share of our challenges." Have the tough conversation you need to have. You owe it to yourself and your dreamed-of child.
posted by hush at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lets say that you make The Big Tradeoff and have a child with this man. Do you believe that it would be worth it? Do you want him to raise your children?

If the answer is "yes, I am willing to be with a person who I am depressed to be with, but want a child so bad that I'm willing to live with it," then you have your answer. But my advice from earlier still stands. You owe it to yourself, him, and your unborn child to be very sure that you will be able to handle the consequences of the tradeoff that you make.
posted by Shouraku at 8:01 PM on November 27, 2013

I am going to go against the grain.

If he is truly good, generous, kind, and devoted, I think he'd be a great husband and father.

However (!!!), if it's the case that someone else mentioned -- you're his sugar mama, and he's not pulling his weight, and he's sort of using you, then he's not as kind and devoted as he seems.

If you marry him, you're the breadwinner, and you get a divorce, he also gets half your money. He has a big incentive to rope you into marriage if he's the doesn't-want-to-work just-wants-to-be-a-gamer type.

Generosity and goodness isn't only about being nice, it's also about taking initiative to better himself for you and your family. Stepping up to be a provider, in the way he is able. If you find someone who doesn't contribute more than you do, but is loving, you have a catch. If you find someone who contributes less, is a mooch, and is liable leave you with nothing in a divorce, you have a bad choice on your hands.
posted by htid at 8:34 PM on November 27, 2013

I am in the minority, pro-settling camp. What's your highest priority? Having a kid, it sounds like. If so, you should seriously consider having it with the man in hand, who sounds like he'd be a loving and attentive father.

Let him fill that role, and develop a social life with friends that give you the sense of humor, the conversations, and so forth that he doesn't quite give you.

Make sure, if you decide to dump him, that it isn't because you have unrealistic, movie-driven ideas of what a normal relationship looks like. Don't believe, either, that there is a world of quality partners in your age range out there waiting to be snapped up. You may well find that, if you dump him, you won't find anyone better anyway.
posted by Philemon at 9:18 PM on November 27, 2013

You are just not that into him.

I strongly suggest you meet with a fertility doc, or two, and discuss having your eggs frozen. The younger your eggs are, the higher your chances to have your own child, even if you wait 5 years to get pregnant.

In the meantime, show this great guy that you care enough about him not to waste any more of his time, and you respect yourself enough not to waste any more of yours.
posted by vignettist at 10:55 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The thing is, the worst case scenarios isn't that you end up a single parent, the worst case scenario is that you split up and he has custody as the primary parent and you see the kid(s) every other weekend while paying child support and maintenance. It doesn't sound to me like that's the sort of parenting you'd want to do.

I have known people who have made a similar decision to have children with someone who makes a good father but they didn't really love. It turned out fine in the end. Obviously they divorced when the children were small and the SAHP had the kids. The other parent had to move away for work and didn't see them grow up. But they all have good relationships with each other.
posted by plonkee at 12:15 AM on November 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

You deserve better, and so does he. "aren't I lucky to find a caring guy who treats me well? " He's nice but he's not treating you that well in 3 key areas- financial, personal, sexual - and he is trending down; it will only get worse with time and the stress of kids and getting older. Your context of being in bad relationships is making this one look better than it actually is. "Shouldn't I just learn to appreciate what I have rather than holding out for some fantasy-prince-charming-fairy-tale-of-perfection?" This is not a lesson for you to learn, it's about compatibility, and obviously there is a major misalignment in core vales and interests that you are choosing to ignore. "So what if we can't talk about politics or books or music or anything?" This is a major problem - if you can't talk or do anything together, your life will be very unsatisfactory. "He loves me and is good to me — shouldn't that be enough?" Nope. I speak from experience having married and had 2 kids with a "nice" guy who ended up being another child I had to care for - it was a very lonely existence for many years until we divorced. Would I have done it differently in retrospect? I can't say yes because I love my 2 kids (now 18 and 21) and can't imagine life without them but it was very difficult for all of us for many years (and continues to be in some ways) because of the incompatibility that became a very sad and lonely marriage. I would advise against marriage and kids for you and this guy. Maybe couples counseling would help, but its likely you would end up carrying the much heavier load in any further partnering with this guy.
posted by j810c at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

People I know who wanted kids, and didn't, appear to regret it more than those who had a relationship, then divorce, as long as the divorce was with a non-abusive/mentally ill person.
Far more.

But hey, as far as I can tell, most people divorce.
It happens. Big whoop.
It's not the end of the world.

Neither is not having a baby, but you mostly regret the things you didn't do, more than the things you did.
posted by Elysum at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Divorce is not just something that accidentally happens in a relationship, and the Western model of Passionate Love At Any Price is not the only model for marriage. You can absolutely make a decision to build a life and a family with someone as long as the two of you have shared goals and a shared vision of the future and no major incompatibilities like vastly different financial models or religious priorities.

But what I would say is that thinking you can mold this man into something other than what he is right now is probably a huge mistake. If you wouldn't choose this less ambitious, frat-humour person exactly as he is today, then don't choose him for tomorrow.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:27 AM on November 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

-- "I do not want to raise a child by on my own as a single parent."
-- "I definitely want a natural child of my own."

Looks like you are going to have to give on one of these two.

Co-parent with a friend while continuing your search for a romantic partner, but don't set up a a family with a man you feel this way about.
posted by ravioli at 8:44 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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