by: Jim Duzak, JD.
Dear Jim: I’ve been dating a wonderful guy for nearly two years, and could see myself marrying him. He’s nice-looking, good to me, fun to be with, and has a solid career. He’s also great around kids — my two nieces adore him and he’s a volunteer coach of a girls’ softball team at our church. He says, though, that he doesn’t want kids of his own.
I really don’t understand why. I know he’d be a great dad. All he can say is that he’s happy to be with other peoples’ kids but doesn’t feel a need to have any of his own. Whenever I ask him if he thinks he might change his mind in the future, he says “you never know” and then tries to change the subject. We’re both in our late thirties. I can’t wait forever for a final answer from him, but I don’t want to give up on someone who’s ideal in every other way.
Any advice? Signed, "M"
Dear “M”: Normally, I’m a big proponent of compromise, but the decision to have a child is one of the few issues between men and women that can’t be compromised. You either have a child, or you don’t. To be sure, there are plenty of instances in which a man (or a woman, for that matter) goes along reluctantly with the other person’s desire for a child, and I suppose it sometimes turns out OK. But that’s asking for trouble from the get-go.
Successful parenting requires — among other things — enthusiasm. It’s tough enough being a parent even with enthusiasm, but without it the problems are going to multiply rapidly. Your boyfriend has made it clear that he’s not enthusiastic about having kids. He seems to be leaving the door open only because he’s trying to avoid a stressful conversation with you. From what you tell me, he never says anything about the matter unless you bring it up. That tells you everything you need to know.
It may seem baffling to you that someone could enjoy kids but not want any of his own, but it happens frequently. You don’t always hear about it, because some people are reluctant to broadcast their thoughts on the subject, while others — as I mentioned — go along reluctantly with a partner’s wishes. But believe me: it’s more common than you think.
I wish I had something more comforting to tell you, but I think you’re going to have to decide fairly soon whether having children is a non-negotiable issue for you. If it is, you should start looking for another man. It’s unfair to yourself to abandon a dream that you have every right to have. But it’s also unfair to your boyfriend to keep putting him in a position where he feels unable to speak his mind without upsetting you. If you do decide to look elsewhere, you’ll have to accept the possibility that you still may not meet someone who wants kids. Or you might meet someone who wants kids, but he’s not as good a person in other ways as your current boyfriend. You may even meet a wonderful guy who wants kids but there turns out to be a fertility problem. There are no guarantees in life.
Good luck, “M,” and please let me know what you decide to do.
Jim is a graduate of Boston College Law School, and practiced divorce law in Boston for over twenty years. After moving to Arizona, he became a full-time mediator for the family and divorce court in Phoenix.
His experience in working with divorcing couples, plus his own life experiences---he was a 20 year-old husband and father and a single father for several years after his divorce---prompted Jim to write a book entitled, Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment, that helps people avoid divorce by teaching better ways to communicate and resolve disputes.
Jim is currently an advice columnist, relationship writer, and personal coach. He is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. He also puts on workshops dealing with marriage, divorce, post-divorce dating, and other aspects of men-women relationships. His website is attorneyatlove.com.