I don’t want to be an aging hipster
October 12, 2020 10:41 PM   Subscribe

I never wanted to wait until my mid/late 30s to get married and have kids, but... that’s what is happening to me. Help me feel better about it?

My boyfriend and I have been together since college, over 10 years now. He’s always known I wanted to get married in my late 20s, and start having kids around 30. He was squeamish about rushing things, which was sad to me but we were in poor financial straits until about a year ago, so on some level I understood. He wanted to pay off his debts, buy a ring, have a decent wedding. I never thought he was delaying because he didn’t care about me, we just both came from “rough” backgrounds and I saw his point of view— he wanted to be set up nicely for the next stage of life and do things the romantic way. OK.

However... I turned 31 this year. We’re not married. We had a series of very emotional conversations last weekend, where I realized that I was fine waiting a little longer than I wanted... but now, because of COVID, I will either be having some kind of Zoom wedding or no wedding at all, or waiting much longer than I ever wanted to get married. We won’t have a honeymoon. Optimistically, if we got married in... a year? Started trying for kids in 2? I will be 33. And I don’t even have any confidence that the world will be “back to normal” by then. I’m very depressed by the thought of being pregnant and giving birth across the country from my family of origin, without being able to easily visit them on a regular basis. I always wanted to move closer to home before having a baby and I just don’t see that happening any time soon, because we are finally on the upswing financially and moving now would mean he was starting back from square one. (My job is more flexible...)

I feel completely hopeless and depressed about all this, to the point where I have a hard time seeing the meaning in doing anything at all. I’ve never questioned that he did want to marry and have kids with me, but I’m starting to basically feel like maybe I was stupid to buy all his excuses years ago when I had a chance of finding someone who really wanted the same thing as me. Normally I don’t think our relationship is bad, I’m just starting to feel very betrayed and bitter about what I’ve described here. Despite talking about it all weekend, I feel even worse because I see how squeamish he STILL is about all of this. I keep thinking I’m an idiot who should have just found an older partner to begin with, since men notoriously don’t want to settle down.

I know these are extreme thoughts. I’ve just thought we were “on the same page” and he would propose to me... for four years now? And there’s been this pattern in our relationship where he’s always waiting for “the right time” to make big life decisions, and that time never comes, and I get antsy and irritated and end up pushing him to do the thing in a rush, and I feel miserable about it. I feel like I really lied to myself for years and got played. I’m really tired of this dynamic, where I say I feel like it’s the right time, and he says he agrees with me, and I wait patiently for way too long, until I boil over in confusion and anger and “ruin” everything.

I was always fine getting married much earlier without any ring, without any fancy wedding. To me, the important thing was the commitment. Not only that, I have never been 100% sure I wanted kids. He always was. My stipulation was that I didn’t want to have kids in my late 30s. And now I feel like I was tricked and that was the plan all along. The trade off was always “wait a little longer, and we’ll do things the ‘right’ way.” And now because of COVID, I waited, and there will be no payoff.

I just feel so miserable about all this. I’ve been out of school for 3 years now, paying off debts and saving and preparing for... what? A life I never really wanted. I also feel desperate because... I don’t feel I really have any alternative. I don’t want to date during a pandemic. I might as well just sit here crossing my fingers that he’s telling the truth in some way, because what are my odds of having any of these things I want if I left? I realize this is very cold but I truly feel like my options all make me feel dead inside.

This is a lot of ranting and I apologize but I just can’t get these thoughts out of my head. I realize this is probably unusual, but I don’t know anyone who has waited this long to have kids, except... my boss. I see why professional women might wait, for career reasons, but... I don’t have any career reasons! I’m just sitting here trying to find “hobbies” and reading novels and these are all very nice things I’m sure I’d miss if I had a newborn but I have no feeling of forward momentum in my life, no feeling of deeper meaning or rootedness. And I think, “if I were engaged right now, I would feel less scared about this.” And then I realize what I’m asking for is a very perfunctory, unromantic engagement after years and years of waiting with the promise of some kind of grand gesture (that I never wanted! but it was the justification for waiting so long!!) totally dashed.

I know this all sounds stupid and insane. Maybe the pandemic is breaking my brain. I feel my life is totally stale, and I’ve felt that way for at least a couple years now, and COVID is just making it worse. I keep thinking, “what if something happens to one of my parents, like they catch COVID and it goes bad, and they won’t be there on my wedding day? For absolutely no reason at all?” and it really breaks my heart. It’s one thing if you don’t meet the right person, it’s another if you supposedly do and they run out the clock and everything feels like shit.

I would love to hear positive stories about people who waited until roughly my age or longer to get married or have children, but they never really make me feel better, because there’s usually a good reason—like not meeting the right person until late in life, or a very demanding career, or wild party lifestyle, or something. I feel like I have the worst of all worlds. Sitting around dying of boredom and still waiting for a guy to one day decide he actually wants to commit to me, after volunteering for a 10 year trial period. It just makes me feel awful. If you can kick me in the head, verbally, and help me think of what I should do, it would be much appreciated.

(I do have a therapist. I’ve discussed it with her, and when I described how bad I feel about it all she was basically like, “... well, what is he waiting for?” Which is exactly how I feel.)
posted by stoneandstar to Human Relations (47 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I’m just sitting here crying over it all once again and realizing how bitter and sad this all seems and I feel like I should at least ask once specific question— if your situation does resemble mine in some way, how did you either make peace with it or decide what to do?

I’m also starting to realize he obviously has some kind of commitment anxiety, which i rationalized in the past for all the reasons above... but it really hurts to realize I spent so much time on someone who doesn’t really feel comfortable with intimacy. I feel I’ve wasted my life.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:42 PM on October 12, 2020

Best answer: I mean. On the one hand, probably a solid 90% of this is the pandemic breaking your brain. Almost nobody feels like they have any good options or reasons for continuing on, right now. Everyone's life IS stale, and all the options DO make us feel dead inside. Everything feels like shit, all the time, every day. So I promise, even if you had gotten married at 26 and had 2 babies by 31, you'd still feel mostly like this.

Also wtf is the matter with your therapist? Sheesh. She's a therapist, not someone you met up with for martinis and venting. The way your brain seems to be locked into this one possible thing as the only route to any happiness and whoops it's already gone forever and even if your partner married you tomorrow NOPE STILL RUINED ALL RUINED FOREVER also kinda sounds like a standard-issue major depressive episode. You deserve better mental health care than that.

On the other hand, one thing about hitting rock bottom -- where, again, we basically all are right now -- is that it really clarifies the things that are easy to drown out in normal day-to-day routine life. And one of the things it's clarifying for you is that your relationship is pretty over. The most positive thing you say about your boyfriend is that you "don't normally think your relationship is bad." You've been with this person for 10 years. You're currently surviving a pandemic with them! And this is the only thing you can say in their defense.

I only know two people who had kids before the age of ~36. And yes, a couple of folks have confided in me that they regretted not starting earlier. But nobody has ever said "boy I sure wish I had had these kids at 31 with that jerkface I resented who wouldn't marry me!"

I don’t want to date during a pandemic. I might as well just sit here crossing my fingers that he’s telling the truth in some way, because what are my odds of having any of these things I want if I left?

What are the odds if you stay? It's 50/50 no matter what.

Now, I'm an aging hipster on purpose, so my situation isn't quite like yours. But I did make the choice, at the start of the pandemic, to end my 10+ year relationship. And I am not going to pretend that it's gone well or that I'm happy now. Or even that I know I did the right thing. But I decided I was staying mostly because of sunk costs and I couldn't let the sunk costs drown me.

Everyone's life gets fucked, hugely, at one point or another. Nobody gets to live out their 80 or whatever years on this earth doing precisely what they want when they want it in exactly the way they want it. Maybe this is just the way in which your life gets fucked -- your timeline for kids, it just doesn't pan out the way you dreamed it when you were in college. Making peace with the ways in which our lives are fucked is just the project of humanity.

However I will say that you seem to think you'd be more accepting of this if you "hadn't met the right person in time." Well, news flash: you have not. You met the wrong person VERY young and are just now starting to think about finding the right one.

Life, fortunately or unfortunately, is long as hell. It goes on for-fucking-ever and is mostly trash. But it also means that you don't really know what is going to happen and a lot of the choices we make that seem permanent, aren't that permanent.

good luck and better therapists be with you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:35 PM on October 12, 2020 [94 favorites]

Best answer: You sound utterly miserable. I divorced from my (wonderful human) husband last year and I was far less miserable. This is unsustainable and you have to realise that.

You have serious conflicts between what you say you would be happy with and what you want. You would be fine being married without the ceremony but fall apart at the idea of your relatives by being at your wedding. You say you want answers but when you get them you don't accept them as answers. You have an image of what things should be like and you have desires and you have your situation and none of them match and I don't think you're actually honest with yourself about any of them either.

I got married at 25. Had my baby at 28. Divorced at 38. I had a good run with my ex, we are amicable and he is coming over for dinner with me and our kid tonight in fact. We just weren't suited anymore. And that's okay. Yes I am a 38 year old butch woman with severe introversion and PTSD and quite frankly the concept of dating ever again is pretty awful. But I also have my amazing flat that I live in on my own, I'm making do with my job, have a great kid, wonderful friends, and none of this was anything I ever imagined for my future.

Have you ever actually spent significant time alone? Not making yourself into a contorted version of whatever your partner wants? Learned to be alone and be with others as who you are? Worked out what you want and why?

Possibly weirdly dissonant, but I recommend Marie Kondo. What sparks joy? Your therapists question was kind of shitty but it's the sort of thing mine would say in order for me to actually THINK about it. Because can you actually articulate what he is waiting for? Can he? If there is no actual outline of what he is waiting for then nothing you do actually changes the situation. and you can't change who he is or his actions, only your own, and he is showing you that your priorities don't matter. With words and actions. And you can only choose how you will respond.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:12 AM on October 13, 2020 [28 favorites]

Best answer: Oh I am so sorry you are going through this right now. It is hard anytime, but in the middle of the pandemic, even harder. Also, the pandemic makes it too easy to second-guess your decisions. But you know what, I remember your previous questions about this same relationship, and you have felt this way for a long time, and you have "best answered" a lot of answers telling you to break up with him so you can work on your unhealthy patterns and then find a healthier relationship. Please know I am not trying to make you feel bad here--just pointing it out because sometimes it is hard to see patterns in our own behaviour.

Listen, I spent way too long with a guy who was noncommittal like your boyfriend. I broke it off finally because I was just DONE. I realized he was never going to commit properly to me and I did not want that for myself. Yes, it was sad, and he was not a bad person, but we were not well matched. He ended up getting together with someone and marrying them very shortly after he broke up with me. He wanted to get married...just not to me. And you know what? Although it stung at the time, holy shit am I ever glad we did NOT get married and have kids, because I know exactly what would have happened: he would never have been any more committed to me, really, and we would have both been stuck in an unhappy relationship, possibly with kids, making divorce more difficult and complicated.

These situations do not get better. I have literally never, ever met a successful lasting relationship where one person was lukewarm about commitment and dragged their feet about getting married etc., for years and years. I mean, I've met people where the one who wanted to get married was eventually successful in dragging the other person into marriage and sometimes kids, but it never lasts and never works out well.

I really think you should break up with this guy, pandemic or no pandemic. It will be hard and sad, but it is already hard and sad for you, and you are stuck and stagnating in a relationship that is going nowhere, with a partner who is content to tread water with you while you are unfulfilled. He knows how you feel and he cannot bring himself to commit to marriage and kids. There is always an excuse. If he really felt about you how he should feel about you, he would not be pulling out one reason after the other as to why you should put off marriage and kids.

I know it doesn't seem like it, but you are young. You have time to find someone else OR if that doesn't work out and you want a child, to go it on your own. Single parenthood is hard, but from the people I know, it is easier than trying to parent with a partner who doesn't pull their weight.

Good luck. I really do feel for you because I know it is not easy, but I have zero regrets about having pulled the plug on the relationship I was in that was like yours. I didn't even realize how much of a drain on me it had been until it was over. I felt unloved and unlovable, and that is a terrible way to feel. Being single afterwards was hard, but it was a hell of a lot better than feeling lonely inside a relationship.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:13 AM on October 13, 2020 [29 favorites]

Perhaps it is ultimatum time. "We marry now, or I am gone." If that pushes him to commitment, and you still want him, fine. Get married. Court House or wherever. Then when (if) things return to a semblance of normal have a renewal of your vows ceremony with you in the fanciest dress available. If you happen to have a couple of children by that time, dress them up and include them in the following reception. You would not be the first to make this sort of arrangement.
The misery of women who waited until their eggs were not viable is heart breaking.
posted by Cranberry at 12:29 AM on October 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I’m so sorry, you sound so miserable and it all sounds really hard. I think you’d agree with my sentiment that you’re dealing with a lot of issues that were at play for a while now but the fucked up world situation is putting a lens on everything and magnifying things and you don’t have a way to turn your eyes from it. I know, hitting 30 is setting off some alarms for you so this is a wake up call for sure. Don’t ignore your feelings, they sound totally valid and understandable.

I wanted to address the idea of not having a “payoff” for your patience. This is a common thing I’ve seen from my girl friends and it’s an illusion. Marriage (and kids) are not the jackpot fulfilment you are hoping will erase years of putting your needs on the back burner. It is not a payoff. If anything, marriage ended two of my friend’s relationships because once they were married they realise “huh, this is the same relationship, and it was not worth all those years waiting for.” One of them was in a relationship for 10 years, she basically issued an ultimatum, they had a dream wedding in San Diego.... divorced in 6 months.

Fast forward a year, she meets and dates another guy, fast forward a few more years she has a baby with him, has fertility issues with a second but with his support they now have two kids.

I wanted to share this story to highlight a couple of things. First to again, pull away this illusion of some payoff coming your way after marriage and kids. Judge your relationship based on what it is now. Secondly, to give you hope that a more fulfilling relationship is possible - current circumstances and all! Thirdly, you never know what life is going to hand you. Marriage and kids is not at all a guarantee of happiness. You want to choose a partner who you can trust to support each other through the inevitable challenges life will throw at you. Is this the guy?
posted by like_neon at 1:58 AM on October 13, 2020 [57 favorites]

I read one of your past questions about how this guy completely ignored you after you experienced a workplace shooting. The first answer was a comment saying he was selfish and inconsiderate and you should run. I found myself nodding in agreeance...only to finish the comment and realise that the poster was me, three years ago and I was agreeing with myself.

Anyway, it turns out I am remarkably consistent with my viewpoint. This guy hasn’t changed in three years. He’s still inconsiderate, he still doesn’t care about you and you’re still putting up with it. If you’d left him three years ago, you could have potentially met someone else and had a child by now. What will things look like in another three years? He won’t change, so you have to. Don’t spend your life with him wondering what if. You’re miserable. The only question is, how much longer would you like to be miserable for?
posted by Jubey at 2:44 AM on October 13, 2020 [64 favorites]

Best answer: would love to hear positive stories about people who waited until roughly my age or longer to get married or have children, but they never really make me feel better, because there’s usually a good reason—like not meeting the right person until late in life, 

Not to be obtuse but it sounds like that IS your reason. The right person is the one who says "Hell YES, having kids with you is a wonderful idea!" Sounds like this guy is not in that place now or, most likely, ever. You can wait for him to stop dragging his feet or you can find the right guy (or a way to get kids without involving a guy). Either way, it means baby making will have to wait a while.

Anyway, I got my children at 36 and 38. Mostly because I was dragging my feet about undergoing infertility treatments and whether I want to have babies with this man in particular.

Now, I'm a bit annoyed about having delayed it so long, but it's been great regardless. I could have had this much sooner! There's no real downside to baby at 36 compared to baby at 30. There are upsides, like financial stability and having done a lot of travelling already, so less FOMO.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:38 AM on October 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

Ok listen this is a lot but as a mid30s mom lemme just say you need to get YOUR OWN (metaphorical) house IN ORDER before you have kids.

Like, pop culture and Life teach you that marriage and kids are video game badges to "attain" but my experiences day that they are huge fuckin challenges you can choose to take on if you are ready.

You don't sound like like a really want those challenges, especially with this person.

You sound like you could use a week by yourself in a nice hotel with friends bringing you luxe baked goods.
posted by athirstforsalt at 3:57 AM on October 13, 2020 [22 favorites]

I was in a similar situation and I broke up with the guy. I met my now husband like 2 weeks later (not dating, just by chance).

I realized something about my relationship with my ex in hindsight that maybe applies to you. While I felt my ex was non-committal, I was also non-committal, but in subtle self sabbotaging ways, probably because I knew the relationship wasn't going to work out, but he was a nice guy, funny, a good friend so it was hard to put a finger on why we were so unhappy as a couple.
An example of how I was being non-committal was that we would have conversations regarding marriage to which his response would be "yea, sure let's do it" and I would read that as hand-wavy to get me to shut up and be like "ok, but what kind of wedding should we have? Should we get engagement rings?" and putting all kinds of roadblocks (in the form of thinking i needed some kind of traditional weddingish shit for it all to be real and legit) in the way of just doing the thing.

So that relationship ended when I was 27, I met my now husband, got engaged at 30, had first kid at 32 and second just last year at 34 and we got married like 2 weeks ago at a clerks office. When commitment is really there on both sides things just work. Even if you do want a traditional wedding, with real commitment, its not a huge chore to negotiate the options with your fiance.

As an aside, I really don't understand why people would put of getting married because of Corona. Why not do the paper marriage now and hold a wedding party when able? We are in unprecedented times. It's ok.
posted by WeekendJen at 4:01 AM on October 13, 2020 [13 favorites]

I don’t want to date during a pandemic. I might as well just sit here crossing my fingers that he’s telling the truth in some way, because what are my odds of having any of these things I want if I left?

I’m sorry but the odds of you getting any of the things you want if you stay seem really small because you’re not getting them now. I left my marriage after 20+ years and I should have left earlier. We don’t get guarantees in life but I can tell you that the wedding you want or the children you want are not going to give you your dream life. Somehow you have to figure out how to be satisfied with yourself and your life whether or not you get the wedding and whether or not you get the children.

If you are lucky, you will get those things as well and they will make your life even better. But right now you seem to be trapped in waiting for someone who genuinely cannot be there for you in the way you want. Leaving this guy does not mean you will find someone who can be there for you but staying with him guarantees that you will not find someone who can be there for you. I am rooting for you but I don’t think you’ve wasted your time waiting to have children, I think you’ve wasted your time staying with this guy because breaking up is incredibly painful—and I say this from experience.

It can also be an amazing growth opportunity. I made myself smaller and smaller in an effort to hang onto my marriage and ultimately that was unsustainable. In my case, at least, I could only become my truest self by leaving my marriage. Your path may be different. Perhaps you can make this work. But based on your questions, I don’t see how that is possible. That doesn’t make you a victim; that doesn’t make him a bad guy. Sometimes relationships just don’t work and the best thing to do is acknowledge that and act accordingly so you can build a better life. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:03 AM on October 13, 2020 [14 favorites]

Reading through this and your previous questions and, god, it sounds like if this guy got hit by a bus tomorrow and died your first feeling would be relief. And that feeling would be justified. Please leave him and start making a new life of your own without this dead weight attached to it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:26 AM on October 13, 2020 [17 favorites]

I think you need to expand your horizons a bit.

We had our second kid when my wife was 39, first at 37. My mom had my youngest sister at 38. We are not the 'old parents' at elementary school either -having kids later is completely normal and has been for a long time. The oldest parents I know had their second kid at 45.

Doesn't mean what you want is wrong, just that it is not the only path.

Also, you seem to contradict yourself: "Not sure you wanted kids, but you wanted to start having them at 30? "
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:24 AM on October 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As a happily-married 45-year-old hetero cismale dad, I've been alt-tabbing back to this post all day because I keep thinking about it, and how you deserve better. And I just read through that old post where you listed some of this guy's, uh, downsides. And I was like, "no, you really, objectively deserve better."

I don't want to presume to tell someone when to feel young or not, especially with the kids issue. I do remember being 30 and thinking I was running out of time. But 30 seems so young to me now that if I were to wake up one morning, and notice that it said 2005 on the calendar -- my 30 -- it would be like being given a massive redo of my adult life. It would be like one of those movies where the main character steps out of the time machine (or wakes up from visiting the Ghost of Christmas Future, or visiting a version of Bedford Falls where they were never born, etc.) and is like, "there's still a chance to change everything!" Like yeah the terrorists are still about to shoot Doc, but there's still a fighting chance. And I don't want to make light of the pain of the breakup of a long-term relationship, but...

From the vantage point of being an imaginary time-traveler to your 30th year, all these possibilities open up, timelines that were closed off when you got into the phone booth in the dark future timeline and dialed in our pandemic year 2020.

Possibilities like: What if not only do you have kids someday, but the kids get to have two good people as parents? People who respect each other 100% and their dad is honest, and kind and isn't in the other room listening to podcasts on their AirBuds because he thinks it will make them "the smart one" in the relationship, (ugh that detail gave me the creeps)?

What if you could find someone where instead of one partner craving alone time, you both can never spend enough time with each other, and never get tired of each other? Wouldn't that be worth trying to find?
posted by johngoren at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2020 [25 favorites]

Best answer: It makes sense that you only want to have kids if you're having them young enough to have the energy for it. You've got a bit of margin.

But what also makes sense to me, is that you ruuuuuun. I thought you were engaged at least, after all those conversations etc. 10 years, despite what you have clearly articulated and he says he wants? Escape the trap.
posted by Elysum at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Also, you seem to contradict yourself: "Not sure you wanted kids, but you wanted to start having them at 30? "

This is probably why.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:42 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think you should kick him to the curb because based on the previous question with all the detail about the big fun work parties he was coming home from all boisterous, he's just too irritating. That thing he has where he tells women what they want to hear like they're slot machines? Very familiar! And intolerable. And he's been that way for years with no sign of improvement. It's the ditch for him.

With luck you will meet somebody not-so-irritating in time to reproduce. That will be entirely about luck. Not, like, your biological worthiness. It will not be you Doing What You Were Meant To do. It will be luck. In this way, people really are like slot machines. Do you get progeny? Time and luck will tell. Will it be a good thing if you do? Time and luck will tell. You might have a kid and then experience spectacular woe as a result.

You can't know the future, so you just have to do the best you can in the present. Step one: kick everybody out. Kick the bad match out of your life and kick your mom--and anybody else who might be stomping around up there yammering away about what you're supposed to want and what you're supposed to do--out of your head. Find out what you want. Then try to get it. If you don't end up getting it, it will not be your fault. It will be the luck of the draw. Find out the next thing that you want and try to get that. Spend your life trying to do things that will make you happy. If you don't end up happy, it won't be for lack of trying and it won't be your fault, so you will at least be able sleep peacefully.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:03 AM on October 13, 2020 [14 favorites]

My mom didn't get married til after 35 and she had my brother at 37 and me at 39. This was in the 80s...reproductive endocrinology is significantly more advanced now than it was then. She had no complications with either pregnancy, but she also is the kind of person who was really committed to healthy lifestyle choices (and still is). Don't feel like you're running out of time! You can totally have kids in your late 30s or even early 40s. There are women who become moms at 45 now.

That being said, my mom & dad got divorced when I was about 11 because my dad was pretty uninterested in parenting, or doing anything with his kids, and pretty commitment averse in life in general. He also had some mental health stuff going on and should have gotten treatment for that but in practical terms my mom was doing everything for everybody all by herself. life got easier for us when he moved out.

This guy is stringing you along, has been for a while, and you should dump him so you can meet someone who wants the same things you do and on the same kind of timeline. He seems commitment phobic but he also enjoys having you around/having someone to split bills with and have sex with, so he's not going to be honest with you that he doesn't really want to get married. If he really wanted to get married, you would have done it by now. You can have a fancy party or renewal ceremony anytime in the future. The actual legal marriage part is quick and easy and if he really wanted to do it I feel like he would have done it. The ring seems like an excuse too...can't afford a nice one now? Just get a cheap band and upgrade to something fancy later.

Dump him! Be single for a bit so you can figure out what you want and then be really discerning when you're dating about finding that person who has those goals in common. There are men out there who want to settle down and start families, be dads, and are looking for a partner who is going to be a great mom and wants to start a family, and you can meet one of them!!! but only if you're single and know what you want first.
posted by zdravo at 8:17 AM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Someone close to me married a guy like yours. Nice dude, but extremely passive, noncommittal, and insecure, with a bizarre family dynamic. He had to be forced into marriage, and then again into having kids. His wife regrets marrying him and is extremely unhappy.

He has to be directed to do everything; he will not initiate or follow through on or plan anything that doesn't fall into his range of personal interests. He's been in the same low-paying job for over a decade and has been promising to look for something better for years. In 10 years he's sent out one resume, and that was after his wife lost her temper and forced him to do it. He seems to have no interest in helping his family obtain a better life now or in the future. Everything they have is due to his wife's hard work and ambition. After 15 years of marriage, he still puts his family of origin above his wife and kids, to the point that he refuses to watch the kids when they're at his family gatherings. (Of course he doesn't refuse verbally, he just won't do it and then the kids end up in dangerous situations.) He's extremely passive aggressive, demonstrated by constant lying, avoidance, and "forgetting" to do things.

His wife thought that he would change when they got married, and again when they had their first child. And of course he didn't change, because you can't make people change. Men like this say whatever is required of them and then go back to their old behaviour. They don't want to have to put up with any discomfort, even if it's for their kids. It's like they're teenagers doing the bare minimum and fibbing so they don't make mom mad. I think you, and your future children, deserve better.
posted by Stoof at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2020 [33 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like this guy has a pattern of letting you down, saying he's going to do things and then not doing them, and blaming other people for putting pressure on him or otherwise "making" him act in certain ways. This may just barely be manageable for you now, but if you have kids with him it's going to be awful. People have kids all the time with partners who are marginally suitable, just because they want to have kids, and it works out to whatever degree, but imagine co-parenting with someone who's acting the way he does now.
posted by BibiRose at 8:33 AM on October 13, 2020 [10 favorites]

Until the early 20th century, lots of women used to have babies in their 40s -- not usually their first babies, but like Baby #12 or #13. One ancestress did so when her eldest kid was in his 20s; honestly, we don't know if she stopped because she hit menopause or because her husband dropped dead. And I definitely grew up with people who had aunts and uncles younger than they were. It's really only with the rise of reliable birth control and sterilization that people started "completing" their families in their 20s and 30s. Single parenthood? Lots of widows did it. It wasn't ideal, but they did it.

Don't despair over getting pregnant. Dump this uninspiring dude, consult a doctor about your own personal fertility, get your shit in order for parenthood (single or otherwise), and start thinking about what you want to do / not do dating wise.
posted by Hypatia at 8:36 AM on October 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

Please for real dump this dude, like, TODAY. He will never care about you the way that you want and need. Run, don't walk.
posted by caitcadieux at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

You know the aphorism, "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second best time is today"?

That aphorism also applies to leaving your boyfriend. Of course it would have been better to have left him years ago, when you first realized that you weren't in love...but the second best time to leave is now. You don't gain anything by waiting even more.

The reason you haven't run down to the courthouse and gotten married, the reason you haven't gone off birth control and started having babies, is that that's not what you want with him. And that's not what he wants with you. And that's probably smart, because this relationship is lukewarm at best and it probably wouldn't survive the crucible of parenting or maybe even wedding planning.

You only feel old because your life has gone stale, you've been stuck in the same rut for basically your whole adulthood. But you're not actually old, time has not actually passed you by. You have a good shot at falling in love, marrying, and having kids...but with someone else. And only if you leave.

Find it in your heart to have an adventure. I know it's scary but rotting away is scary, too.
posted by rue72 at 8:58 AM on October 13, 2020 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Please don't have a baby with this guy. If having children is your actual top priority, get your shit in order so you can have them yourself on your own terms and take care of them without the very sketchy variable of Some Dude who isn't going to grow up just because he fertilized an egg. Start building up the rest of the support system you're going to need - family, community, friends, finances/career. IF you meet someone along the way who actively wants to co-parent EVEN if you break up or are never really together in that way, awesome.

This message is coming to you from middle-age, watching a stunning percentage of my friends now managing the fallout of hitching their lives to nice(ish) but otherwise completely unhelpful, unmotivated men.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:02 AM on October 13, 2020 [27 favorites]

What is your 100%? If you could just voice what it is that you well and truly want, what is that? I bet it's the marriage and the family which includes an enthusiastic, helpful and loving partner. You are seeing a therapist but have you two done couples counseling? If you think this relationship is still THE ONE then you sound like you really need a 3rd party to help you both cut through the bullshit and figure out whether the two of you have a future. If you guys can't make it to a few sessions with a therapist then I agree that you probably should move on.

I had my first and only kid just before turning 35. My kid is nearly 10 and while 35 felt sooooooo old when I was that age, it's really not. I have friends who are having babies in their 40s. I don't even understand this "aging hipster" nonsense. Aging is a fact of life. You're doing it right now. Life is short. Figure out what your 100% is. It's okay if you ultimately have to compromise here or there but don't start with the compromise. Don't ask for what you think you can get - ask for everything. When compromise presents itself, challenge it and ask yourself why you must. Be brave enough to say it out loud to yourself and to your partner.
posted by amanda at 9:10 AM on October 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My mom had me at 31, ten years into her marriage (I am their only child). Their marriage was a trainwreck of poor communication and commitment issues. They limped along for another 15 years in mutual misery before divorcing. I'm still paying for therapy about how that went down.

Dont be my mom. Dont have kids with someone who isnt fully into your relationship. Please, for the sake of your future kids.
posted by ananci at 9:14 AM on October 13, 2020 [12 favorites]

You only feel old because your life has gone stale, you've been stuck in the same rut for basically your whole adulthood. But you're not actually old, time has not actually passed you by. You have a good shot at falling in love, marrying, and having kids...but with someone else. And only if you leave.

Haha, I actually popped in because this question was still on my mind, to say exactly this. Lord, my life today in my 40s and my life at 31 are only similar-looking because I've come full circle in a strange way. SO MUCH has happened since I thought things were basically done and dusted for me at 31.

I'll be honest: ending up forever with your college partner is super, super rare for a reason. And that reason is that people in their early 20s, even really smart people, generally make really bad decisions. The problem is that when you're a smart person in your early 20s, you make the kind of bad decisions that look good on paper, and they're harder to spot, and they take a longer time to come to a crisis point.

So forgive yourself, you did as well as you could, nobody could blame you for thinking this would work. But it doesn't! And now you're a real-ass full-fledged thoughtful and introspective grownup and you have the power to make the decision you couldn't possibly have made 10+ years ago.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:28 AM on October 13, 2020 [17 favorites]

The question isn't what is he waiting for, it's what are you waiting for?

You can't depend on someone else for your self-actualization. An engagement and marriage won't root you, children won't root you. It might feel like it temporarily, but ultimately, you're still you. And the unanchored parts of yourself will still be floating free. You've spent 10 years waiting for this guy to ... what? Validate that you're a person worthy of this life you want? You can validate that for yourself, and you can do that on your own.

As for stories about people older than 30 who have children--that is beside the point, but the only people I know who had kids 30 or younger are from my shithole small town that I fled as soon as possible and I do not envy their lives AT ALL. Otherwise, I have lots of friends who 1) happily don't have kids, 2) are in their mid to very late 30 and don't but are still planning on it despite most the world thinking it's okay to comment on that choice all the fucking time, 3) are having kids from 30s to 40s, some with help, some without.

There's no fairytale happy ending for any of these people, life is still hard, they still live with their decisions. But I would step back from the "aging hipster" trope you have going on. It's offensive and cruel, and you have absolutely no idea why and how people end up where they end up in life. Your time is better spent thinking about the choices you are and, more importantly, are not making when it comes to your own life.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 10:46 AM on October 13, 2020 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Everyone has given you fantastic answers, and I agree with the consensus here; this relationship does not sound like it adds anything positive to your life, and does not sound like a healthy environment in which to raise a child.

But what I really wanted to touch on was the final part of your comment; that you feel as if you have wasted your life. I got divorced out of a 7 yr marriage/10 year relationship when I was just about your age. And as it turns out, I have lived the best, most interesting, most fulfilling part of my life in the years that have passed. When I was still married I also worried about my wasted life; now that I am not, I mostly think about all the rad stuff that is still going to happen to me and how it will be cool to see if unfold.

So don't dwell on the years behind you. Think about the years to come, and know that there is so much out there for you beyond a relationship that drains.
posted by nancynickerson at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2020 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I’m just sitting here trying to find “hobbies” and reading novels and these are all very nice things I’m sure I’d miss if I had a newborn but I have no feeling of forward momentum in my life, no feeling of deeper meaning or rootedness. And I think, “if I were engaged right now, I would feel less scared about this.”

I remember feeling this way while dating, and then I remember getting engaged and feeling way more scared about whether it was the right thing, whether I was too far down the road with someone who showed some red flags, but my family has already spent this money to have the wedding, and and and.

Then I remember feeling still more scared after I was married: the red flags aren't going away, I'm unhappy and trying to numb out my feelings more days than not, I am unavailable for interesting opportunity x y or z to fall in love (for real, love) or travel (because my husband could never travel or accompany me to things, for whatever reason) or intriguing work projects (because why bother, I'll be stuck here anyway, and if I earn more I'll have to pay for more of my husband's stuff). My status had changed to the thing I thought I desired, but my world had grown very small. And I was eaten up with resentment and sadness.

Now I'm in my later 30s, getting a divorce, and I feel so free and happy I could shout it from the rooftops. Seeing what "forward momentum" (as defined by marriage & kids) looks like from the inside, I don't think I actually want it. I think a more meandering, take-it-as-it-comes life is preferable, because it doesn't have all the "shoulds" attached that I assumed were mandatory. They're not mandatory! You don't have to do anything! And you can make your own path, and it doesn't have to look like anybody else's path. I know you probably hear that all the time, but it's true.

And if 2020 has taught me anything remotely positive, it's that literally anything can happen. Don't get into despair about dating during a pandemic or anything else. You just don't know what good stuff might be in your future--and, in my biased opinion, you would do well to make yourself available for those opportunities.
posted by knotty knots at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2020 [17 favorites]

I recently was the listening ear as my friend ended a ten year relationship. She was waiting for the engagement that never came. He finally had the guts to say he didn't actually want to have kids, a massive deal breaker for her, but after 10 years she still loved him. As the relationship unraveled, it turned out he hasn't loved her for years but kept going because he was comfortable.

She kinda was waiting for him to end things but he didn't, she ended up having to leave him.

Do you live with this man? If so, you should make an effort to move out or kick him out, because as soon as my friend was out she had the clarity to realise it was over.

(She has since met a super nice guy and is seeing how things go with him.)
posted by freethefeet at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

In an Ask you posted back in early 2018, someone asked you why DTMFA is "beside the point" for you. And you said, at the time:

DTMFA is beside the point because I’m already thinking it, I just wanted some help reflecting on my part in how it got to DTMFA.
It's been two and a half years at least since you started thinking about dumping this guy. What are you waiting for?

This pandemic is such a great time to DTMFA. This way, you can start your healing and self care and fully get over this guy during these months when dating other people is kinda impossible anyway. It's so efficient! You're going to be kicking yourself for letting this opportunity slip away if you wait until things are normal, when you will feel like "OMG, so many potential mates flooding the dating pool after the pandemic! If only I was ready to date right now..."
posted by MiraK at 12:19 PM on October 13, 2020 [24 favorites]

most of his friends outside of our shared life are normie and mostly women, so I think he’s used to feeling superior
I'm so sorry to come back here just to scream "omg this guy!" but, OP, OH MY GOD THIS GUY!!!!!!! I just can't get over this sentence. I can't. The sheer misogyny and toxicity contained in this one sentence is taking my breath away. I had managed to just SMH at all the other stuff like he lies to you constantly, flakes on plans habitually, responds to you being shot at with a shrug, doesn't care about you when you're sick, is poisonously competitive with you, is sexist towards you, has strung you along for ten years, etc. etc. etc. But not this.
posted by MiraK at 12:54 PM on October 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: The relationship question has been handled here, but I want to address this:

I see why professional women might wait, for career reasons, but... I don’t have any career reasons!

Apologies for going back into your post history, but having done so, I'm confused as to why you don't put yourself in this group, given that you do actually have a professional career. People with professional careers have kids later as a group, but it's not just because they're focused on their career, or too busy to have kids, or whatever. There are a lot of interconnected economic, social, and cultural reasons for this, many of which I assume have had some bearing on your life.

You seem to be upset that you have no good reason for not having had kids by now, but you don't actually need a good reason! You don't need something else to point to, or a justification. It's just so normal for professionals who live in big cities not to have kids before age 30. And I know so many women who were in similar positions to you, who ended relationships in their late twenties or early thirties and wound up having kids in their thirties and it's been great! None of them wish they'd had kids in their twenties with the guys they broke up with.
posted by lunasol at 1:12 PM on October 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: A good friend of mine was DESPERATE to be married and have kids. For years she hinted, begged, and eventually just straight up proposed to her longtime boyfriend herself. He kept moving out the wedding date because Now Wasn't a Good Time. He wanted to pay down debt, save up money for a wedding, save up money for a house. They were engaged for over three years before they finally got married, when she was 30. She had to do all the planning work, but she got the wedding she wanted. There were gigantic red flags waving all over but she wanted, needed to have that milestone checked off her to-do list.

That was almost six years ago. She's been DESPERATE for a baby since then, but he keeps creating new side quests. Just like the wedding, "now" or "soon" is not the right time. They need to pay down debt. He needs to find a job. SHE needs to find a better job. They really ought to move one city over to be closer to her job. They need to save up for this theoretical larger house. HIS dad didn't have a child until he was 39 so therefore this guy wants to wait until he turns 39 (fortunately he's older than her, but still). They ought to have a newer car. Hmm, maybe grad school? It just goes on and on, as he kicks the can and kicks it again. It's all veiled in "taking time to do this the right way," but he's also an anxious, depressed man-child who has never done an ounce of work on himself and is usually unemployed (because, surprise, the job also wasn't The Right Job). My friend has bent herself into a pretzel to accommodate his ideal life, not hers. He's a fucking nightmare and for some reason my friend is content with the few crumbs he's given her - a wedding, and potentially some sperm for a child, maybe, eventually. He'll only agree to one theoretical child even though she's always wanted more.

If she'd just left this guy at the altar six years ago, she could easily be with someone else by now or have organized her life such that she could use a sperm donor and be a single mom. Difficult, sure, but better than where she's at now: chained to a deadbeat at 35 while he idly thinks up yet another reason why Now Isn't a Good Time for a baby.

If you see yourself and your boyfriend in this anecdote, please, get out now. Consider this like your future self leaped out of a time machine and yelled RUN, NOW. Don't be like my friend in five years.

I will add, one thing that seems to have made the "now or never!!!" time pressure worse for my friend, is she's always spent a ton of time on Facebook and Instagram, awash in everyone's wedding photos and maternity and newborn photos and shiny happy family photos at pumpkin patches or whatever. I suspect she'd be a lot happier if she avoided social media. I offer this suggestion to you in case it resonates.
posted by castlebravo at 1:25 PM on October 13, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Due to infertility, I had my surviving kids at 36 and 40. (I started trying seriously at 28.)

They're great, and honestly...I run now so I can keep up with them, I do martial arts because my oldest fell in love with it, I am doing a UX/UI certificate so that with all my weirdass midlife career shifts, I can still support them in the tertiary education of their choice. All of this is amazing and while it's such a cliche to say they keep me young...they keep me young. :)

I think other people can speak to the rest of your choices better than I can but on this one thing -- having your kids later with the right partner - whoever that is - is nothing terrible at all. There are always challenges with kids, and being a little older has a few but...that's all it is.

* PSA: It's actually not that uncommon for women to get lax about birth control as they approach perimenopause and get pregnant. Pre-birth control and legal abortion this was called the caboose child.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:02 PM on October 13, 2020 [10 favorites]

Unromantic engagement
Zoom wedding
No honeymoon
Not near your family

When I read this question that is what it sounds like is getting in the way? I wouldn't say those things don't matter at all but they matter far far less than having kids.

I didn't read any of your previous posts but just based on this post I say just go ahead get married and start having kids already!
posted by halehale at 3:02 PM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, hon. You sound so very, very sad. I wish I could give you a hug.

My situation is not quite analogous but I will share it in case it helps. I married at 26 but only had my children at ages 32 and 36. I'm not exactly a professional powerhouse or anything who was ruthlessly trying to climb the corporate latter before then, that just happens to be when I finally felt readyish. And then I asked for a divorce when my youngest was just a year old, so my life hasn't exactly panned out the way I thought it would either. I'm struck by where you say that your life feels stale and like you have no forward momentum because that's exactly how I felt in my married life in the months leading up to our separation. I didn't feel like I had "wasted" the time with my husband, necessarily, but wow, was it ever painful to contemplate all the young and formative years I'd spent with someone who was so clearly not right for me and who hadn't and wasn't ever going to be able to meet so many of my needs. I mourned the loss of our family life deeply.

But as soon as he moved out, I felt like a hot air balloon that had just released its sandbags. My day-to-day life hadn't changed that much; in fact, everything was probably way harder due to the sharply reduced finances and doing childcare totally solo and learning how to date again and navigating a million other things, but just being free from a relationship that was going nowhere brought all the joy and color back into my life. Out of nowhere I had energy and drive and purpose again. For the first time in my life, I was honest and forthright with myself about what I wanted and boldly went after it.

I strongly suspect the same could be true for you. You still won't have the life you wanted and planned for and it's absolutely going to hurt like hell to close that door behind you for good and you will cry and grieve for quite awhile. I sure did. But I also think you might start to see new possible paths appearing almost immediately. Even in the middle of a pandemic. Hang in there, better days are ahead.
posted by anderjen at 3:20 PM on October 13, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Keeping in mind your previous questions about your relationship, ignore the rest of this comment if you think things have substantially improved to the point that you're happy with the dynamic you two have together. If not...I ended a similar relationship when I was a couple years younger than you (and I'm a few years older than you now). I don't regret ending it, but I do regret:

(1) Not ending the relationship sooner, before it had a chance to have such a negative impact on my life
(2) Winding up in a situation where I didn't feel ready to date in earnest for years afterwards
(3) Missing out on the opportunity to re-wire my expectations of healthy relationships through experience

People don't talk about (2) or (3) a lot because there's a cultural assumption that everyone will just get back out there if they're lonely, but here's the thing: that's really not a given. You do not want a relationship like this to imprint on your expectations, because that'll either lead to you not wanting to bother with dating at all or struggling with hypervigilance in your next relationships.

If the last time you dated was in college, you're probably not fully prepared for how much different (both easier and in some ways more difficult) it is to date actual adult men. Even many ones a few years younger will bring a world of difference! When you've normalized trying to drag someone kicking and screaming towards closing a maturity or commitment gap, it's difficult to recognize how much of a toll that takes on you, your partner, and the relationship as a whole.

I want you to dig deep and consider if what's really freaking you out is that you're in a relationship you don't think you should be in for the long haul. Would you feel stressed out about starting a family if you were with a partner you thought was all-in? Probably yes, but probably not as much. If all that's getting in the way is what halehale is describing, then feel free to ignore this, but...

tl;dr - if you don't want to be an aging hipster and bring some directionality to your personal life, you either need to be single or in a relationship with someone who's on the same page as you.
posted by blerghamot at 3:35 PM on October 13, 2020 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's helpful to remember that sometimes people tend to make their lives seem more exciting than they actually are. And while it's true that people put off having kids to focus on their career or to party, these are aspects of yourself you can exaggerate to avoid being embarrassed by more boring reasons to have kids. Of course, I'm not saying you should do this, but rather, to avoid worrying about the reasons other people at whatever points in their lives.

I agree with everyone else that you haven't found the right person yet. Which, is on your list of acceptable reasons to have kids later.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 3:46 PM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was in a largely opposite situation for many years - serial monogamist with most relationships lasting a couple of years followed by a couple of years of singlehood throughout my twenties. I also had hoped to be married in my late 20s - it didn't happen, and I panicked about it subtly well before I missed that milestone and off and on beyond in for most of my adult life. When I was in a relationship, I fantasized a lot about getting married and the wedding we would have, albeit privately - the timing of it, the details of the ceremony, whether or not we were moving that way, etc etc. However, when I met my current partner, I realized a few months in that I wasn't thinking about it this time. That's when it dawned on me that I was fixating on marriage before because my emotional needs weren't being met, and I had a belief that marriage and commitment were the keys to getting the love and security I desired. Unsurprisingly, that belief was false, because once my needs were met, the wedding stopped mattering.

Now, I'd be happy to go to a courthouse and get it done, not just because it doesn't matter to me like it did, but also because he would not be comfortable at some big wedding, and that matters to me. If we're celebrating our relationship, it needs to reflect us together. All that said...I wonder if you would feel less panicked about marriage if your relationship were adding more to your life already. I suspect it might.
posted by amycup at 3:48 PM on October 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: We got married younger than you, but waited until we were older than you to start having kids—I wanted to have them earlier, but I'm the guy, it's easier for me. I still wish we had started younger, just because I'm not sure we'll get to three or four starting when we did, but it's been totally fine. I love our kid, our kid loves us, we both love being parents.

We also waited too long to get married for nebulous "stability" reasons—that one's probably my fault—and I wish we hadn't. Everyone's mileage may vary. But if you're both theoretically ready for it, I say just do it. We had a fun wedding and a fun engagement story, but it's not like I think about either one more than a couple of times a year now. The point is being married, not getting married.
posted by Polycarp at 4:53 PM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am not necessarily suggesting you do so, but what do you think he'd say if you read him this post? Would he be defensive, sad, surprised? Would he say he knew you felt this way but still wasn't ready? If you don't think he knows all the things you've said in this post... why not?

You allude to it but it's not really clear what was the outcome of your conversations this weekend. Does he still feel not financially ready, emotionally ready, what?

It reads me to like he is non-committal but also that possibly you've been afraid to set concrete goals/expectations, and by that I mean the difference between abstract "I want to get married by 30" versus "I need to feel secure that we WILL get engaged/married by 2021 or else I feel like this relationship isn't going where I need it to go."

I am also curious about the details of your move. Does he know you want to move closer to family before having kids? Did you have a concrete discussion or goals about what that meant before you moved further away? Has he ever said "I know we said that but I really love life out here?" Etc.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:17 PM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I always wanted to move closer to home before having a baby ... on the upswing financially ...My job is more flexible

I think this part of your post gives you a really great outline for moving forward. Get a good paying job closer to your family, and let him stay where he is. By the time you have settled into your new job/home, and gotten over this deadend relationship, covid will be wrapping up, and you (and everyone else!) will be ready to date and find someone new. You have waited, you've been understanding, it's time to take charge of your own life.

I know this all sounds stupid and insane

None of this sounds stupid and insane. You have ample reason to feel upset over this situation. I know it must feel like you've waited so long, and your time is running out, but you have lots of time to make things right. I remember what it felt like being 31, like so much of your life has already passed, but now, at 50, I know just how much exciting stuff was waiting to happen to me in the next 2 decades. You're going to be ok.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:19 PM on October 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Have you seen a fertility specialist to assess your current situation?

Have you looked into freezing your eggs? (I never wanted kids but think all women who might at some point should look into that, because it doesn't keep you dependent on one particular man.)

COVID is a GREAT time to be single ... no one expects you to be out there hustling and you can focus on your move to be closer to your family, and your OWN LIFE.

As a data point, I was my mom's first child at 38, and this was in roughly the 1800's. My younger brother was born when she was 41.

As another data point, DTMFA. He's procrastinating something he doesn't want to do, and you're procrastinating something that you DO want to do.
posted by cyndigo at 7:54 PM on October 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Some version of 'haven't met the right person' is a great reason to not get married and have kids until your 30s.

As others have said, you haven't met the right person.

I spent 5 years in a relationship that sounds exactly the same as yours. I spent my 30th birthday with that guy. I was almost 31 when that relationship imploded and I met my husband very soon afterwards. With my husband I never, ever had to ask for commitment - he shows it to me every day with his actions, and did right from the first day we met. If I had still been with my ex, I'd never have been available for my husband.

I don't think you should issue an ultimatum. I think you should accept what his actions have told you all along, and leave. You might find someone like I did, and you might not, but it either way would probably be preferable to what you have now.
posted by thereader at 5:55 PM on October 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I keep thinking I’m an idiot who should have just found an older partner to begin with, since men notoriously don’t want to settle down.

I realize this is a passing and small part of the larger question, but the choice you didn't make is the real idiot move and you can at least congratulate yourself on escaping it. because a guy who waits until he's old and out of time to pounce on a younger woman who'll have children with him is your boyfriend, just older. that guy is not making you happy now, and he'll make you even less happy if you go looking for the same him in an older and wearier body. the reason picking up older men is a fool's errand is the same reason sticking around hopefully for another ten years, waiting for your boyfriend to get ten years older, is a fool's errand. it's the exact same mistake because it is the same fucking guy with a different birthdate. he doesn't need to be a different age, he needs to be a different type of guy.

or put it this way: if you knew a 20 year old who wanted to have kids one day, would you encourage her to date your actual boyfriend once you're done with him? I mean, if you liked her and wanted the best for her, not if you wanted to see her suffer. because that's what you'd have done to your past self, if you'd found an older partner to begin with. small mercies, but at least you didn't do that.

as to the bigger part of your question, when my mother got to her late thirties she wrote my dad a letter telling him that she was, as he had known for a decade plus, going to have children, and she had delayed it as long as was possible, but now was the time. so, she said, if you are not interested in being the father of these children, you will let me know by close of business today so that I can move on to a man who is. then she left for a few hours to put the fear of god into him, and came back to a flustered marriage proposal.

ultimatums work, one way or the other. but I do not respect my father. he did his very best to run out the clock on my mother, and he almost made it. I have a hard time respecting my mother, knowing that she settled for him and was proud of herself for putting her foot down and getting him. They are both dead and I am still humiliated for her. I believe it did not occur to her that her children might feel this way.

I also know someone who had a child as a single woman of nearly 40, via donor. It made her very happy, even though I don't believe it was her ideal family structure and I know it wasn't her child's. only finances and extended family support made this possible.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:39 PM on October 14, 2020 [11 favorites]

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