Dear Wendy: “I Don’t Want Kids, But My Live-In Boyfriend Does. Are We Doomed?”

I have been in a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend for about a year and a half. We moved in together about a year ago and it has been going great! He is financially responsible (although we both deal with school loan debt), fun to be around, and has a great family. We have talked about getting married in the next few years and buying house, and I would love to be his wife for the rest of my life. But … I don’t ever want to have kids. Now, I know I am only 25 (as is he) so we have a ways before I have to start thinking about it, however, he is very family-oriented and has mentioned his desire to someday take a child with him to sports games. I made it clear to him that I have always wanted to adopt or foster older children rather than have my own kids but he has never really stated an opinion on that option. I’m worried that if we get married, he will make the assumption (as many do) that I will want kids eventually, and will start putting the pressure on me when we get closer to 30/35 at which point we’ll get divorced if I still don’t want kids. Is it safe to stay in a relationship with such a big difference of opinion, or the hope that I “might” someday change my mind? Is it too early to have a serious talk with him about it? I love him but am scared this is going to be the end of us. — No Kids, Please

Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Has a Wife and Four Kids”

I’m not going to condescend you by suggesting your feelings about having children will change, but I am curious about how you could say, “I don’t ever want to have kids” in one sentence and then, “I have always wanted to adopt or foster older children” in another sentence. Adopting — or even fostering — children, regardless of their age, is “having kids.” Maybe what you meant is, “I don’t ever want to have babies”? Whatever it is that you mean, just make sure you’re clear about it and then make sure your boyfriend is clear, because, yes, after a year a half together it is certainly time to discuss this issue with him in detail.

And when you discuss the issue with him, don’t just tell him how you feel and leave it at that. Find out what his feelings are too. Does he definitely want kids? Do they have to be biological? Is he open to adopting or fostering older children? As awkward as it may feel, you need to press him for answers to these questions. If you’re already living together, discussing marriage, and thinking about buying a house together, it is not too soon to start talking about this! A year and a half is a long time to invest in a relationship that may not have a future, and before you invest any more time, you have to make sure you’re on the same page.

Finally, are you so sure about not wanting babies that you’ve considered having your tubes tied? If so, your boyfriend should know that. If you are resistant to the idea, you need to accept that accidents happen and that you may get pregnant. What would you do then? Decide and then let your boyfriend know. Your feelings about these issues could very well determine whether your he wants to stay with you, and it’s only fair he knows where you stand. These are discussions you need to have now — not when/if you get engaged, and definitely not after you get married or accidentally get pregnant. High emotions and ever higher stakes will make it difficult to make difficult decisions as rationally as you will be able to now. So, don’t delay any longer. Sit down and open up with your boyfriend. It’s time.

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