Q. My boyfriend and I have been together nine years, since freshman year of college, and have been friends since middle school. He knows me better than anyone and he can make me laugh like no one else. I have so much fun with him and we’re alike in so many ways — all the ones that are important to me (physically active, love dogs, very laid back). We have everything in common. (Yes, maybe a consequence of basically growing up together. I can’t imagine who I’d be without him.) But, he doesn’t want kids. In fact, he is vehemently against kids (reasons of time, money, relationship stress). We had discussed this in the past but I was almost positive I didn’t want kids either — until recently.
Maybe he’ll change his mind, but I feel like I can’t really wait around and see. All I can do is go on what he’s saying now. It literally makes my heart hurt when I think about him not being around. I’ve been thinking about this for about a year and I don’t think I can hold it in much longer. But it feels awful to even write, never mind saying it out loud. I’d be crying if I wasn’t at work. I’m terrified, and I’m not even sure it would be the right decision. I don’t even know if I’d regret not having kids (i.e., staying with him). I used to not even want them! And how do you break up with someone you are still in love with?
Not Out of Love,Seattle
A. I’m so sorry, Not Out of Love. You’ve worked hard to maintain a loving relationship for almost a decade only to be faced with an undeniable deal-breaker. There’s nothing you can do to fix this. If you know you want kids, you have to let this go.
This is why a lot of people can’t even start to look for an appropriate partner until their mid-20s — because they just don’t know what they need. You’re just figuring out how you want to live your adult life. He’s getting in the way.
I wish there was some magic way to cope with this, but there isn’t. You just have to accept that you know what you want and speak the truth. “I love you, but we want different things.” Sounds simple, right? Heartbreaking but simple.
Contrary to what we often see in Love Letters, breakups are not always about cheating and falling out of love. Sometimes they’re just about reality. If you’ve been thinking about this for a year, you’re ready for reality.
Part of me feels badly for you, because I know what that feels like. The other part of me looks at my fiance and thinks, “I would trade several babies, all their wetnaps and dirty diapers and those obtrusive strollers in a heartbeat for him.” Because more than I love the idea of propagating the species, I love him, and what happens to him, happens to me. Take a good look at your boyfriend; can you live without him? How sure are you’ll find someone else as great to share the joy of baby vomit and Thomas the Tank Engine with? Think about it.
I understand what Sally is saying, but it goes both ways: Something about goosing a gander. You will never know if he supersedes kids or you come before being childless unless you have them. If you stay with the status quo, you will always wonder. There are deeper reasons for not wanting kids . . . hurdles to explore . . . mirrors to look into. Life is a journey. Welcome to the ride.
It’s not uncommon to change your mind about kids as you get closer to 30. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like your boyfriend has had a similar change of heart. So, I think that Meredith is right, that this is a dealbreaker, and you will most likely have to break up.
If you love the idea of this not-yet-existing-and-may-never-exist child more than you love this man you’ve been with for nine years, then do the right thing for him and move on. It seems insane to me, but hey, to each their own.
I’ve never written in before but feel the need to respond. I disagree this needs to be a dealbreaker, at least right now. I had the same response in my late 20s-early 30s to having kids. Couldn’t see it, no way. But by mid-30s the wife’s clock ticked so loudly even I could hear, so we took the plunge (my plunge was still with reservations). However . . . years later I look back at having been a great dad to two wonderful boys who are the center of my universe. People change, sometimes without knowing it or trying. Give him a chance. Don’t push so hard.
Have you actually told him recently that you’ve changed your mind? I’m not sure you have done so.
Do understand that it is a 50 percent chance that if you do break up, that within three years, he will marry and procreate with someone else. Not that he will marry or procreate with you. If you want kids, you want kids. Let him go.
You have to make your desires known. Like politicians, your views on having children have evolved. And LainMac is right to an extent. I don’t know what the odds are, but chances are good your boyfriend will settle down and have children some day. He might be 40 and his wife 25, but that is a Love Letter for another day.
I wouldn’t advise as Meredith does in this situation, at all. I think you need to consider that you — not long ago — didn’t want kids either. I think you need to look at the man you’re with and consider what it will be like to live without him — will you regret leaving him? Unlike Meredith, I think if you’ve been thinking about this for a year and still haven’t made a move, there’s something very strong keeping you “stayed put” and that’s worth looking at again.
Talk to him. Let him know where you are at. Give him some time to think about it, but if he still believes he’ll never want kids, you need to move on.
TWO-SHEDSColumn and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe
.com. She chats online on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.