Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Was I Wrong To Dump My Girlfriend Because She Wants Children?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a guy, 28 years old, and I have no intentions of ever having children. Ever. I could go into all the logical reasons why, such as the world has too many kids, they’re a serious drain on your time, energy and money, restrict the one-on-one time you can have with your partner, and so on. Even if I didn’t believe in all those things however, I simply have no inclination to do so. I’m a very rational person, used to weighing pros and cons, and there’s too much I want to do or accomplish in my life to make room for more than a partner. And just to cement how I feel about it, I’ll tell you that my last girlfriend and I ended our relationship about 2 months ago, because she was 33 and looking to have children, and I… well, see reasons above. And this was a girl I loved (and love) and WANTED to marry, and she felt the same towards me. I’ve heard ‘you’ll change your mind some day’ until my ears bleed, but I certainly can’t even imagine the possibility, or want to.

Now that that’s (finally) out of the way, I recently started hanging out with a girl I used to know in University (we were friends), and just last weekend we made it clear we had feelings for each other. She invited me to dinner at her place tonight. After a good meal and with kissing and cuddling well underway, it happens to slip out that she feels she HAS to have kids, like, it’s her purpose in life (those were her exact words). F


Brief summary of what happened next: I pulled back and explained, as gently as I could, my views on the matter. I told her I thought it was great that she wanted kids, but that she deserved to be with somebody who wanted that too. She insisted I was getting way ahead of myself, and she wasn’t planning on having kids anytime soon, and then only with someone she loved. I asked what the point was of hanging on to a situation which must inevitably end poorly, when we could both be looking for something better right now? She informed me I had serious issues and that I was so wrapped up in the future I wasn’t able to enjoy what was here now (which I agree with btw, except that I felt this was a dealbreaker situation brewing). We agreed to stay friends, and I left soon after.

Was she right? Have I overreacted? I get that we literally JUST started seeing each other, and it’s weird for things to have gotten deep that fast – and if she had just told me having kids was a POSSIBILITY, that’s fine, I mean, she can let me know when she feels one way or the other, right? But when a girl tells me she absolutely MUST have kids, that’s like telling me she’s a smoker, or shoots heroin, or something (in other words, End Of Relationship). I feel like my logic makes sense, but her comment on ‘living in the moment’ felt painfully true. What do you think?

– Too Well-Adjusted Male

DEAR TOO WELL-ADJUSTED MALE: Let me start with the positive. You both did the right thing: you laid out your cards right at the beginning. She absolutely wanted kids, you absolutely don’t, fair dos all around. You’re right: the odds that a deal-breaker situation was brewing were pretty high.

However, it wasn’t exactly cool of her to pull that out while the two of you were making out. Arousal has a tendency to make people stupid and folks are frequently prone to being willing to agree to any number of things they may not actually feel when the blood is leaving the brain and rushing towards the groin. I won’t go so far as to say she’s being manipulative – I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that it was more bad timing than anything else – but it wasn’t kosher.

Now let’s be clear here: our dating lives are not a democracy. What turns us on or off isn’t up for a public vote. Everybody is completely entitled to their deal-breakers, no matter how much our prospective partners may think that they’re ridiculous or unreasonable. Deciding that you don’t want kids is no more and no less valid than deciding that smoking, heavy drug use, an overbite or even oddly-shaped thumbs are deal-breakers.

At the same time, some deal-breakers are going to reduce your potential dating pool further than others. There does come a point where you go from being picky to being unreasonable… but that’s up for each person to decide for themselves how they want to handle it.

In this case… while I think she was right for bringing up her desire for children early on (even if it wasn’t exactly the best time for it), I think you jumped the gun a little. After all, this was pretty damn early on in the relationship; you weren’t even anywhere near the “So where is this relationship going?” conversation, never mind worrying about whether your not wanting to have kids would ultimately sabotage the relationship. For all you knew, she could have handed you your walking papers over you peeing on the toilet rim and leaving hair in the shower long before it ever got around to revisiting the potential children discussion.

And even if she didn’t, even if everything was ice-cream and cherry pie and cartoon birds, there’s no reason why every relationship has to be a de-facto long-term one. Sometimes people do enter relationships with the understanding that it’s strictly short-term. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a relationship with a built-in expiration date, as long as both parties recognize it for what it is. You may well have ended up missing out on potential good times, even if it meant that it ultimately had to end. After all, to steal a line from Dan Savage: every relationship ends until one doesn’t.

I can understand why you might be a little gun-shy when it comes to the children issue. I’ve known many people – women especially – who have had everything from their mental state of mind to their gender identity questioned because of their stance on whether they intended to have children or not. But she’s not wrong;  you leapt so quickly to the potential end of the relationship that you couldn’t even enjoy the present.

For the record: Not wanting to have kids ever is a perfectly valid deal-breaker. In fact, you may want to look into talking with a urologist about a vasectomy and taking potential children off the table entirely. It’s a little harder for a future partner to try to argue you out of it if you’ve taken permanent steps after all.

But next time, you may want to consider whether you’re ok with a relationship that’s strictly short term. If you aren’t, that’s also perfectly valid. But you can end up missing out on valuable and enriching relationships if you focus exclusively on the long-term.

Good luck.

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