Q. I met my guy about a year and a half ago (let’s call him Eddie). Our relationship has gone through various stages over these past months — from friends with benefits to exclusively seeing each other, and even a little time broken up. But we’re going strong now and I’m happy. Some additional context: I’m also a man, and he’s a bit older than me (I’m in my early 30s, he’s in his late 40s). Aaliyah taught us “age ain’t nothing but a number,” and generally I agree with that, but the reality is that he’s been on this planet longer than I have and had more experiences than me (this is my first serious relationship).
The other day, during an average conversation on some unmemorable topic, Eddie said something about how he would never have kids. It totally caught me off guard, and I didn’t know how to respond. Personally, I’m not looking to have kids at this exact moment in time, but I’m not sure I never want to have kids. Part of me wondered if he feels that way because he has known a time when gay men didn’t necessarily have children — there weren’t a ton of “modern families” around — so he accepted that and moved on with his life. But that has not always been the case for me.
Naturally, instead of talking about it with him, my brain went into overdrive. Sure, I don’t want kids right now, but I’m not sure I would give up the chance to have kids in order to continue being with him. At the same time, I’m not sure the future chance of maybe someday having kids would be more of a priority to me than staying in the relationship, either. I kept asking myself, do I need to cut and run now, before we get too far into this? Is it unfair to him or to me (or to both of us) to continue our relationship, only for me to potentially call things off down the line if/when my paternal instinct finally kicks in, and he’s not ready? I don’t want to chicken out, but I can’t help but wonder if it saves us both from future heartache.
We had a bit of a “state of the relationship” talk the other day, and I explained what I mentioned before and how my concerns resulted from the comment he made. Eddie said that I misunderstood him and it’s not that he is totally against the idea of having kids, but it’s not something he definitely wants and the circumstances would need to be right (being ready financially, professionally, etc.). I was happy that I was able to express my worries — I essentially got to say “I might want kids someday and it might be a relationship-ender if you don’t,” and he didn’t want to end things right then and there, so I thought that was a good sign. However, there’s still a little piece of me that wonders if we are wasting our time.
I guess the question I am left with is: How much weight should you give to the maybes or the not-sures in a relationship? I understand sometimes you have to “take the leap” and “let the cards fall where they may” and other clichés of this nature, but does there come a point when practicality trumps possibility (or vice versa)?
Potential Proud Papa, Boston
A. You’re worried about the age difference, and that’s OK. I adore Aaliyah, but I’m pretty sure she released “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” when she was 15. An older person (me) would tell you that numbers are often very important.
Your relationship sounds pretty great right now, but if you’re thinking that you might want kids in your late 30s, that puts him in his . . . mid-to-late 50s? Maybe you want to have this experience with a real peer.
I believe Eddie’s maybes, and that he could come around on having children. But I’m not sure that you want to have a family with him. You don’t have to make any big decisions right now, but please think about where you want to be in five or 10 years. Is Eddie the guy you want by your side? Does your happiness seem temporary?
You don’t have to let the cards fall where they may. They’re your cards — you can arrange them however you want.
Age differences matter with kids. I dated a woman with kids who early on in the relationship told me she would have my baby, but when she confronted the reality of her kids leaving the nest, I don’t think she really would have. She wanted to be free of those responsibilities, and at that point it included a husband as well. It’s what broke us up. Being at different points in your lives matters.
Stop thinking about it this way. You’re not chickening out of a relationship, you’re weighing if this is the right one for you. Going after what you think you may want doesn’t make you a chicken, abandoning it out of fear you’ll lose someone does.
It seems like in a fairly short time, this hasn’t really been that sturdy of a relationship. I’m not sure this is the person for you to have a family with. On a side note, he’s almost 50 and he wants to wait until he has his finances and career in order? How long does he plan to work?
I think his response: (being ready financially, professionally, etc.) is a huge cop out for a man that is pushing 50. This is probably as good as it gets, financially and professionally.
Well the good news is you have good communication with your partner, you discuss your relationship, clarify your feelings. and compromise. That bodes well. I think that sometimes we get so worried about the future that we forget to relax and enjoy the treasures we have now.
I‘ve posted this before so I’ll post again; having kids is not a ‘maybe’ type of decision. You either want them or not. No gray areas here. Your significant other is older and has already indicated that he is not all in to having kids. Pay attention to this.
If you think you might be wasting your time on this, you probably are. Once you start thinking you are wasting your time in a relationship it’s over.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.