I want kids but my man won't commit

I\'ve said it from the beginning but he keeps wavering and evading

Published September 27, 2011 12:01AM (EDT)

 (Salon/Zach Trenholm)
(Salon/Zach Trenholm)

Dear Cary,

My boyfriend and I have been together for close to seven years; I am 37 and he is 42. I told him from day one that I hoped that marriage and children were in my future, and at the beginning and over the years he has assured me that he wants those things as well. However, he doesn't feel the same urgency as I do. Now, I am not 100 percent sure about wanting kids -- I like my life, I have a busy and successful career, and I don't really feel a void. But I have strong maternal instincts and adore children. And I would like to try to get pregnant.

In the last year or two, I have suggested a number of times that we start trying to conceive. In response, he either clams up completely and blows off the conversation (either by making jokes, changing the subject, or saying he needs to think about it). When he does talk about the general idea of having kids, he lists off many of the disadvantages of having children, so one would think he is leaning against the idea. Yet he claims he wants to have them -- and usually just says that it will happen "someday." When I give him information about the increased risks of getting pregnant later in life, this just prompts him to say that it seems that we are too old to start trying.

We are preparing to move in together, and I think we need to resolve the issue of when "someday" is (if ever) before taking that step. And I don't think we can wait any longer, due to my age. But if he says "no kids" or even "in a couple of years" I would have to decide whether to accept that or not, and I'm not sure what I would do.

I should note that choosing "him" is not choosing "committed husband." He thinks we need to live together for an as-yet unspecified length of time to ensure that we are compatible. I love and respect him and think that we are compatible in so many ways. But I worry frequently about the effects of the passage of time on my ability to get pregnant and I'm very worried that I will end up bitter and resentful because he refused to even try.

I wonder if you have any suggestions to share on these questions: What is the best way to encourage him to start trying to conceive? I think that he has to be enthusiastic about it and not arm-twisted into it -- the act of conception is supposed to be fun, after all. If he simply continues to refuse to talk, or to say "someday," what do I do? And if he says "no kids," do you think there is hope for our relationship? Do you think it's possible for me to change my attitude toward kids (i.e., toward greater certainty that I don't want to try to get pregnant).

Many thanks for your thoughts,


Dear Stonewalled,

His mouth says he wants kids but his behavior says he doesn't. So you need to know for sure.

I suggest you tell him, I want to have kids, and I'm going to start now trying to have them. If you don't want kids, you have to tell me now, because otherwise I'm starting.

Make it clear that he has a choice. He can refuse to have kids. But time is an issue and I think you deserve an unequivocal answer.

If he doesn't want kids, he can refuse. But you deserve to know. Then you can make informed choices. He may complain that you are pressuring him but all you are really doing is taking action to ensure that the issue is clarified and resolved. And it is good for you to do this now. It is good to get the issue out in the open in a timely way.

It's not ethical to trick him into having kids, or lie to him. But neither is it ethical for him to prevaricate and stall, since that may have a lifelong effect on you, and since you have said from the beginning that you want kids.

Once you know his true feelings, then you face the question of whether you would be willing to forgo having kids in order to maintain this relationship.

Circumstances may have a say in this. It's possible even if you start to try to have kids, you will not become pregnant. So physical exams for both of you would be a good choice. Because if you were to leave him because he doesn't want kids and find you are unable to have kids anyway, that would be a bummer.

If he is not willing to start having kids now, you don't have to leave him right away. You could stay with him for the time being but begin looking for a man who wants to have kids. You don't have to cheat on him or lie about this. You could tell him upfront that since he's not acting on your desire to have kids, you are going to start looking around, and if you find a man who wants to have kids it's possible you may leave him for that man.

I don't find that unethical. It may make him uncomfortable and put pressure on the relationship, but it is honest. He is asking you to accept an uncertain future, possibly one that you would not prefer. So you are proposing for him a possible future that he might not prefer.

We do make choices and sacrifices in life. We don't get everything we want. Sometimes all the things we want are too many things and we can't have them all, so we try to at least be honest about what we want, and we try to face the fact that some of what we want we're not going to get, and we try not to pretend that it wasn't important, because then we won't mourn it, and it will prey on us in a thousand hidden ways.

As to how to get him to be interested in trying to have kids, I may be missing something but having sex without contraception would be the usual way. So if you are the one using contraception, then it would be easy for you to stop. If he is used to wearing a condom when you have sex, then you would say to him that you don't want him to wear a condom.

This is assuming that you and he have sex regularly. If you're not having sex regularly, and you want to get pregnant, then you have to find a way to start having sex regularly. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. I will leave that up to you.

Please note: One way to not have kids is to not have sex. So if you do not clarify this, he may avoid making you pregnant by not having sex with you. He may already be doing so.

I love this problem because it has clear, logical choices. The awful thing is that each choice is so laden with significance and is so deeply emotional. On the surface, all the choices are clear. But underneath, they go very deep, into the muddiest, darkest waters of the soul.

Creative Getaway

Citizens of the Dream

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By Cary Tennis

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