Her clock's ticking

She's 42 and wants kids now. I'm only 30 and don't feel ready. Is there any hope for us?

Published June 25, 2004 7:51PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I'm 30, and four months ago I started to date a 42-year-old woman.

Neither of us has a good relationship track record -- she's never been in a live-in relationship, and I was in an awful codependent marriage for five years in my 20s (to a woman 10 years older; I've always dated older women).

We're made for each other. Same interests (good food and travel), same outlook and same personality type (smart, shy and difficult). We take long walks on the beach followed by great sex -- it's soul mate territory.

Until last month, when she started the kids conversation with "My fertility specialist recommends I begin in-vitro fertilization."

I'm crushed. I do want to have kids someday. I love this woman and I understand she has no more time, but this situation is horribly wrong. We should be discussing engagement or cohabitation now, not IVF.

I said no, we broke up, and we agreed to be friends. But I want more than friendship from her, and it's hurting me deeply. I've already lashed out at her and regretted it. Now we're not speaking and I'm miserable.

Should I distance myself, put this whole episode in my past and move on? Should I go back and donate sperm?


Dear Crushed,

It sounds like you had a lot in common, and much that was valuable, and you just got derailed by some extreme emotions. I think it might be worth trying to struggle through your upset and your difficulties and try to make this work. It may be difficult, but so what?

I mean, apparently you experience extremes of emotion and draw rather extreme conclusions. Her mention of in-vitro fertilization may have flooded you with the feeling that this whole relationship was getting out of control and you had to stop it, or grab ahold of it, keep it from engulfing you. Perhaps it was quite destabilizing to hear that.

But all she did was say some words. Nothing really happened there. She said some words and you had some feelings. That's all that happened. Nobody left anybody or burned anybody's house down or threw anybody's belongings into the front yard or called the police. It was just some intense feelings, maybe of fear of abandonment or loss of control.

If you can identify that feeling, and talk about it, you can move on in the relationship.

You say you should be discussing engagement or cohabitation right now. But it doesn't sound like you discussed it. Why don't you discuss engagement, cohabitation, IVF and child rearing? Put them all together and discuss them all. You don't have to do anything about it. Just let it be there in front of you.

By the way, you don't say too much about this codependent thing, but I take it to mean that in your marriage you were having trouble negotiating between self and other; maybe you tended to mistake another's best interests for your own, or merge the two, and you tended to panic when challenged to make decisions about the future, and it's possible those same things are happening again.

Anyway, decisions are some kind of structure. And it sounds like you need some structure if you're going to be able to have this relationship and not feel out of control. Maybe a structure would look something like this: You like her and she likes you. She wants to have a baby but you're not ready yet. She wants to know when you'll be ready. You don't know when you'll be ready. She says will you be ready in one hour? You say probably not. She says will you be ready in two hours. You say no. She says will you be ready in 30 years? You say probably. What about 10 years? Probably.

Maybe you can't tell her today when you will be ready. But she needs to know before too long. So maybe you agree to tell her, by a certain date, within a week or two, when you will be ready to have children. And then she can take that and decide if it's soon enough or not.

If you do want to have kids someday, 30 sounds like a good age to start.

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