Dear Dr. Alasko: I’ve been dating M. for seven months. I’m thirty-one and definitely want children. Recently M. told me he believes he’s too old (he's 39) to have kids. We’ve been talking about marriage for at least a couple months and even though I never asked him directly he always hinted at having a family. I feel cheated even though he hasn’t really lied to me. What can I do?
Dear Reader: I’m sorry you took so long to learn that M. has different ideas about what he needs in his life, especially about children. Now you’re learned that a guy can be pretty slippery (if not downright dishonest) when it comes to keeping a girlfriend. By the way, women can be just as slippery.
I remember a female client asked me about when she should tell a new date that she was only interested in a relationship that led to marriage and children, not just a sexual fling. I told her that she should do so as soon as she figured whether she liked the guy enough to continue seeing him past the next date. Or the second next or fifth next date. If being forward scares him off, then she’ll have her answer. Why waste time on someone who doesn’t want the same things you do?
Indeed, why be coy about something as serious as being serious? And especially as life-changing as having a child, or children?
Of course when dating you need to keep things light until you figure out if you like the other person enough to see them again, and maybe again. Obviously you don’t pull out your list of must-haves on the second date, when you’re still sizing him up. But once you have a good feeling about the other person and the feelings are clearly reciprocal (this is vital), then the time has come to ask the basic questions about how he sees the rest of his life. Be brilliantly clear about what you need in order to feel that you’re in a fulfilling relationship.
Here’s an example. Michelle's job sent her to Chicago for a few months. She met Bill there, and they instantly hit it off. At the end of the second date she told Bill that she felt it wasn’t fair to continue dating him since her life was really centered in California. He was so impressed that he told her he’d be happy to move to the west coast if their relationship worked out. She returned to California and they continued to date until he moved there with her.
As for you and M., since having children is a non-negotiable issue for you, you’ll soon need to make a decision about where to take the relationship. In deciding, be strictly realistic: try to see yourself ten years from now without children, and then the rest of your life without them. Can you really cut off that option and all that goes with it? Would you have constant resentment toward M. because he’s forced you to abandon an important part of your core needs?
The bottom line: the sooner you get clear about what you need in this and any relationship, and the sooner you get your needs out in the open, the better chance you’ll have of fulfilling them.