I'm 39, and my boyfriend has just told me he won't have a baby with me.
November 16, 2020 12:47 AM   Subscribe

I've been with my 33-year-old boyfriend for just under a year, and I love him and hoped to spend the rest of my life with him. He loves me, too, but my age and the fact I want a family have always hung over the relationship; he has a lot of internal/life stuff to work out and is not ready to have a baby. He had been deciding – and I'd been waiting and hoping for a shift in him, or for him to change his mind – all this time as we've otherwise enjoyed a wonderful relationship. Yesterday, I asked him to confirm the couples' counsellor he had suggested we should see about it, and he told me that he's finally come to a conclusion - he's not going to have a baby with me. He's not going to be ready any time soon. I was prepared for it but I feel utterly gutted. Please help me deal with the pain of this.

Throughout our relationship, my age and desire for a family were a *thing* - he kept himself at an ever so slightly avoidant remove, I feel, because he didn't want to commit that far and then not be able to extricate himself. That was painful and difficult.

However, the plus side of the relationship was *more* than enough for me to stay in it, and far outweighed that. It's probably important to note that due to bad luck and bad decisions on my part over the years, this is the first relationship I've ever been in with someone who actually loved me deeply. I needed that. I dated long and hard and excruciatingly for most of my 30s before finding him. And due to his own stuff, this is the first proper relationship he's been in full stop.

I really need to emphasize, as I know the consensus will be 'dump him now', that we make each other incredibly happy (ok, most of the time. but still, the quality and depth of it feels wonderful to me). I've looked for this my whole life, and I'm almost 40, and I've finally found it with him.

I've been preparing to have a baby alone for ages, whilst hoping he'd come around. I'm already in the process of picking donor sperm and freezing embryos with it so I can start trying next year. Until now that process has felt partly absurd - why would it be necessary when my boyfriend loves me so much and we're so happy together? But he's got a lot of issues - wonderful as he is, he's unreliable and inconsistent (his own words) and not ready to try for a baby anytime in the next two years.

The thing is, he's not breaking up with me. He's said he won't stick around while I try to get pregnant with a donor next spring/summer (he's told me this) but right now he doesn't seem to be able to actually break up with me. I've asked him countless times and he can't do it. He said he could only think as far as telling me he's not ready to have a baby and he doesn't know what to do now. Please don't tell me to break up with him – I've waited my whole life for this relationship and I saw a future with him. When you're nearly 40 and you've never felt that with anyone else, or never had love with anyone else full stop, it's extremely hard to let that go.

There's also a COVID-19 lockdown where I live and he's my support bubble - he lives a 5-minute walk away. We both live alone, winter is setting in and we will be desperately lonely without each other.

I'm also aware that it might still take me a year or longer to get pregnant, whilst the man I love and want a future with is right there - literally on my route to the shops – and he loves me, too. He said that a future without me in it is unthinkably sad and he'd probably go insane, and I feel the same way.

I would appreciate any advice about what to do now beyond DTMFA, which won't really be helpful, I'm afraid. Thank you so much!
posted by Ella_Bella to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Just to clarify - he DOES want children! He's always indicated this is very strongly the case. But I suspect now that he likely won't be ready for another three or four years - by which point I'll have missed the boat if I stay with him.
posted by Ella_Bella at 12:49 AM on November 16

This is so hard, I know how you feel. Keep the couples counsellor appointment.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:35 AM on November 16 [6 favorites]

Are you absolutely certain he’s committed to you for life? I know it feels wonderful and you don’t want to be lonely- absolutely, I get it completely- but there are some red flags here. He “said he could only think that far ahead” - listen, I know you will be defensive because you’re in love, but those aren’t the words of a mature human being, completely outside of the baby issue. I would absolutely hate for you to give up the option to have a child for what you believe is a trade-off for lifelong togetherness and happiness, only to find in a few years you have neither a child nor a partner. It sounds to me - gently - like he is somewhat immature, doesn’t have much understanding of relationships, and perhaps a bit overall self-involved for what I’m sure feels to him (and maybe you) like compelling reasons. Is he ready for a real relationship, much less a baby? Be honest with yourself.
posted by stockpuppet at 1:47 AM on November 16 [38 favorites]

Something I’d want to raise with the couple’s counselor — you say he definitely wants children at some point when he’s ready. If the two of you stay together and don’t have children until he is ready, and then five years from now he decides he’s ready then, what does he envision doing if you’re infertile at that point? That is, is the plan then to move forward with having children with a younger woman?

In your shoes I’d move forward with getting pregnant on your own. No need to break up with him over it, but his unreadiness seems like a bad reason for you to delay.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:20 AM on November 16 [38 favorites]

You should carry on trying to get pregnant on your own. He says being without you is "unthinkable" but he plans to leave you if you carry on with your long-standing plans to get pregnant. That doesn't sound to me like he's commited, that sounds to me like he thinks what he has now is great and he's not going to give it up now, even if he thinks you have no future. Even if it will cause you huge pain and heartbreak because you miss your chance at having children. That is not love or kindness on his part, in my opinion.

But you don't want to hear break up with him, so don't. Stay in the relationship, but continue working towards having a child on your own. don't expect him to get involved, just do it. Maybe he'll stay after all, once baby is a reality rather than a theory. Maybe he'll sort of stay, living separately, as a boyfriend but not a dad whilst you raise a child on your own. (Would that be an acceptable compromise from your point of view?) And maybe he'll leave, but you'll still have the baby you wanted, which is a far better scenario than him leaving in five years after stringing you along saying he might want kids eventually.

I hope I don't sound too harsh, I'm really sorry you are in this situation and I know it must be so hard.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:40 AM on November 16 [77 favorites]

I've been in similar situations, but without such a high level of love, and it was hard enough then. I'm sorry.

I do think that love is rare, so it's not necessarily a possibility that if you drop him you will find the right person in time (considering that, because fertility is so hard to predict, it's probably a good idea to start trying now if you're set on a child).

I also don't think you should necessarily rely on him to be around forever. TBH, I've been with a couple of guys who were happy to string me along /mention babies because they wanted me to stick around. Not saying he's doing that consciously, but he does sound a bit selfish or naive on this front. I don't think guys get the enormity of the decision to stay with them when the other possibility is literally NOT HAVING A BABY. There's also this whole 'live in the moment' mentality when you're seen as demanding / uncool if you want to actually plan for such things (and such things need to planned for). F*** that.

These guys were also avoidant types who I was able to magically 'break', which always feels rewarding. But by the time the second one came around (after the first had wasted a year of my mid thirties) I had made a commitment to myself that, because having a baby alone is possible and I think possibly better than being with the wrong partner, I would not have a child with someone who wasn't enthusiastic about the idea. That then ruled out the latest one who, were it not for this hard line I'd made in my head, I would have been quite happy to stay with. I just couldn't respect the dilly dallying and messing me around.

There are plenty of men that want children, and that are loveable. Whether you can find one in time and want to take the risk of looking is up to you, but I say don't hold back your dreams of a child for this guy. If you can't break up with him, then fine - but go make a baby on your own. If he's the one for you, he'll find a way to fit in. If he isn't, then it's still certainly possible to find someone else that will be delighted to have your baby on board (my sister did, and my current partner was with someone with two children for a couple of years). It happens!

I'm sorry you're facing such a shitty decision. I absolutely know that panic-inducing, waking up in the night terror. It is not fair, and I wish you luck. Keep us posted.
posted by starstarstar at 3:54 AM on November 16 [7 favorites]

If he isn't managing your birth control, carry on. Have that baby. Do your thing booboo.

Look - You're complete without him whether you know it or not.

You are complete with out him

Life is the feast, and he's just icing on your cake. And he's not that special. There's no shortage of cakes - even delicious ones.

You love him, but in the grand scheme of things, he, like most men (sorry), are not willing/able/ready to make big decisions or work to keep you from disappointment. Men his age have been encouraged to stay in a perpetual state of adolescence. So grow without him and he either levels up or you'll see him for the underdeveloped larvae he is (and I mean that in the nicest sense - I mean, it may not be his fault). Woo it's harsh but I'm so so tired of ain't-shit men standing in the WAY of women's happiness.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:26 AM on November 16 [35 favorites]

Also - I bet men who love children are suddenly going to become more attractive to you - and when they do, follow that instinct.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:27 AM on November 16 [3 favorites]

he DOES want children! He's always indicated this is very strongly the case. But I suspect now that he likely won't be ready for another three or four years

At this appointment, maybe he should talk about what it is he feels needs to change for him before he's ready, and how he sees that change happening. Is he willing to work on it actively now, or is his plan to wait passively until suddenly his feelings change?

You say he's inconsistent and unreliable. Would he actually be a good father or childcare partner? What are you looking for in a childcare partnership? What changes would you want to see?
posted by trig at 4:27 AM on November 16 [11 favorites]

To add to the consensus advice to go ahead with your plans, I just wanted to add - don’t have countless discussions about him breaking up with you. You know his plans (that he will), and he knows yours (that you won’t, but you will move ahead with plans for a pregnancy.)

It is a lot of work to grieve a relationship while you’re in it. But it can be done. (I did and it turned around but it was very different circumstances. But it is possible.)

You’ve both chosen to appreciate the relationship you have now, knowing that it’s not compatible long term. I think the key to finding equilibrium is to recognize that’s the choice you are actively making and embrace it.

Take care, it’s a tough situation.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:47 AM on November 16 [17 favorites]

I think the only way you go wrong here is by postponing your pregnancy plans in case he "comes around."

Break up with him? Totally a valid decision!

Stay with him and keep on your egg-freezing schedule? Also great! You will both see what happens when pregnancy/baby are in the picture. He can break up with you if he can't handle it, or if he still won't do that you can decide at that point whether being with him (and your kid(s)) is better than being partnerless with your kid(s).

Or accelerate the pregnancy schedule and just pick out donor sperm and get inseminated/IUI or whatever right now (if this is an option for you medically/financially/generally living situation-wise)? Why the heck not? Again, let him break up with you if he can't handle it. Or break up with him if/when you find that even though you love him, he just doesn't fit into your life with kids.

I totally sympathize - I love kids, I mostly figured I would have kids, and then when I met my husband (I was 35, he was 30), I knew I did not want to have kids *with him* anytime soon (like, I don't think he had MET a kid since he was himself a kid - he was clueless and I was unwilling to train him). But I was madly in love with my then-future husband and I wanted to be with him more than I wanted to have kids, so that's what I decided to do, stay with him and not have kids. Seven years later and no regrets on that front!

But it sounds like having kids is much more important to you than it was to me. By 35 I had seen a lot of my friends and family go through some serious shit with their kids and I was not all-in on the having kids plan, although I think I would have still been up for having kids with someone who actively wanted kids and seemed like they would be an awesome coparent.
posted by mskyle at 5:05 AM on November 16 [15 favorites]

Yeah, go ahead and have that baby. You're ready now. Why wait? Pick out the donor sperm and get pregnant (why bother with freezing embryos?) -- there is no need to break up with your boyfriend. He gets what he wants (no kids + relationship with you), and you get what you want (kids + a relationship with him).

Do not let him and his preferences dictate what you do with your body or when. THAT would be a real mistake. Embrace your desires without waiting for him to come around. If your instinct about him is correct - that he is fully committed to you but he just doesn't want a baby - then this is a win-win scenario. If your instinct about him is wrong and he breaks up with you just because you (not him) had a baby? IMO that's still a win-win scenario, because it's better to know you were wrong about him sooner rather than later... though this will be painful, it's FAR less painful than the alternative (he strings you along and breaks up with you to have a child with a younger, more fertile woman).
posted by MiraK at 5:13 AM on November 16 [22 favorites]

It sounds to me as if he doesn't quite know what he wants. I agree with the advice to continue to pursue pregnancy on your own. And let him have his process. Who knows if you'll even be able to get pregnant? Who knows how his feelings will shift as you begin that process? He said he was going to break up with you, but he hasn't. Maybe he won't. Maybe he'll change his mind about his readiness as you start your process. Maybe your feelings will shift, too. Move forward and let your feelings and his evolve, because they will. And yes, couples therapy.
posted by shadygrove at 5:31 AM on November 16 [3 favorites]

You are both living in the loving and needing-each other stage. Neither of you wants to give up the present relationship. But you have openly stated, totally incompatible future goals. Additionally you have different family and biological timetables since he's 33 and you're 39. It's hard to see how you can have him in your life if you plan a pregnancy and baby next year since he's told you he won't stay. I can't help but think of Maya Angelou's sage advice: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

I'm 39, and my boyfriend has just told me he won't have a baby with me.

he told me that he's finally come to a conclusion - he's not going to have a baby with me. He's not going to be ready any time soon. I was prepared for it but I feel utterly gutted. Please help me deal with the pain of this

He's said he won't stick around while I try to get pregnant with a donor next spring/summer (he's told me this) but right now he doesn't seem to be able to actually break up with me.
posted by Elsie at 5:48 AM on November 16 [7 favorites]

"People who don't know what they want can mess you up far much more than people who are actively working against us" - a paraphrase from an Ask Metafilter answer that I can't find at the moment, but which really struck home with me after I wasted the time from 33 to 36 with a wishy-washy man.

I would bring up the subject of children, he would state that he definitely wanted children at some point, but I'd never be able to pin down when that would be, or what circumstances would have to be in place for that to happen.

He 'loved' me to the extent that he liked the convenience of our relationship but now it's very clear that he wasn't really in it for the long haul. And he was too cowardly to tell me so. He moved in with me rather than have a difficult conversation, then proceeded to behave ever more coldly until I split up with him.

During this time, unawares to me, he was cheating on me. He's since had a child with the affair partner, though the last time we ever spoke he gave me the impression he wasn't too happy about the pregnancy and that it wasn't planned. This is completely his style: forcing someone else to take the responsibility for the decision so that he can wash his hands of it later.

So what I'm saying is, yes, I understand what it is to love someone and desperately want to believe that there could be a future with them. But they have to have two feet in the relationship as well. So if any of this rings a bell, especially an inability to have difficult conversations, I would continue on your path to parenthood and let him make his own decisions on the basis that you're doing it with or without him.
posted by doornoise at 5:59 AM on November 16 [40 favorites]

Do you want to be the kind of mother that teaches your child strength? Because I see one path forward that is courageous, and another path forward that minimizes yourself.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 6:24 AM on November 16 [8 favorites]

If your boyfriend were kind and considerate of your feelings, he would have set some sort of internal deadline (or external deadline, with you, for clarity) to make a decision on this and not waste your precious time instead of doing the tortured 'but I love you so much I can't make this decision that's actually fairer and kinder in the longer term!'

He knows what this means to you, and he's still being flimsy and essentially asking you to make a really hard decision to end things, or stay on the off chance he'll somehow change his mind. The idea that you could somehow date and keep things as they are is sort of ridiculous, while you go through the motions of being pregnant, giving birth and then adapting to motherhood.

He's made it quite clear he doesn't want children with you, in your timeframe - he now needs to bite the bullet and set you free, but instead he's taking the easiest option and forcing you to make that decision. Would you want that kind of man for your child's father?
posted by starstarstar at 6:32 AM on November 16 [12 favorites]

Just to add, I also found it really difficult cutting off a flimsy guy who I believed I had uniquely strong feelings for etc etc. The thing is, it ALWAYS feels like that when you're into someone.

And also, at 39, you need something to post-rationalise staying with someone for a year that has always been unsure about kids. It's funny how, a year or so later, I realise that my feelings for him were not that special, and that it was sentimentality talking, and my need to justify the year I spent too (unconsciously).

Now I look back and think, what a dick for wasting my time. We may have had amazing sex, we may have made each other laugh all the time, he may have made me feel uniquely special etc etc, (and I have REALLY been through the mill with men too, and feel love rarely etc), but at the end of the day he was a man who didn't know enough about his own wants and needs to commit to a child, and who, importantly, was happy to string me along despite knowing the consequences (he saw me making an agonizing decision to spend my savings on egg freezing; he saw me crying in the early hours of the morning googling egg freezing success statistics; he still was happy to string me along).

I don't regret leaving him; I regret spending so much time thinking he was worth that pain. If he loved me, he would have put a stop to that himself- by making his mind up to have a child, or letting me go. I'm so glad to be rid of him (and am now with someone who wants children, fast, because I filtered for that in my next search. There are a surprising number out there -I think the magical age is 41).
posted by starstarstar at 7:04 AM on November 16 [25 favorites]

Given your age, now that you know where your BF stands, I would recommend you focus on taking tangible steps toward having your baby on your own by whatever means are available to you, and start now. Do IUI with donor sperm, freeze your eggs, any and all of it. I'm 36 and have now witnessed more women in my circle than I ever imagined possible struggle to conceive - multiple rounds of IUI that failed, multiple rounds of IVF with many that didn't take, pregnancy complications that were terrifying, hard emergency labors... I've now seen it so many times that I'm actually a bit scared to attempt to get pregnant at my age, so much so that the medical implications of the process are overshadowing the emotional ones.

It's possible that you will be one of the lucky ones who it is easy peasy for but I do not recommend you bank on that. You're in a tight window, and it's time to take action. Unless you are willing to give up having children biologically, don't let the what ifs of your relationship delay you. That will work itself out one way or another without needing to do anything in particular. It's a bummer, but it's your best bet given your age and his uncertainty.

Since you plan to stay with him for the immediate future, focus on enjoying your time with him in the now with as low of expectations for the long haul as you can muster. You seem clear on the inherent emotional risks of the arrangement and if you want to take those on, that is certainly within your rights. If there is any part of you that is holding on in hopes that he will change his mind and come around, I would work to let go of that immediately. Assume the worst, and be pleasantly surprised if the outcome is better.
posted by amycup at 7:14 AM on November 16 [6 favorites]

Honestly, given everything you describe... just go ahead with the donor sperm, and tell him you're doing so. If he runs, fuck 'im.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:14 AM on November 16 [28 favorites]

I mostly agree with the consensus that you should dump him/proceed with the plan and expect him to dump you...but also, if you feel he's really serious about being ready eventually and you hate the most obvious options, I wonder how you feel about adoption? If it turns out that doesn't work out with him, you could probably still proceed on your own, but without such a feeling of a tight deadline. In that case, though, I would still consider setting a deadline you would find acceptable and discuss it with him/try to get his input now.
posted by lgyre at 8:03 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]

he's finally come to a conclusion - he's not going to have a baby with me.

he DOES want children!

he's not breaking up with me.

He's said he won't stick around while I try to get pregnant with a donor next spring/summer

If these are accurate representations of things he's said to you, he is treating you horribly. Horribly. He is telling you in so many words that he will be having a baby at some point with some other woman. Not breaking up is off the table for you, but not for him. Waiting is no problem for his plans, catastrophic for yours. You have to account for this in how you act, or you are putting yourself in great danger of tremendous emotional trauma in the medium and long term.
posted by skewed at 8:16 AM on November 16 [70 favorites]

Speaking as a man who got put the "We better start having kids now or I'm out of here" dilemma, hemmed and hawed for a few weeks, and then decided screw it, let's do it, let's have kids and am now the relatively happy father of two kids, I don't have much to say to you. But I do have a lot I would say to your boyfriend if I were friends with him in real-life. It would be something along the lines of:

"Dude, what the fuck are you doing? You say you want children, yet the love of your life is desperately begging you to start trying for kids and you say...you're not ready. WTF does that even mean, not ready? You need two, three, four years more to 'get ready'? You want to play around in the dating world a little more? What exactly do you need to do in order to become ready? You want to travel more? Open that hipster bar with a few buddies that you've always been talking about? That's all a bunch of bullshit. You are not actively doing anything to prepare yourself for the next stage of life, to get quote unquote ready. You're living in a state of extended adolescence and you're unwilling to face the fact that you're no longer just out of college. Shit or get off the pot."

You should know, if you leave him in order to focus on having a kid on your own, there's no need for you to torture yourself with regrets of what you should have done, etc.. You did the best with you had and when you gave him the chance, he wasn't up to the challenge.

(And you should mentally prepare for this to happen: If you dump him, he'll plead with you to not leave him. I'm sure he loves the readily available sex and housework. But eventually he'll give up and move on. And then one or two or five years later, you'll see him again, this time holding hands with another woman. And then he'll tell you how happy he is now that he's found his soulmate. And yes, they've decided to get married and try for kids. Oh, how he wishes he had smartened up when he was still with you. Alas, isn't it funny how life goes? Oh, and she'll be ten years younger than you.)

As to the people saying, just start the process of IVF and you can continue the relationship? There's no way that the relationship survives this. Either the extreme bitterness you will have to him (why are you subjecting me to the hormonal and financial burden of IVF and single parenthood when you've got the equipment right there?) or the bitterness he will have to you (why am I in a relationship with a woman raising a baby not my own). If you go through IVF on your own, the relationship will end, no question. But so what? Being the loving parent of a growing child is a thousand times more meaningful than being the loving long-term girlfriend of a loser.
posted by alidarbac at 8:22 AM on November 16 [67 favorites]

I would also go ahead with the sperm doner plan and get pregnant as soon as you are ready. Life is so so complicated and I’m not sure that love is exactly what I thought it was before I met my husband and we had kids (he was getting older and was super ready to have kids and I was 36 so we just went for it.

What I have learned is that in my case, I’m actually kind of alone anyway. In the sense that he wasn’t prepared for all that parenting required and I ended up doing the absolute lions share (our kids ended up being non neurotypical) I ended up taking the kids back to our home country for a couple of years so they could have therapy and I could deal with everything in my native tongue... but it meant we were separate for quite a while. It was actually easier for me to parent alone at that time.

We’re all living together now and it’s all worked out pretty much okay.

We’re a committed family.

But the wisdom I hope to share is that you can end up alone ANYWAY (even if he said he wanted kids and you did that with him) there is no way to know before. But it will work out. Follow your heart. Have that baby.
posted by pairofshades at 8:22 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

There was a time when I felt like you're feeling. I was in love -desperate, 'crazy love', grand mind-altering love - with a man who was unwilling to be a parent.

I drank that to the very last moment before I'd have to break up with him and then did, because children were important to me.

I found another relationship. It wasn't the same. It wasn't that maddening insanity. But I have an amazing kid who is my everything. And I don't really care.

I would just keep doing the things you need for your own fertility.
posted by corb at 8:41 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

Would you consider adopting or fostering in a few years? This would be one way for you to have a family and for him to have some time.
posted by gt2 at 9:00 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]

When people tell you who they are, believe them. He has kept you waiting for four frigging years and now maybe he needs another four? You already know what to do. Move on with your plans. It's hard, but you have to live your own life -- you have to be the protagonist of your own movie. Don't just watch his movie and hope "the good parts" come before the third act.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:50 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your advice. I very much appreciate it, difficult though some of it is to hear. I'll say more in a bit in terms of specific thank yous, but just to clarify: we've been in a relationship for a single year. One (1) year. Not four!

Christ, if it were four years I'd have left ages ago.
posted by Ella_Bella at 9:59 AM on November 16 [4 favorites]

If he is not ready to have a child at 33, he's not going to be ready at 37. It's possible he'll have more money & other resources in 4-5 years, and plans on being able to hire a nanny and arrange various other details to substitute for direct parenting.

Parenting doesn't get easier as people get older. The main reasons to wait are "I cannot currently afford/arrange to keep a child fed and safe and healthy" (which doesn't sound like it's a prime concern here) and "there's a bucket list of things I want to do as a single person, that I can't do once I become a parent." But more common is, "I'm enjoying being a no-strings adult and I don't wanna be tied down with permanent connections."

If he can't say specifically what needs to happen for him to be "ready," he's likely looking at parenting as The End Of Fun, which does not bode well for his parenting skills.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:04 AM on November 16 [9 favorites]

You wrote that he has issues, he's inconsistent and unreliable, and this is part of the "not ready for primetime" narrative. But unless he's actively doing things to sort this out, he's not moving forward to being ready at all -- he's just treading water waiting for you to dump him.

And I do think you will dump him, eventually. You don't have to do that now but I think that as time passes, especially as you move forward with your plans, you'll find this man to be a distracting rock hanging around your neck, adding increasingly less value to your life.
posted by sm1tten at 10:46 AM on November 16 [4 favorites]

Oh dear. This is really hard, and I am so sorry. My on-again-off-again partner of three years and I just broke up. He was also younger than I am. I'd say he's had the same ambivalence about me and us and our future that he's been expressing for about the past two of those three years. I am older than you and have kids (single mom), but he was hemming and hawing about how we might integrate our lives. There was also the possible 3 or 4 years down the road thing. At this point, I think I know that anything he wants with me will be ... a few years down the road. We'll never catch up to that time. And yet I also felt similar to you: that I hadn't ever really connected quite like this with someone before now; he was my best friend; and winter alone seems bleak.

But I think you've answered your own question when you said this:
Christ, if it were four years I'd have left ages ago.

I heard you wondering why he won't break up with you. That made me reflect a bit painfully on my situation with my partner, where I struggled with his ambivalence. Why would he break up with you? The reason is that he's happy with your relationship right now. You are the one who wants something different, not just in the future, but now.

So, what do you want more, to be with this man or to be a parent? Because that is your choice. Don't wait for him to change his mind. I know you love him, but you are also overly romanticizing this relationship. You know how I know he isn't the man you want to have a family with? Because you don't want to have kids with a man who doesn't want to have kids. You want to a man who is excited about building a family together, and that's not him. Don't drag him kicking and screaming into your future.

The thing is, it sounds like you've always known he wasn't interested in kids, or you've known for a while. It sounds like he's been pretty consistently not very excited about this. You might need to spend some time thinking through all that. It's certainly something I need to reflect on.

I can tell you that ending a relationship with an ambivalent partner is not all bad. It's really nice to be free from some of that stress and lack of commitment. And winter doesn't seem quite so bleak. Don't you want to start to be really excited about your baby? In a year from now, you could be with guy, still hemming and hawing, or you could have a baby, or be pregnant. Which future do you want, if you can't have both?
posted by bluedaisy at 11:19 AM on November 16 [24 favorites]

Now is the time for you to focus on yourself and your own happiness. You cannot rely on other people to make you happy and give you what you want -- you have to take it for yourself. Too many women have waited around for indecisive men and missed out on having a family. Start planning for life with a child, and start trying to conceive now. Getting pregnant may be more difficult than you imagined. If your bf stays he stays, if he doesn't he doesn't.
posted by Stoof at 11:50 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

Yesterday, I asked him to confirm the couples' counsellor he had suggested we should see about it, and he told me that he's finally come to a conclusion - he's not going to have a baby with me.

This reads as: he's been comfortable wasting your time, but upon consideration he can't be as discourteous to a counsellor.

Get a thorough fertility check-up now, proceed with your plans, and start relying more on your extended support network. (starstarstar's "flimsy" descriptor for him is spot-on.) Grieving a romantic relationship you're still a part of will really take away from this amazing adventure you've been planning for so long (far longer than you've dated, or possibly even known, this guy). I think it's important to sort out the "we will be desperately lonely without each other" part before your baby's here, because that doesn't bode well for being a happy and healthy single mom.

And parenthood is tough; please consider allowing yourself the mental space and opportunity to meet someone who'll love being a solid partner to you and a great father to your child. Commitments like that deserve enthusiasm. You yourself warrant enthusiasm.

I'm sorry your boyfriend does not want the same future that you want, and I'm so sorry this is all happening with pandemic-related complications. Best wishes to you.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:43 PM on November 16 [7 favorites]

No one is ever ready to have kids. Your bf not being ready but wants kids one day is a red herring.
posted by AugustWest at 1:00 PM on November 16

And due to his own stuff, this is the first proper relationship he's been in full stop.

This is why he hasn't just broken up with you. He doesn't even know how, and he doesn't know that he should, because nobody knows how to/that they should end their first proper relationship, especially when the sex is still fun and everything is still new and shiny. It takes a lot of experience and maturity to know how and when to end a good relationship.

This is also why he's not ready to have a baby with you after a year. A year! A year is nothing. You're not ready to have a baby with him either, you're just ready to have A Baby Full Stop. Go have your baby! This guy's gonna have nothing to do with it.

[edited to remove copy paste error...]
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:06 PM on November 16 [4 favorites]

As a woman who is in her mid thirties, I think a lot about having babies soon and I wouldn't date a man who does not want to have children. Not wanting children is a totally respectable choice. However, it is a choice that makes you and your boyfriend incompatible. Not having a child would have an impact on the type of life you're going to live in the next decades. It seems to me that your boyfriend is being selfish. If he loves you so much, why is he not capable of giving you what you desire the most? Or why is he not capable of breaking up with you so that you can find someone who does want to have a child with you? He is comfortable in the relationship and I don't doubt that he loves you, but he is being comfortable at your expense. And I think that your relationship is working well because you are complying with his desires, but if you stop doing so, it will change. He says he doesn't want to see you get pregnant from a donor. Well... so if you did and he finally accepted that, what would be his role in your life and your child's life? And if you don't get pregnant because of him, you're going to be resentful about it and this resentment will deteriorate your relationship. From what your boyfriend is telling you, it seems like you are going to have to choose between your relationship and a child. And since there are men who could give you both, why stick to a guy who is preventing you from getting the other? I would say that at this point you would have to think about how serious you are about wanting to having a child next year and if you are super committed to that plan, then just leave your boyfriend now and try to find a new partner who will want to have a child with you. If after a certain period of time you don't find someone adequate, go ahead and do it on your own. I know that there are feelings involved and that it is not easy to decide, but I think that you ultimately have to make a choice, even if it is painful. Good luck!!
posted by Fromthesouth at 3:10 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]

when we tried for #2 when I was 38 I miscarried a couple times before having my daughter. So please please start now. Fresh is better than frozen. You don’t know where your statistics stand until you start trying. Don’t wait.

It sounds like you’re waiting for him to break up with you. And he has. So clearly. Except he’s chicken (see: suddenly realizing he doesn’t want kids as soon as he’s faced with looking at himself in the mirror of a therapist). So he’s begging you to say the words. So do yourself a favor. End this shit year on a high note with you in the drivers seat.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:09 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be swimming against the tide here I'm sure, but once again I have to say the huge wall of "Oh geeze another underdeveloped man larva ruining a woman's life" answers are pretty disheartening and non helpful. This poor guy is only 33. You've only been dating for a year. That seems like waaaay too much pressure to put on somebody (and that's not even taking into consideration the state of the world right now). I can only imagine what his side of this question would sound like.

You were perfectly within your rights to try to make this work, but since you're the one with the deadline and the agenda, I think you should break it off with him completely, and move on with trying to get pregnant on your own. That's the only fair thing to do for him, if you really love him like you say you do. He's been clear he doesn't want a kid right now, and you can't wait, so this just isn't going to work. Move on.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:16 PM on November 16 [6 favorites]

Thanks all for your responses. He broke up with me last night. We love each other very much and in different circumstances our relationship might well have worked, but he can't do this and so I need to move on and face the fact I'm having a baby alone.
posted by Ella_Bella at 1:15 AM on November 17 [28 favorites]

Ella_Bella, I'm sorry for what you've lost, and I hope you find peace -- and great joy -- moving forward.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:27 PM on November 17 [10 favorites]

Thank you, bluedaisy – I really appreciate it.
posted by Ella_Bella at 5:24 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

@Ella_Bella, I'm not laying any update requests on you, but if at any future point you'd want to AskMeFi for board book recommendations / artificial hormone survival tips / head circumference statistics / anything, I believe people would read those.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:47 AM on November 19

I just broke up with my wonderful (now ex) because she did not want a child. It is gut wrenching but I think necessary. You have a key advantage in that you can have a baby! Good luck to you and mourn but don't please don't stagnate in the grief too long. :)
posted by tarvuz at 9:46 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

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