I'm ready for kids, but he's not

I'm dating a younger guy and time is running out. Should I stick with him or move on?

By Cary Tennis
Published November 15, 2010 1:01AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm a woman nearing 30, and I'm in love with a younger man. Not much younger, just 25. In most ways, I don't notice any age difference. We have a lot in common, are both very attracted to each other, and have a loving relationship of six months.

On top of that, we have compatible life goals. We both want marriage and children one day, but not right away since each of us is working on a Ph.D. It's way too soon to know whether I want to spend the rest of my life with him.

But sometimes I feel like the relationship is doomed. The problem is that I want "the future" sooner than he does. (For the record, he started this conversation!) He can't see himself being married for many years. I feel like I am psychologically ready for marriage, though not until I know I have the right guy. He is afraid of feeling trapped. I am afraid of a lifetime full of three-year relationships.

But do we really disagree about anything? After all, we have the same long-term goals, and we're also happy together in the present. He's not going to propose to me anytime soon, but I'm not asking for that level of commitment yet.

I have broken up with two former boyfriends because they didn't want children and were therefore not potential life partners. But this is different. Is there even a problem here? Do I need to consider breaking up with him? Or am I just inventing things to worry about in an otherwise great relationship? I'd welcome your thoughts!


Ready for the Future

Dear Ready,

You say he started this conversation. It sounds like he started it in order to tell you to slow down. He says he's not ready yet and may not be ready for "many years."

How many is many? Is it three, seven or 10? It makes a difference.

You need to get out a calendar.

It's possible that he won't be ready to have children until he is 35. That would make you 40. You might not want to wait that long.

You might want to start having children at 32. He would only be 27. So you do have to figure this out. Mathematically, at a certain point, you just run out of options.

You need to set a deadline. You don't have to tell him about the deadline yet. That might make it sound like an ultimatum. But you have to know the odds and prepare. If he doesn't want to think about it, then you have to do the thinking on your own. Say you set a deadline of one year. At your first-year mark, you have to make some decisions and so does he. He really may not be ready. So you need to prepare for that.

It helps to consider some scenarios.

How close are you to finishing your postgraduate work? What comes after that? A search for academic positions? Say in three years you each have a Ph.D. You're 33, he's 28. Then you have to search for positions. What about the two-body problem? Maybe you can't find suitable positions in the same area. What if by the time you are 35 and he is 30 it's clear that you're not going to find suitable positions in the same place?

What then?

Keep in mind, if this relationship ends, it takes time to find a new suitable partner. There's no guarantee that you would even find a suitable partner.

So from the standpoint of life planning, if I were you, I would not unconditionally commit to this relationship. Especially since he is not willing, committing to it unilaterally puts you in a hole, negotiation-wise. Rather, I would consider it a very nice relationship but provisional. And whenever an attractive, eligible 35-year-old man asks you about your work, or shows interest in your taste in bands, or asks if you'd like to have coffee, pay attention. Say yes. Provisionally.

In other words, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Write Your Truth.

Want more?


Cary Tennis

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