My boyfriend doesn't want a family right now, I do
September 5, 2018 2:54 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are five years apart in age. A few years ago, when we first started dating, we agreed on when we would want to start a family, since it was going to be a huge compromise on both our parts due to the age difference, but ultimately it was something we both wanted. Now that time is approaching, and my boyfriend has just said he's still not ready. I will be 32 next month and am incredibly in love, but also incredibly concerned I am with a man who might never come around to wanting a family. Do I wait it out and hope for the best, or do I say goodbye?

Approximately two and a half years ago, I met my current boyfriend. I actually came here and expressed some hesitancies about the age difference on MetaFilter, because the ago gap was concerning. When we first started dating, he was 24 and I was 29, which felt like a big difference. Now, in 2018, we're still together and he's 27 and I am almost 32, which feels a lot closer in age but somehow we're even farther apart in terms of what we want in life. I'm going to caveat this entire question with: we're very happy and in love. We live together. We both have fulfilling lives outside of our relationship (careers, friends, hobbies) but love spending time together. He makes me laugh. He gives me what I need emotionally, and he's tole me I do the same for him. I can see myself loving him forever.

In the first year of dating, we talked about the age difference and what we may have to compromise on, the biggest one being kids. I always knew I wanted a few children, and while he did too, he had a lot more time on his plate being so much younger, and male. We agreed that when he was 28 and I was 32, if we were still together and committed, we would start a family. Now, that time is approaching, and I asked him how he was feeling about it - to talk about how we would manage it with our careers, where he see us living, etc. From this conversation I learned he has changed his mind. He does not want a family in this timeframe anymore and does not feel ready to have a family.

I feel heartbroken and lied to. I was the one to bring up the topic, and I am really upset that he didn't talk to me sooner even though he said he has been feeling this way for a while. I feel like my partner let me down in this lack of communication - he did not treat me like a partner in this huge decision, and decided on his own that we would wait longer and that would be okay. I can forgive him for this in time, but it's the bigger implication that's really dug a pit in my stomach. I am getting older, and I am dating someone who already mislead me once about wanting to have a family. Am I ridiculous to stay with him and hope he eventually comes around, while I watch my window to have children fly out the window? I love him so much, but not enough to compromise on not having a family. And the longer we wait, the bigger the risk gets. I am also nervous that if we say, okay, let's wait another year (which in the grand scheme of things is nothing) he will let that time come and have the same response again. He has not given me the confidence to trust him, has not demonstrated he can stick to his word, or that he can even communicate what he's feeling, should he change his mind again.

So my question is, do I wait it out, or do I say goodbye?
posted by alipie to Human Relations (69 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think the main problem here is that he has broken your trust in this very important matter. You have discussed this before, and he knows that it is important to you, and yet, he did not bring this up on his own accord, nor communicate his change of feeling to you. He had 3 years to decide, and he did decide -- he decided what *he* wanted, not what *you both* wanted. That's the problem and that is what you need to communicate to him. Is he willing to fix this?

Long-term relationships work when both of you decide what is best for both of you, together, not separately. Of course, there are always differences in opinion, but you are in the pit together, fighting your problems out together. The couples I have seen who acted individually have always broken up, when faced with major life issues like care of parents, where to stay, whose career to prioritize.

The children issue -- that is a major deal-breaker, but it can possibly be worked through with a timeframe and discussions between both of you. But if he is not willing to engage you or take you in to his confidence, then it is clear where his priority lies (himself, not both of you) and that's really the answer you need.
posted by moiraine at 3:18 AM on September 5, 2018 [27 favorites]

It's not that he broke your trust, come on. Having kids is just not on his radar – he isn't broody, he's happy how things are. You're the one who wants to make a huge change in how you live, so you brought the subject up. And his response is an honest one.

It's not a great idea to have kids with a man who's at best lukewarm to the idea. But don't blame him.
posted by zadcat at 3:31 AM on September 5, 2018 [54 favorites]

Do you really want to have a child with a man who is at best indifferent to the idea? I am sure there's plenty of MeFi's who had distant or disinterested fathers and they could probably vouch better than I that it doesn't end well. Sounds like this guy might have been a great boyfriend but just not a great life partner for the life you have planned. Better to find out sooner than later.
posted by AuroraSky at 3:37 AM on September 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

At this point you know he doesn’t want this now and you can’t trust him or believe him to tell you the truth in the future so I wouldn’t risk any more of your fertile years on him. I’m so sorry.
posted by Jubey at 3:45 AM on September 5, 2018 [25 favorites]

He didn’t break your trust. 24 year old him made a promise, probably at your urging, that he should never have made. We can’t promise to feel a certain way in the future; you need to accept that he is not ready. When I was 24, I expected to be ready to have kids by the time
I was 30 and then, guess what, when I turned 30 it felt very different. I wasn’t lying when I was 24, I just found out that 24 year old me didn’t fully understand what 30 year old me would want or how he would feel.

You’re entitled to be disappointed. This is disappointing! But don’t put this all on him. Expecting a 24 year old to make such a huge future commitment is unreasonable and it was not fair of you to ask him to do so.

What you do next is a gamble. Maybe he decides he’s ready in the next few years, or maybe you can find a willing guy quicker than that. Or maybe not! Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what’s most important: being with and (potentially) having a baby with this guy or (potentially) having a baby with someone else (or on your own).
posted by mpbx at 3:53 AM on September 5, 2018 [105 favorites]

He didn’t lie to you. He just told you what he felt when you had that discussion (did you by any chance prompt that conversation?). People change their mind all the time and there is nothing wrong with that.

What’s more important is that he is not ready today. He’s 27, he is an adult with a career. If he is not ready now, it means he is not ready to start a family with you. If you break up now, chances are he’ll get married within three months of meeting a lady and have children even before you’re completely over him.

Tell him you’re leaving to find someone whose life plans are aligned with yours. If he seriously sees a future with you, he’ll ask you to stay and reconsider his stance about children. People take that leap of faith all the time.
posted by Kwadeng at 3:57 AM on September 5, 2018 [21 favorites]

What is his new timeframe? Or does he think it’s never? Does he want to be a dad or is he feeling ambiguous about that? It’s a really tough decision and it comes down to a choice about an unknown future. I’m with mpbx on this, you need to decide what’s most important.

I’m not sure I would leave a great relationship to have kids, but I had kids older than you are now and it wasn’t a serious need (I could imagine not having kids or adopting or step kids). I know a couple who sound similar to you and it worked out, they had kids, but I think they were both absolutely committed to the relationship and having kids together, just negotiating timing.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:01 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree that he broke your trust. Not by changing his mind, but by not talking to you when he realized that he actually doesn't want a family now or in the near future, despite your agreement.

I think it would be better to end this now. But no matter what you decide to do with the relationship, keep in mind that you actually have agency, right now, when it comes to parenthood:

You can go to your gynecologist (or your primary doctor first, depending on how this is handled in the country you live in) and request a fertility check-up. Knowing the status of your egg reserve is a good thing, no matter if you decide to stay with your partner, or find a new one, or have children as a single mother. You can also start to explore your options with regards to IVF, without making a decision to go that route. Knowing your options in your health care system is a good thing. Your family planning does not need to depend solely on the wishes of your maybe soon to be ex-boyfriend. This is your life.
posted by CompanionCube at 4:05 AM on September 5, 2018 [43 favorites]

I agree that what he said 5 years ago is a red herring. The real issue is the today. You have been together for 5 years. He does not want to start a family with you when you have been clear what your priorities are now. It totally sucks but I think this relationship has run its course as you have arrived to deviating paths in life. You deserve to be with someone who wants the same things as you, especially when it comes to something as important as growing your family unit. I think waiting things out would be unfair to you, to rely on his choice when the physical reality is that it's your circumstances that are the bigger factor and risk in waiting.
posted by like_neon at 4:11 AM on September 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

I love him so much, but not enough to compromise on not having a family.

Wouldn't it be great to be with someone that you love and they're like "Oh hell yeah I want to make babies with you!" rather than your current state which where you're like "Hmmm do I love this man enough to not be bitter if having children becomes difficult or impossible?"

That "hell yeah let's have babies" is possible. Go find them.
posted by like_neon at 4:18 AM on September 5, 2018 [34 favorites]

I disagree that he broke your trust by not telling you. He didn't change his mind - his mind just stayed exactly the same in feeling unready to be a parent, contrary to his own expectations. Unless you've been having regular conversations in which he falsely said he'd still be up for kids aged 28, he may well have been waiting, half-hoping or assuming that any day now he'd start to feel differently, and that there was no point borrowing trouble by bringing up right away that his mind hadn't changed yet, because hey, maybe in six months he would be ready, and maybe you wouldn't mention it until then. In which case, there would have been no need for you to know that he'd only become ready very recently.

Which is no help to you in making a decision, I'm sorry, this is very tough. But I would make your decision based on whether or not the pair of you will ever be ready to have kids together, not on the basis that you feel like he lied to you.

The reason this is hard for you is the very same reason he's not abiding by his earlier agreement - because fortune telling is hard to impossible, for everyone.
posted by penguin pie at 4:43 AM on September 5, 2018 [14 favorites]

These sorts of profound and non-angry conflicts provide really fertile ground for therapy—couples or solo. I doubt you would regret a 6-10 session relationship with a therapist to help you (singular or plural) work through this. And if you do decide to leave, the therapy will help you do so well.
posted by suncages at 5:03 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

There are a lot of replies hear that really read like victim-blaming to me. This is not your fault. It is good and normal and healthy to have conversations about things like whether or not you may want to have children, and what the timing of that might look like, when you are in a serious relationship, as you were when you had this initial conversation. Do not listen to people here saying that was wrong, or that you had that conversation improperly and somehow urged or convinced your partner to say things. That is not how communication works in a relationship. That is horseshit.

It also does not really matter right now. Here is where you are. Whatever happened in the past is not now, and your boyfriend does not want to have children with you now. You deserve to be with somebody who is 110% invested in and excited about being in a relationship with you. This guy is not that guy. It is heartbreaking and it is not going to be easy or fun, but it's probably wise to break up with him and start seeing other people who are at the same level as you, who share your goals now rather than possibly sharing them with you in the future.

I'm sorry. Best of luck. This isn't your fault.
posted by sockermom at 5:13 AM on September 5, 2018 [88 favorites]

I absolutely agree that he broke your trust, but not by not wanting children right now. He broke your trust because he'd already realized he felt that way and didn't tell you until you brought it up. I'm sure that part of him was hoping you wouldn't bring it up at all.

I don't think any of this is because he doesn't love you, or doesn't love the two of you together. He's just not ready to have children and that is a totally valid position for him to take as a 27 year old man. No one I know had kids at 27. What is not valid is not telling you this and not letting you make your own informed decision about your body and your future.

Talk it through. See if he, honestly, sees any timeline for kids now that he's more mature and settled. If he can't answer that, or you don't trust his answer, then it's time for you to move on. You can wait longer, but you can't wait forever.
posted by lydhre at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2018 [24 favorites]

I would also feel betrayed and disappointed that he did not keep me in the loop of his feelings about kids. I can totally see a situation where a 24-year-old makes this promise thinking 27 is so long away, and then realizes when they get there that they're still not ready. But it should have been a topic of discussion before the deadline if he was feeling that way, irrespective of whether or not he was hoping he'd change.

Maybe he will be ready when he is 30, or 32. But you'll be 35, 37. If you want to have kids soon then you need to find a partner who also wants kids soon. You want to find someone who is truly into it, and doesn't reluctantly agree in order to make you happy (in case he goes that route).

For what it's worth, there are plenty of people who've had kids at or by 27. He's not a teenager, for Chrissake, it's a perfectly regular age to start a family.
posted by schroedinger at 5:46 AM on September 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

Can he explain the reasons of why he is not ready to have a family? Knowing that would help you decide if it's worth waiting or not. Does he have a timeline or a specific event that he wants to happen before he can start a family? Maybe he wants to get married (don't do this until you know for sure obviously), or be in a different living situation first. However, if his reason is a general shrug and "I don't know...I'm just don't feel ready", then I definitely wouldn't wait for him.

I agree with the others who said that he should've told you how he really felt - if he knew starting a family was important to you - so that you can make informed decisions. My guess is he was avoiding the conversation because he knew it would change things, but that isn't an excuse to keep you out of the loop. Or maybe he just didn't think about it. Does this topic casually come up ever? Maybe consider your conversations on other important topics - are you the one always bringing things up? Does he usually stick to his word and communicate how he is feeling?
posted by LovingMyself at 5:51 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Regarding trust being broken - I think none of us has enough information to judge. Unless I missed it the OP doesn't say whether her SO actually thought about it, realized he didn't want kids, and decided not to mention it, or whether he just hadn't thought about it much and, when asked directly, realized that in fact he didn't. (Him not giving the issue a lot of thought might be problematic in its own way, but to me at least that feels very different than purposely deciding to keep mum.)

We also don't know how much the issue was broached in the intervening 2 years, or how the SO reacted when (or if) the OP made it clear that this might be a dealbreaker for her.

We're all just guessing here. OP, it sounds like you have a lot of talking to do together about how you both feel; about, if that's what you want, what specific things would need to happen for you to stay together; and about how to avoid this situation ever happening again in the future, where you're both on such a different page for such a long time with such different understandings of how important an issue is.
posted by trig at 6:00 AM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I have watched so many women who very much wanted children, got with men who claimed to very much want children, kept letting those men say "now is not the time, maybe after xyz," and then they would add things to that list forever, until the possibility for those women carrying a pregnancy to term wasn't in the cards anymore.

Don't spend another 5 years waiting on him only to find out it's too late.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:01 AM on September 5, 2018 [39 favorites]

I think it's completely reasonable to feel lied to, even if it is just as reasonable for him to not feel ready for kids. He made a commitment he obviously should not have made, and it is completely okay for you to be upset that he not only isn't prepared to live up to his commitment but that he also has known for some time that the deal was off and didn't share it with you.

This said, you can't make him want to have kids. I think there is no point in waiting anymore, regardless of his reasons. Walk away and build your life if children are a priority for you.
posted by frumiousb at 6:06 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

It is entirely reasonable for you to want children in this timeframe.

It is entirely reasonable and responsible for you to initiate discussions about this with your partner.

It is entirely reasonable for you to feel hurt that he did not initiate discussions with you about this topic as his feelings changed.

When does he want a kid? Does he want a kid? What does "ready" feel like? Is counselling an option he'd consider to make this conversation productive for both of you?
posted by sadmadglad at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like he didn't want to think consciously about something that was a potential conflict. Well, now he's thought about it. That's good!

It might not sound romantic but I think the right way to handle this is with a very clear timetable. Say, six months. In that amount of time, he commits to having kids, or you move on.

Lots of people tell themselves a story "oh my spouse/partner/SO doesn't really care that much about this issue, it hasn't come up lately, I guess it's not an issue anymore" because that story is comfortable. Lots of those same people, when it's time to really engage with the conflict, realize that the relationship is worth making some changes and undergoing some difficulty for.

I am 100% not on board with the idea that you should only have kids with someone who comes to the table super-enthusiastic about having kids. I think that's good advice re "how enthusiastic should your partner be about being in the relationship at all," but kids are different. I'm in my 40s, know lots of parents of kids of every age. There are lots of families where one partner was super-enthusiastic about having kids and the other was like "seems fine, it's what people do, I can see this is what you want." Most of those people are great parents. Your guy probably will be too -- if he decides that's what he wants.
posted by escabeche at 6:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [20 favorites]

I was in a LTR with a man who did not want children. I have always been on the "no" side of ambivalent, so that worked for me. I am now 41 and content with my choice. However, if I had it to do over again, I would have frozen my eggs. Just to preserve the "right" to have kids, so to speak. So, regardless of your relationship status, think about freezing eggs.
posted by 8603 at 6:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I’m with I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today. I’ve seen this play out so, so many times. Men who don’t want kids but don’t want to lose the girlfriend who is there because they promised kids. I would flat out tell him, either you guys start prepping for kids now or you are leaving him. Either he will come around, or you’ll get out of the relationship with enough time to try again with someone else.
posted by corb at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2018 [26 favorites]

Whatever you decide to do with this guy, it might be worth having a talk with your doctor (And then a specialist) about freezing your eggs. I saw a news story about this place, which is more on the affordable side. Even if you leave this boyfriend, it will take some time to meet someone else and get that relationship to a baby-having stage and not hearing a tic-toc in your ear will take pressure off.

It seems like you have your talk-things-out game down, but it doesn't hurt to mention: especially if he is lukewarm on having children, you need to A) Talk as specifically as possible about how the parenting will be divided up. and B) If you have any inkling at all that he will not do his share of the parenting in any area then think about whether you are willing to coparent with someone who isn't doing his share and how that would affect your relationship.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

or that he can even communicate what he's feeling

This is problematic. I think you first need to have an open discussion about all your fears. Even silly stuff, like, "I'm worried my kid won't look like me" or heavy stuff like "I'm worried that I'll have the same kind of anxiety my own parent had" or "I hear that you lose your independence and I'm afraid I'll react poorly to that." We had concerns about our sex life changing, the finances of having a kid, the juggle of work/life, etc., and we talked it all out. Even the hard stuff that we were afraid to say that usually comes from how we were raised and the patterns of our own childhood. Don't go into this conversation expecting to change anyone's mind but do go into it in the spirit of having a deep, honest discussion and hearing each other out. Then sit with it for awhile. Don't try to convince each other of anything. But you could also take an evening to discuss what your vision of your future is. How you see yourselves in ten years. Etc..

Obviously, having a child with a man who is reluctant and then cannot be open with you is a bad idea. You may find yourself out there looking for someone who is enthusiastic about fatherhood and that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Try to get over your hurt over his reluctance so you can be clear eyed about your desires and needs.
posted by amanda at 6:54 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Anecdotally: My situation wasn't exactly the same as yours, but just FYI my husband and I went from "both of us agree we don't want kids" to "I want kids but he doesn't" to "he changed his mind" without a ton of angst or therapy or even ultimatums. It started with my best friend telling me "If you really want a kid, you have to make it clear that you're going to leave." I never actually said that to my husband, but it turned out he really needed to understand that I was really, really holding firm on the idea that we needed a kid, that we didn't have forever, that now was the time to do this. He spent a couple of months thinking about it. And then he just...said okay, let's do this. Our kid is 15, and he's a great dad.

So I'm suggesting you make it clear to him that this is important to you right now, that the long waiting period is over, and see what happens.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:54 AM on September 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

I disagree with all the DTMFA comments here (yes, despite the username). Having kids is a huge life decision and as a few others have pointed out, it's pretty hard to predict whether you will feel ready to do so at any future point in time. It's unlikely that your partner lied or tried to deliberately mislead you on this. That being said, I completely understand your disappointment and frustration with the situation. This is something that's important to you and that you have been waiting to achieve. My suggestion would be to have more conversations about this over the next while (6 months, year?). Make it very clear that this is something very important to you and that you want to do it soon and give him a bit of time to keep processing the issue. It might also help to point out that feeling ready and wanting kids are usually two different things. Lots of people don't feel ready to have kids, but want them, and this generally turns out just fine as suggested above. If he has decided he doesn't want kids, this is the time to decide what is most important to you. Best of luck OP!
posted by DTMFA at 7:11 AM on September 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

I want to advocate a mix of the strategies advocated above. That is, I think every who says leave him is right that the options within your control at this point are either "leave him" or "consciously reconcile yourself to very plausibly never having children." But I also think couples therapy is probably very useful for processing the end of the relationship, or for figuring out if it's possible to keep it going, and as Blahlala said above, it's perfectly possible that if he both understands that this is a relationship-ending decision for you, and he has some time to process it in a venue where he doesn't feel bullied or given an unfair ultimatum, he might change his mind.

So... in terms of steps in order, what I'd do first is spend a couple of weeks figuring out if staying with him is worth plausibly never having children. And if it is, tell him you'll wait until he's ready, but with the clear understanding that he might never be. If it's not -- if the possibility of having children is worth more to you than the relationship with him, tell him that that's where your feelings are, and sound him out about going to therapy to either figure out if either you has more flexibility than you realize, or to end the relationship kindly to each other. And in therapy, you'll figure out what you do.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:40 AM on September 5, 2018

Having kids is just not on his radar

in fact he's with a woman in her 30s who discussed it with him years ago; having kids has been on his radar since he was 24. not sure where you got the idea the opposite was true.

It is also not true that being a man and being younger gives him any more time to make up his mind. that only applies to single men. the thing about being partnered to just one other person is that when you're talking about joint projects that require both people's cooperation, any limitation on one is a limitation on both. a man who is committed to one individual woman has adopted whatever limits her fertility may have, for himself. their collective reproductive window ends as soon as her does (or as soon as his does, if his closes first.)

unless, of course, he cheats on her or decides the commitment wasn't real. do think about that, OP. Not wanting to have a child in this timeframe means not wanting to have a child with you. he's told you that, there's nothing to wait for or guess about. he chose his reproductive values over his romantic values and you would be wise to do the same.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:52 AM on September 5, 2018 [39 favorites]

First thing is, it's not going to be some disaster if you wait until you're 33 or 35 to start having children. I think MeFites generally have a bee in their bonnets about declining fertility rates, so there's always a lot of "Panic! Freeze your eggs! DTMFA!" going on in threads like this one. In fact, although it's easier to conceive before 30, the vast majority of women up to age 39 get pregnant within the first year of trying to conceive. And while I realize this is anecdata, I'll tell you that I personally know at least a dozen women who married in their early to mid-30s and had their first kid at 36 or 37). I know of another five I can think of right offhand who had kids when they were in their 40s; one of those was 45 and not even trying to get pregnant. And I know precisely two people in my cohort (college-educated professionals living in NYC) who had a baby before age 30; everyone else was at least 30.

So, looking at not only anecdata but also actual statistics, I think all the talk about freezing your eggs at age 31 is waaaay overblown and doesn't serve any purpose except to make you anxious. (I could also go on about how a lot of the media frenzy about how you supposedly will never ever have children if you don't start by age 29 is one of the more egregious examples of systemic misogyny, but that's beyond the scope of your question.)

So I think you should belay the idea of dumping him immediately; you're not going to become infertile in the next year. You two should go to couples therapy to get this sorted out. I've found couples therapy with a competent therapist to be extremely helpful for difficult issues like this one; having an objective person guide you and refine your thinking is invaluable.
posted by holborne at 8:44 AM on September 5, 2018 [15 favorites]

In the first year of dating, we talked about the age difference and what we may have to compromise on, the biggest one being kids. (emphasis mine)

If my partner and I had talked about the age difference and discussed kids early on in our relationship, and I had emphasized that "I always knew I wanted a few children", and some years later, he changes his mind without telling me, I would consider this a breach of our relationship values and trust, as stated above.

I would also be mightily pissed.

The OP clearly indicates that children is a priority for her. Please do not victim-blame her by saying -- maybe she should had "regular conversations", maybe she brought it up too little, maybe she nagged this upon him (I mean... this comment was making some stereotypical assumptions here), maybe she should have approached the topic as gently as the young maiden dances in the court of the Sun King. Jeez.

The OP's partner is not some fragile flower that needs delicate handling. He's a grown man, with the capability to understand that the desire to have children are a important part of humanity's story, and of the OP's own story.

Of course children are a major wrench in anyone's life, hence why the OP gave it three whole years. That's enough time in a human lifespan to dedicate to someone who may or may not be ambivalent about their decision to have a kid.

There is still room to fix this, but you and your partner have to have immediate conversations about children, and more importantly, does he realize that he broke your trust?
posted by moiraine at 8:48 AM on September 5, 2018 [44 favorites]

I really think it’s important to underscore that by saying he’s not ready for kids now, he either

1) Doesn’t really want kids,
2) Assumes that if he wants kids later, he will break up with you, or
3) Literally isn’t bothering to think about any of this because it’s all too scary

None of these options are actually OK. I’m in my late 20s and do not want kids right now! But if I was dating someone older who only had about a five year timeframe to figure it out, my thoughts and priorities would have changed. He is doing a very predictable young man/person thing of being more afraid of co Flickr than the possibility of irrevocably changing your life in a way you think is important. Red flag for communication issues.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

(By labeling them 1, 2, 3 I am coming across too strong; there are other options, like adoption. But I seriously doubt someone who is barely thinking about this has some non traditional strategy to save you both that he just hasn’t communicated yet.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:05 AM on September 5, 2018

I love him so much, but not enough to compromise on not having a family.

So, it sounds like your priorities are clear. That's a good thing; it simplifies matters. The problem is that your partner is either not hearing them or not wanting to hear them. Since you say that otherwise the relationship is great (to me, the way this went down is a significant red flag about its functioning, but not an overwhelming one), I think you should give him one last chance. Six months to make up his mind to it. If he can't, no hard feelings, but your priorities in life just aren't compatible.

(It's true that people here tend to panic about fertility a bit early, but this fellow is clearly already playing an avoidance game. There is little reason to think that he will suddenly come around when she's 37 if he couldn't do it in 3.5 years, as a grown man.)
posted by praemunire at 9:17 AM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I agree with others that he didn't lie to you, but that he made a promise at a much younger age that he really shouldn't have had to make. He is telling you *today* that he isn't ready for kids and you should listen to him.

But more information that you should probably gather, but will be hard if he's already feeling defensive about this:
* What's at the root of his concerns about having children. You said career, but how exactly does that manifest? Is it specific like - "In my industry one is expected to travel for half of the month at the stage of my career. I could not do that and be the father that I want to be. But I know that after this stage of my career, one is at the home office more and I could be a good father under those circumstances." Or maybe he is specifically thinking about money, like "I make X each year and I am paying off my debt and I am saving for a house. I don't want to be a parent until I've paid off that debt." Or is it more abstract? If it is more abstract, you have "the truth" in your corner. LOTS of people are parents. And many parents work and make it work. If you have friends who are working parents (and I guess specifically dads), you gotta hang out with them more and see how they are doing it. It is possible that your SO just doesn't know and that hearing from 4 dude friends "Yeah, it sort of sucked going back to work for the first 2 months cuz I wasn't sleeping, but after that it wasn't a big deal and after work I pick up Oscar at daycare and we have an awesome walk home and I start making dinner." (I'd caution you to try to find some friends who aren't brand new parents and can reflect a bit more.)

* Do you have friends with kids? In my social circles, you guys are a little young to have kids, but in a couple of years it will feel like all of your friends are having kids and it will be more normal for him.

* This may all be a cover for him not wanting to have children *with you* (sorry) because he isn't certain about the relationship overall. But you guys are otherwise comfortable in your relationship and he's too lazy to move on. If this is the case, move on!

On the bright side, dating in your 30s may be a lot easier for you and you may want to focus a bit on men that are a bit older. As far as I understand, people are far more certain and forthcoming about their interest in having children at this stage of life.
posted by k8t at 9:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would just like to counter that he "shouldn't have had to make that promise at an early age." 24 is a perfectly reasonable age to make an agreement. That promise is what was foundational for the OP to continue the relationship - if not, OP would have broken up with him four years ago. He has, thus, gotten four years of relationship out of a promise that he made, but apparently, did not intend to keep - thus, he's already gotten his side of the bargain without providing the OP with hers. This is absolutely entering into a relationship in bad faith. If he realized he didn't want kids at any point after that, it was on him to tell the OP so she could break up with him years ago and not waste childbearing years waiting on him.
posted by corb at 9:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [25 favorites]

I feel like there's some missing information here. How often have you discussed the timeline since that very first agreement? If you've had regular checkpoint discussions, then sure, he's a jerk for holding out this long. If it hasn't been discussed in many months/years, I can totally see why he'd wait until closer to the actual deadline - maybe he himself has been making sure his answer is 'no, I'm not ready yet.'

We agreed that when he was 28 and I was 32, if we were still together and committed, we would start a family. Now, that time is approaching,

What do you mean by approaching? A week, a month, 6 months? Again - if it's a week away I'm more likely to say he's a jerk. If it's several months, then this seems like a reasonable time to be having the difficult, but necessary convo that he's not ready.

I think your hurt and upset stems more from the fundamental fact that we have zero control over making babies happen with the partner we want. It's shitty and it's also probably THE most life-changing decision and therefore one that, unfortunately, anyone has the right to decide to do or not do up until the last minute. There have been many posts of this nature over the years and under them all I see the same current of fear that for people who want to be parents, the greatest fear is knowing that you are, in the end, helpless as to whether your partner will agree to give you this thing. Fundamentally, it is a toothless 'promise'. Promises depend on being more important to honor than to break, and it's actually far worse to honor the promise and have children you don't want than to break it.

With all that said: the advice I've given before on q's of this type is, picture yourself in ten years with a child but no partner, or a partner but no child. Which would you choose? I think most of us know. And if it's a child, then yes, you have to start dramatically re-envisioning your life to possibly include single parenthood, because the thing you want, no one else is guaranteed to give it to you.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of empathy for this question and wanted to share my similar story....When I was in my late 20s, I broke up with someone in part over the kids/no kids issue. He came back and said he changed his mind, now he wanted kids with me, he promised, and we got back together. Well, a few years later when I was in my early thirties, at the time we had discussed having kids, and I brought it up, lo and behold, he was back to no kids, actually he wanted to go in a completely different direction in life. I was furious, and felt betrayed and lied to, and let me tell you, our mutual friends did not look kindly on him. So I have a lot of sympathy for you, OP, and without all the details, I agree this is a kind of betrayal. If he's been feeling this way "for awhile" as you said he said, then yeah, he screwed up and should've come to you. (I do have some sympathy for him not wanting to rock the boat but it feels pretty immature and jerky to me. 27 is not a baby.)

Less than a year after we broke up, I met my now-husband. We discussed openly, on our third date, that we both wanted kids (he brought it up!). Several years later we have two kids we adore. I'm so happy I ended things with my ex, and now have kids with someone who always wanted them. I'm so much happier with my husband than I was with the ex, and he is such a better dad than my ex would have been (he has not, to my knowledge, had kids, but we're not in touch; his life went where he wanted it to, and mine did as well - I think we are both better off.). So - yes - I would say, you should break up and find someone else. Don't be where you are now in three years, at 35 and looking to find someone to start a family. It's possible he'll change his mind, but don't let yourself be hostage to his indecision. I mean, yes, have some conversations, don't go home and dump him today, but - the longterm joy of having kids, or at least knowing you tried, will ultimately be much better than your grief if you stay with him and he never wants kids, or the short-term pain of a break up. You're pretty clear on that.

sorry, OP - this is a shitty situation to be in. It really hurts and I think a lot of the above answers aren't particularly cognizant of that.
posted by john_snow at 10:18 AM on September 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

He knew the entire time you were dating that having children by a certain age is important to you. He knows that women's fertility window is brief and that yours is rapidly closing. He knew the entire time you were dating that he still did not want to have children. Instead of having enough care and love for you to tell you that ASAP, he selfishly hung around enjoying the benefits of being in a relationship with you when he had no intention of fulfilling your very clear and specific and natural and time-sensitive needs. If you hadn't asked him about it, he'd probably still he coasting along letting you believe that babies with him are in your near future when they aren't. It's one thing for him to be ambivalent about children at 24. To still be ambivalent at 27 and not tell his partner who wants babies is a cruel waste of her time.

This behaviour is deeply selfish and deceptive, but if he is happy and comfortable in the relationship as is, he is unlikely to have any impetus to change.

You need to walk away from this guy and find someone who wants babies while you have time, or accept that you're likely not going to have them and stay with him.
posted by windykites at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Nowhere in the question is it specified or even implied that the partner "knew the entire time he didn't want to have children."
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

Lying by omission is still lying. He knows how much this means to you. He's known for years. He hid his continued extreme ambivalence and desire to delay because he knew that it would likely disrupt the relationship with you that he wants to continue. That's not fair or respectful. He's chewing up your fertile time and not being forthright about where he stands because he wants the rest of your relationship to continue as it's going.

Don't have a child with someone who is ambivalent about having children and don't stay with a man who hides how he's really feeling about things that are very, very important to you because it'll help him keep what he wants.

If you really want to be a parent, break up with him and find someone who wants what you want and is also forthright and honest about where he stands on important, shared wants and goals.

I've seen many women friends stay in relationships for too long as their fertility wanes because they keep waiting for the promised time when their partners, who know how important motherhood is to them, will finally be ready. Spoiler: their partners don't get ready in time.
posted by quince at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

The fact that his feelings started to change at some point and he didn't keep you in the loop all along is water under the bridge. People's feelings change, and people avoid talking about their changing feelings because it's uncomfortable or awkward or it may have negative repercussions...that's a thing that happens. But the fact that he's not doing all the heavy lifting now to help you as a couple figure out where the issue lies and where y'all go from here is, IMHO, the prime reason why you shouldn't stick around waiting for him to be ready.
posted by drlith at 11:09 AM on September 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

It sounds to me as if your boyfriend picked an arbitrary age of 'parent-readiness' just to placate you. Maybe 28 sounded far enough in the future for him to feel safe picking it, maybe he legitimately thought 28 would look a whole lot different that 24 and seriously thought he would be on the same page as you by then?

In my experience, as a 36 year old woman, 28 is not that different that 24, and 32 is not that different from 28.

I think, if he isn't ready now, he won't magically be ready in 5 years. That's just my opinion based on nothing but a few random words written on the internet by a stranger.

The truth is, at this stage, you have 2 choices and 2 choices only.

1 - You stay with him and HOPE he comes around... wasting your precious fertile years on a man whose intentions you can't be sure of.

2 - You leave the man you love for the hope of finding someone else who wants kids with you immediately, risking the chance that you don't find someone better than your current boyfriend.

Neither choice is risk free, neither is an easy option. What if, in 3 years he turns around and says he isn't ready for kids again? What then?

What does your gut say?
posted by JenThePro at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2018

I was in your situation and it sucked really badly. For various reasons, I waited and waited, and then we had a hard time and he was not always supportive through the efforts. As it turns out, we now have a beautiful daughter and an ok marriage. However, nothing happened until I showed I was not willing to compromise and was willing to end it. From time to time I regret that I didn't push earlier and harder for a resolution and some of that still affects our marriage and my feelings about him today. It also basically closed our options for a second biological child.

That said, don't believe anyone who tells you that you should never ever have a child with an ambivalent partner. Plenty of people do, plenty of those parents turn around to be warm and loving parents, some folks are just uncertain when they have to make the choice.

My direct advice is to tell him you're willing to wait 6 months for him to warm up to the idea and if you're not starting the project in March, you're dismantling the relationship. If he already knows right now that he won't be there in 6 months, start dismantling the relationship now.
posted by vunder at 12:03 PM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry, my dear - this is such a hard one. Maybe someone already said this, but the hard part is that you are not going to get more clarifying information about when he would be ready (if ever). You have all the information you are going to have, and the outlook is uncertain.

I disagree that at 27, if he's not ready for kids, he's not ready WITH YOU. 27 is still, where I am at least, very, very young. At 34 and 36, my husband and I are the first to have kids in our friends group (granted, we live in SF where most people never have kids, but I literally know only 2-3 people who had kids in their 20s. The world has changed.) He may well be ready with you in five years, but there is no way to know that now.

You are going to have to get clear about your own timeline, and make decisions. The good news is, fertility decline is not as precipitously steep as I was led to believe (at 38, you'd most likely still be fine). The bad news is, if you do stay five years and he's still not up for it, the chance of finding a partner to do it with while you're still pretty fertile does drop. You know all this, I'm sure. This is sad and hard. I'm very sorry.
posted by namesarehard at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am the type of person who would have pushed this and ended up breaking up.

Which is great, because I have let a couple guys go that didn't want the same thing (they don't always admit it!) and at 32 /33 I got serious and only dated men who were interested in starting a family soonish and met the right man who wanted to have children WITH ME and we just went for it and I am 37 now and been married for 4 years, became a mother at 34 and now with 2 cute kids (who take SOOOOOO much work). It's super super tough but sometimes you have to keep your eye on the prize and not compromise- and OMG I am so happy I didn't have children with anyone else.

You're at a great age to get serious and meet the right guy! I'd let go of this one. You aren't the first person to get serious with someone and end up diverging paths.

Slightly a little bit older guys are best to date in this situation BTW... they are also feeling the pressure of age and are usually established in their careers and ready to share this with someone. No more 20's or early 30's guys.
posted by catspajammies at 12:11 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I ve been there. I did not want kids at 30.

I would say that this kind of decision, the decision to start a family, is bigger than either of you alone, and together. It involves your family and friends, it takes a village.

I think the default would be to begin to look elsewhere for someone who wants to start a family with you. There are so many other factors to work out once you' ve agreed on s too big a deal to be out of alignment on.
posted by eustatic at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2018

I can understand why you feel that your trust in him was damaged, but from what you shared here I can't agree that he acted deceptively or in bad faith. He made a projection of how he would feel in the future—that he would feel ready to start a family at such-and-such an age—based on his best understanding of himself at the time. Now that such-and-such age has arrived, he finds that he doesn't feel as he expected to... and the thing is, there's nothing wrong with that. We all grow and change in our feelings and self-knowledge over time, that's part of life experience. I also don't think he acted especially badly by not initiating a conversation about this with you sooner on his own. It sound like he started out not ready and remained not ready, and that's harder to notice in oneself than a clear shift in feeling either towards "Yes, family now!" or "No, no kids ever".

You did the right thing by asking him directly yourself, and he was honest with you about how he feels at this point. The question for you, now, is what do you do with what you learned? The one thing you know for sure is that you have a strong desire to start a family now and he doesn't, and that you are under time pressure while he is not. You can't force him to feel ready for kids on any particular time-table. Maybe he doesn't feel ready for another 10 years, maybe he never gets there at all. Since this relationship has a lot of good qualities and you both feel invested in it, some sessions of couple's counseling specifically to explore the issue of children and family could be beneficial. I'd give that 6 months at the most, and you should be prepared to move on at the end. You deserve a partner who shares this fundamental life goal with you and is both willing and able to pursue it soon.
posted by 4rtemis at 1:11 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've read the above comments with interest, and am just wondering about the lack of information in the OPs post about other commitments. It's difficult to gauge the solidity and commitment of the boyfriend because there isn't much context. Have you talked about marriage? Or are you both opposed to it? Do you own property together? Connected your financial lives? In other words, has he taken concrete and emotional steps to join his life with yours and it's only in the having-children area that he's not in sync? If your lives are in a parallel-lane mode, perhaps he is reluctant to cede his independence and commit to your relationship in ways that would indicate a natural progression to committed coupledom. If all the other aspects of your relationship show a joy in commitment to you and a future together, and it's just the area of having children together, I'd be a little more hopeful that time, and a come-to-Jesus talk about children would help him come to a heartfelt conclusion. He may be so fearful of hurting you, knowing how central this issue is to you, that he was dreading the "I'm not sure" conversation you prompted.

Many others have said they had children later than 34. I'm one of them. Age 36 and 38 with no fertility trouble. I had never wanted children with any man, and never expected to have them, until I met my husband. So try to look at the entire picture with your boyfriend, not just the baby issue. It might be that you have just not met the right man yet.
posted by citygirl at 1:25 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'll be fair: literally everyone on the planet will tell you that you are guaranteed to want children the older you get. He was probably going on what everyone else tells you on that score and is surprised now that that hasn't changed for him as the universe promised.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

Another vote for asking for more info: is it that he feels he needs to meet a certain goal before having kids, like owning a house or being at a certain career level? If it's that and you're willing to wait for that goal to be met, great.

If it's just that he doesn't feel ready, that's much tougher since he may or may not ever feel ready, and the timeline is completely nebulous to you and probably to him too. If that's the case, I guess it depends how much time you're willing to stick around to wait and see...but you may not have the same relationship at that point. If you're constantly asking him about it, or even if you're not but he knows you're waiting around and constantly wondering about it, the pressure may destroy the good relationship you've got. I went through something similar around the issue of marriage.

I hate to say it but I would probably vote break up now. The breakup may force him to do some soul-searching and he may come back and say he will have a baby with you. Or he might come back a year from now and say that. Or it might never happen but you might meet someone else who is fully ready to have a baby. There's really no way of knowing what might happen.
posted by sunflower16 at 3:30 PM on September 5, 2018

I don't think he lied to you and bringing up such a thing that probably isn't even regularly on mind and knowing it will destroy an otherwise happy relationship is hard. Plus, getting down to trying to have a child can turn into a nightmare of its own between fertility issues and a million other risks. It's also kind something you feel as you go. Not to mention, family planning isn't for everyone. I may or may not have a kid someday but I cannot ever imagine myself sitting down and coming up with a plan about it, it'll just be an issue of not buying plan b or not getting an abortion and going from there.

"Do you really want to have a child with a man who is at best indifferent to the idea?"

Billions of people are born to parents who are not only indifferent to the idea, but simply did not intend to make a child at all. Millions of them are fucked up, sure, but millions more are everyday people who are doing just fine. Unwilling parents can still turn out to be fantastic mothers and fathers.

While it sucks to end any good relationship for things that aren't the relationship going bad, having a child is more important than just a happy relationship for you. Hey may or may not change his mind on that matter as he ages but is that a risk you want to take, if child having is so important? I also have to think that being in a relationship with someone you know is kind of just patiently waiting for you to be "ready" would just encourage the opposite and make the prospect less desirable one way or the other.

While I don't share your assessment of his actions, it doesn't matter, if that's how it appears to you, then that is how you will feel and act about it. In some ways, perhaps your feelings in that matter are your body preparing itself to leave. It seems like a good relationship otherwise, which makes it harder to leave, which means you'll have to do extra mental work to make leaving feel acceptable.

I would suspect you have already made a choice in this matter, even if you are not yet conscious of it. The odds this dude will do a 180 at X point in the future and want to bang out some babies are worse than the odds of him just realizing over time there's other things he wants to do with life than life-making.

Leaving to find a new mate is also quite a trip, especially if you're launching into the endeavor with that express purpose. How long should you be with someone before knowing if they're appropriate co-parenting mates or when to cut short the joy of a relationship to replace it with the stress and tension of a new child? I'm also assuming you want a nuclear family unit, not just a baby.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:34 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, also:
I was the one to bring up the topic, and I am really upset that he didn't talk to me sooner even though he said he has been feeling this way for a while.

I imagine he was probably hoping he'd change his mind. I would try not to judge him too harshly for this.
posted by sunflower16 at 3:36 PM on September 5, 2018

Don't frame this in judge or not judge - betrayed or not betrayed - it's useless in the grand scheme. Women are encouraged to not leave a "good man" unless there is a "reason." There doesn't have to be a reason! But the reason can also be that you know you want to be pregnant in 3-5 years and you think you have a better chance at that alone or with a new partner. I also support a couple months of solo and couple's counseling to make sure you are both communicating effectively if you think that would help clear the smoke so you can see the embers.

Just, please, don't wait the 5 years and THEN work out he never wanted kids (at all or with you) and he thought if he kicked the can down the road enough it'd stop being a topic.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

The good news is, fertility decline is not as precipitously steep as I was led to believe (at 38, you'd most likely still be fine).

Do not take the word of some random internet commenter on this. Go to a fertility specialist and actually look at the graph. You cannot unsee the graph. Here's one version. Note that according to this one, about 35% of women are fully sterile by 38 and almost all are subfertile -- but seriously go see a proper one at the doctor's office because this one is sketchy...note that it maxes out before 100).

However, no fertility specialist is going to make an appointment just so you can look at a graph, so while you're there, don't just find out about average fertility decline with age, check your own. THere is a blood test and an ultrasound test that can estimate one aspect of your fertility and how long it will last. i.e. the doc will say "based on these results, you have X more years of possible fertility (i.e. not necessarily easy to get pregnant but could still happen especially with treatment) and probably about Y years before menopause (Did you know menopause and the end of fertility are not the same? fertility stops before menopause).

This kind of info can help you make a decision. Though be aware, the tests tell you only when you will likely stop ovulating. The big issue with fertility and age isn't stopping ovulation, it's egg quality. Egg quality declines with age and there's no test for egg quality.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:40 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm the person you don't want to become, OP. I am 45 and childless and regretful. Don't be me.

In my case it wasn't due to the change of heart of a mate, it was spending too much time in my 20's and 30's pouring endless love and effort into men who didn't deserve me--time and energy I could have been spending finding someone who was worthy of me.

I didn't meet the man I actually wanted to have children with and who wanted to have children with me until I was 36, almost 37 (he was 44). Long story short, we tried, I had 3 miscarriages, and I ran out of time. Neither of us wanted to adopt. We didn't have the money for medical intervention. The End.

I regret it deeply. I can't even tell you. It is so, so painful.

Your guy may not, strictly speaking, be a full-fledged lying creepazoid, but what he will do to you if given the chance is destroy your ability to have the family you want. Don't let him do that. This isn't something to play around with. He has shown he doesn't take it seriously, doesn't respect your built-in biological timeline. You have to respect it. Respect yourself and your needs and move on immediately. Don't give him an ultimatum or another timeline. You don't want to bring children into the world with someone who isn't really on board.

I hear alarm bells when I read some of the casual assertions in this thread that you don't need to worry about your fertility and you have plenty of time. Not necessarily so. None of us are guaranteed fertility just because we are under N years old, in the first place. And if you wait N more years for this dude only to have him decide no kids ever, then you need more years to find another mate, and you may find yourself 40 and infertile in what seems like the blink of an eye.

This is the type of question people post and then often don't actually act on the advice they get. They want a certain answer and I fear you secretly want to be told that it's ok, you can stay with him and he will change his mind again and have kids with you. Do you really want to bet your fulfillment on that?

At the bare minimum, have a REAL come to jesus conversation with him about how important this is for you and how you don't have endless time to wait around. If he doesn't react well to that conversation, please please cut him loose.
posted by nirblegee at 12:43 AM on September 6, 2018 [20 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I might get the fertility test people are talking about (an antral follicle ultrasound) which will give you a better sense of your own personal timeframe.

But no matter what the antral follicle test said, I'd probably break up with this guy. Waiting longer for him to change his mind sounds like a recipe for unhappiness. It sounds like you guys care for each other and have had good years together, but like someone was saying upthread, sometimes paths have to diverge. Sorry.
posted by hungrytiger at 12:44 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

My ex wife and I faced a similar situation and were of similar ages and and age gap. We got together when I was 22 and she 26. Somewhere after the first year, she said something along the lines of "I love you more than anything and I want to grow old with you, but I really, really want children. If you're not up for starting a family at some point before, or by the time I'm 32, I will have to very reluctantly leave you."

I thought about it and, despite feeling terrified at the thought of becoming a parent, I agreed. My ex got pregnant at 31 and we had a daughter who is now 29 and is a remarkable young woman who has a positive impact on many lives, including my own.

I'm in two minds about your partner's failure to bring up his change of heart. If he is a generally thoughtful and detail oriented person then it's highly inconsiderate of him at best. If he's an absent minded sort, especially a doer rather than a thinker, then it may not be so bad.

Nonetheless he has, unwittingly or otherwise, messed you around when it was an in principle agreement and now the stakes are higher. If you are going to give it another year or so, it seems only prudent that you should be more prescriptive about it this time - either he makes a firm commitment now, or you're gone.

It's not your choice that biology works like it does and it's not in any way unreasonable for you to assert what you want and ask that he either commit or let you move on. As much as I can imagine your dread at having to do this - it's very big stuff and you've obviously invested a lot in the relationship - his response* will tell you what you need to know.

* Given the magnitude of the decision and his starting place, I wouldn't expect to him to just agree to starting a family, even if that ends up being his decision. It might take a few conversations and maybe some couples counselling.
posted by mewsic at 1:26 AM on September 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

What I haven't seen here yet: A lot of people don't realize how much time it actually takes not to have one child, but several. You said you'd like to have a few kids, so I'll assume you'll want three. Let's do a very rough calculation:

Kid 1:
6 months trying to get pregnant (average)
9 months pregnancy
12 months time to recover before new pregnancy (doctor's advice)
Kid 2:
6 months trying to get pregnant (average)
9 months pregnancy
12 months time to recover before new pregnancy (doctor's advice)
Kid 3:
6 months trying to get pregnant (average)
9 months pregnancy

That's 69 months, nearly 6 years, from right now to the birth of your third child, if all goes well and you face no infertility issues, no miscarriages beyond the first few weeks, and with the minimum recommended spacing between kids.

My husband always wanted 2-3 kids, but even when we were about your age, he thought we still had plenty time, until I made that calculation for him. It really opened his eyes.

I think this is something you might want to bring up with your boyfriend; he might actually think that even you have plenty of time. But I wouldn't spend another year waiting for him. If he doesn't know in 3-6 months, he won't suddenly change his mind in a year.
posted by eierschnee at 4:00 AM on September 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

For the folks suggesting the OP get fertility tests to get an idea of her future fertility: when I went for fertility testing, the doctor told me that the tests could only tell me my fertility AT THAT MOMENT. There's no telling what sort of fertility decline you will experience in the future. The doctor was very clear that tests that predict future fertility do not exist - the decline in fertility is not necessarily linear. Sure, maybe this doctor was wrong, but I doubt it - I am skeptical that there are tests that can predict future fertility as people are suggesting.
posted by sunflower16 at 4:02 AM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The blood test I was talking about that supposedly (I was told) can give you an idea how much longer you will go on ovulating regularly is "Anti-Mullerian Hormone" test. It is only one aspect of fertility, as I said. And egg quality is not measured and it is the more important factor with fertility and aging. However, I'll leave the name of the test here so OP can do her own research/ask her doc her own questions and then decide what role, if any, it might play in her decision.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:25 AM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Leaving aside the debate over how inconsiderate it was of him to have changed his mind without communicating it to you - not clear why the thread is discussing this since it wasn't your question, but I guess AskMe is in a chatty mood today.

Your question was whether you should go.

When I was my late 20s I started dating someone in her mid 30s, six years older than me. She was clear that she wanted children in the next few years, and I said that I did in three-four years. To be honest, while that was true when I said it - it was only true because three-four years seemed like a very far away time. I knew I did want children, and that seemed like a reasonable time to have them but it wasn't a well thought through decision.

Around two years in, with the three year mark coming up and the four year mark not far away I was a lot less sure that this was the right time for me. We had some very difficult discussions about what to do, I came very close to leaving because I was not sufficiently sure that I would change my mind in time and I wanted to give her enough time to find someone else.

In the end, we decided to stay together, I spent a lot of very difficult introspective time really thinking about what I wanted, why I felt unready, what it would take for me to be ready.

A propitious nine months after that conversation, I had changed my mind.
Eleven months after that conversation, we bought a house together.
Twelve months after that conversation, we got engaged.
Eighteen months after that conversation, we got married.

Here's the thing: When I said that I would be ready in three-four years I hadn't really thought about it, two years on I still hadn't thought about it in a serious way. I'd not sat down and really put the work into thinking through the financial, social, etc. implications and how we would deal with them, what it would feel like to have a child. So it's no surprise that I didn't magically get more ready, time by itself does nothing!

In a few months of serious introspection, I changed my mind more than I had in years of drifting along leading up to that.

Is your boyfriend ready to do that? If he's willing to commit to thinking - *really* thinking, not just waiting and hoping - about it, then I think you should give him a few months, not necessarily with a hard deadline or an ultimatum but with a clear expectation to keep talking and to be serious about it. If he's not and just wants an open ended deadline to postpone having to make a decision, then you're going to have to end it.

TL;DR - If he wants some time to make a decision, stay. If he wants time to postpone a decision, flee.
posted by atrazine at 4:41 AM on September 6, 2018 [18 favorites]

I’ve never been in this situation so take what I say with a huge grain of salt.

I’ve always found it strange when people say “I’ll be ready for marriage/kids/whatever by age x.” (Unlike you, who knows you want kids. It’s great to have that clarity!) Like, how do you know that? How do you know that things won’t change by then or you won’t feel differently by then? (Some commenters have alluded to this.) I feel that people need to know what they want and then work towards that. At the outset, it seems like he was open to having kids by a certain age, but if that was something that he really wanted, then he needed to think about working towards that like, where should we live, should we buy a place, how much money should we make, do we have a good relationship, is marriage necessary for this, etc. etc. So in the meantime he hasn’t been really thinking about it, maybe it’s just a thought in the back of his head, maybe he thinks you weren’t totally serious, maybe he was ambivalent and seeing if he’d come around to the idea… and now you know he hasn’t.

You’ve been very clear with yourself and him that you want kids. You want them and you know this definitively. I feel like this is a decision that people need to come to on their own and it’s almost harder to do that when you’re with someone who knows for sure they want kids. Because: pressure. You being clear with him is great, so he knows where you’re at. But, then he’s in the position to get on the same page as you and by virtue of that maybe… he just doesn’t want to. Because feeling that pressure can create resentment.

I think a few more conversations are warranted like, does he want kids? As in, is this something that he’s thought about himself before he met you or during your relationship? And then the next question is, does he want them with you? If yes, then you both start doing the things you need to support you being pregnant and having a kid. So the question is not when will he be ready to have kids, the question you have to ask him, does he want to have kids with someone, does he see himself as a dad at some point, is this something that he wants? If he’s still “I dunno” about this, I’d say give him a few months to figure out what he needs to know this for sure. (E.g. maybe he needs to talk to other new dads, hang out with babies, etc.) At the end of that, if he says, “Yes! I want kids with you!” (instead of figuring out what he needs) your next question should be, “Why?” This is to make sure this is something that HE wants, and that he’s not saying this to please you because it’s what you want, and that he’s willing to do this to stay in a relationship with you. You want the outcome to be that you are co-leads on this parenting adventure; this isn’t something that you’ve decided and he’s ok with going along with it, you know?

It’s possible that you may just have to let him go so that he can figure out what he wants for himself.
posted by foxjacket at 10:21 AM on September 6, 2018

I haven't read all the answers, but I'm going to tell you my story in case it's at all helpful. I met my future husband when I was 27 and he was 32, so not quite the same issue with ages. But he thought he was going to be a bachelor forever, and after we had been dating about 9 months (and were already pretty deeply in love), he sat me down and said, "I need you to know that I don't ever want to get married, and I don't ever want to have kids."

He knew both were important to me, and it was devastating to hear it laid out like that. I hadn't ever been in love before, and when I met him I thought I was heading towards spinsterhood (ahh, youth) but even so, I knew I couldn't stay with him. So I said we had to break up. There was no way I was going to stay with someone who didn't want kids. No way. This was not an empty threat. He knew that.

And he changed his mind. He decided he'd rather have me with marriage and kids in our future than the idealized version of bachelorhood he'd envisioned. So we got married a few years later, and now, a dozen years on, have three kids he adores (okay, he didn't want three, he just wanted one, but no one plans for triplets...)

I'm not saying anything except things could work out. I'm not advocating being manipulative. I was not being manipulative. I was being 100% honest. It would have broken my heart and his but I would have left him over the kids thing. But boy, I'm glad I didn't have to. I guess we were lucky in that we resolved it relatively early on in our relationship. I'm sorry you're going through this. :(
posted by pyjammy at 12:20 PM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do not take the word of some random internet commenter on this.

Sure, but don't take a random internet commenter's hysteria about this either:

"In Dunson’s study of modern women, the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points"

Much of the 'data' thrown around about fertility is from the 70s, and things have changed, both in terms of research methods and women's health.

(certainly, have your own fertility checked by a doctor either way)
posted by namesarehard at 12:53 PM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't think "hysteria" is an appropriate way to talk about women's concerns about their fertility.
posted by windykites at 8:44 PM on September 6, 2018 [19 favorites]

If you want a family more than you want to be with him without a family, you should absolutely make your move to leave now. He has not made any indication that he wants kids in the future as he seems very blasé about it all. Your answer is not to freeze your eggs as some people are suggesting. Has anyone here frozen their eggs with success? There are news stories out that detail the unreliability of freezing your eggs for numerous reasons. I was with someone for nearly ten years and over those years there was once excuse over another as to why he wasn't ready for kids despite the fact that he did want kids, just never at that time, always later. Our bodies cannot guarantee "later."
posted by jj's.mama at 9:56 PM on September 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've been going back and forth on whether to post this, because it doesn't feel like good advice at all. But numerous people in this thread, both men & women, have shared happy-ending stories with the male partner having had little or no interest in being a father until it was very clear that the relationship would end otherwise.

I would normally think that wouldn't be a great basis to start a family on ("he's only staying with me because I threatened to leave, not because he wants kids!") but honestly looking at the stories here and in my own life (my dad absolutely did not want kids - then he met and started dating my mom, who definitely did. He wanted to stay with my mom. 34 years later he is, I believe, extremely happy with his decision to do so).

atrazine's comment above really seemed to ring true:

In the end, we decided to stay together, I spent a lot of very difficult introspective time really thinking about what I wanted, why I felt unready, what it would take for me to be ready.

A propitious nine months after that conversation, I had changed my mind.
Eleven months after that conversation, we bought a house together.
Twelve months after that conversation, we got engaged.
Eighteen months after that conversation, we got married.

Here's the thing: When I said that I would be ready in three-four years I hadn't really thought about it, two years on I still hadn't thought about it in a serious way. I'd not sat down and really put the work into thinking through the financial, social, etc. implications and how we would deal with them, what it would feel like to have a child. So it's no surprise that I didn't magically get more ready, time by itself does nothing!

In a few months of serious introspection, I changed my mind more than I had in years of drifting along leading up to that.

posted by amicamentis at 6:31 AM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

But numerous people in this thread, both men & women, have shared happy-ending stories with the male partner having had little or no interest in being a father until it was very clear that the relationship would end otherwise.

I think this is because frankly, it is less work and effort for the man to give in than if it was a man who wanted the kids and the woman who wasn't sure/didn't really wanna. The man just plain isn't going to have to do at least some (and most likely, most of) the work of childbirthing, breastfeeding, everything else. It's easier to get a guy to give in unless he's really adamant about not wanting any.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:55 PM on September 15, 2018

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