Q. I’m a never-married 34-year-old. I’ve had a few serious long-term relationships, but I’m currently single.
I’ve recently started dating an ex-boyfriend (early 40s) who I’ve been off and on with (more off) for the past seven years. We know each other very well. He’s ambitious, successful, handsome, smart, and kind . . . everything that I’ve always wanted. We have a strong and intense physical connection even after all of these years. The problem is that he’s afraid to commit. He has deeper issues regarding this that I won’t get into. Let’s just say his dad abandoned him and leave it at that.
During a recent discussion about birth control, he stated that he no longer wants to use any with me. We’re both extremely diligent when it comes to protection, and we’ve both been screened for STDs, so that’s not the issue. The issue is baby-making. When I probed this further, it came out that he’d be OK with having a baby — with me. No marriage, just the baby.
What is going on here? Isn’t a commitment to have a baby an even stronger commitment than being in a relationship? The confusing and scary part is that I’m actually thinking about it. Time is running out for me, and I have to be realistic that the conventional marriage and children might not be in the cards. He and I are both financially stable. I know that he would be supportive emotionally and financially. But this isn’t the way that I imagined my family to be. Should I be worried that I’m just blinded by the prospect of having a baby and that I’m not looking at the big picture here?
A. You need to ask this guy about 1,000 big-picture questions. Maybe more.
You can start with these: Would you raise this baby as a couple? Would you live together? What prompted this decision? How does he feel about being connected to you for the rest of his life because of this child? Is he opposed to a relationship — or just marriage? Why now? Why you? Does he see himself dating other people after you have the kid?
After you get some answers, tell him what you want when it comes to family. Say it out loud so that you can hear it too. It’ll probably go something like, “I want to have a baby with someone who’s in love with me and committed to me.”
The moment you disclose what you want (in a loud, confident voice), it’ll be clear whether he’s up for it. And let’s face it, he probably won’t be up for it. He hasn’t been up for much of anything over the past seven years. He’ll either admit that he’s actually in love with you and just scared to move ahead, or he’ll just sit there. My money’s on him just sitting there.
I acknowledge that at 34 the clock is ticking. But that doesn’t mean that you should procreate with someone who’s so passive about big decisions that he just wants to drop birth control and see how it goes.
Base this decision on what you really want, not what’s “in the cards.” The cards aren’t relevant. There’s always time to make choices based on what’s best for your heart.
If you’re looking for a sperm donor you know, then proceed. Otherwise, stop the charade and find someone to have a family with, if that is what you want. Your future baby deserves that much.
This guy cannot even commit to a long-term relationship, let alone marriage. But he’s OK with you making the ultimate commitment of becoming a parent? If you even have to ask, the answer is NO. Unless of course you’ll be fine with the idea of being a single mother. Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen here. I fear his history will repeat itself — his father abandoned him, and he might turn around and abandon his own child.
You don’t need to be married, but you do need a commitment. If he does not want a marriage, then get a marriage without the wedding and the rings. Start with shared living space and a clear financial statement concerning his obligations. Don’t call that a marriage, call it financial planning, and then have the child. You will never build commitment around a child; the child should be the outcome of a commitment.
He’s afraid to commit, yet he wants a baby with you??? There’s something wrong here. He’s playing with your emotions. Please don’t do it!
I swear this sounds like his way of asking you to marry — no, can’t say that word — be with him for the rest of his life kinda maybe.
I know so many women who were single at 34 — close to giving up — then BOOM: met guys, got married, and were having babies by 37-42. I’m not saying that’ll happen, but it definitely won’t happen if you continue spending all your time with an ex who’s made it perfectly clear he doesn’t want the same things as you — he just wants your uterus.
I get annoyed when people use their “issues” as a crutch their entire life or to justify the actions of somebody else. He keeps dumping her because he has “abandonment issues.” No, he keeps dumping her because he wants to see if he can find something better.
It’s your body, your choice. I don’t think everything has to be done the conventional way; but I do think your decision should be based on reality — and given that you think 34 is the desperation age, I don’t think you’re working with complete accurate information.
I think Meredith’s suggestion is dead on. Throw this thing up the flagpole and see if he salutes. There is a small possibility that he wants what you want, but if not, it is hardly time to settle.
If you have to ask a bunch of strangers on a blog if you should have a kid or not, that should be your first sign that this isn’t right. Dump this guy and find a man who will love you and stick around. This hypothetical child deserves better.
Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.