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Dear Carolyn: I have been dating my boyfriend for a year ("officially" together for six months). I am 30 and he is 33.
I am acutely aware of my desire to have kids by 35.
In past relationships I have tried to play the "cool girlfriend" — you know, the one who doesn't pressure her man about getting married or having kids. Unfortunately, that attitude has gotten me a string of men who are happy to plod along in the dating mode.
I told my boyfriend exactly this (in tears because I seem to be incapable of discussing relationships without crying), and he said nothing. He reassured me that he cared about me, but said he "didn't know" when I asked how he envisioned his life in five years. He still hasn't told me he loves me (I told him, because I absolutely do).
I also said I want my life to include marriage and kids, and if he and I aren't headed there, then it's pointless.
Do I give him time? Break it off? If we broke up next week, I would not regret the time I spent with him. If we break up in six months because he still "isn't sure," I am going to be really angry and bitter about relationships. — The "Pushy" One
Answer: Your needs are clear and legitimate and I get it.
I also would get it if he wrote in worried that his girlfriend loves him only as a sperm donor. And while that might not be fair — I obviously have no idea how you fell for each other, why, or how deeply — you have to consider this from his perspective, or else you're not being fair.
Your needs do not trump his feelings. In a loving relationship of equals, his feelings matter as much as your feelings, his needs matter as much as your needs, his preferences matter as much as your preferences, and so on. Even valid priorities can't muscle out the other person's selfhood. It's not about sitting back and playing it "cool," it's about appreciating that you have an independent, sentient human being on the other end of this decision, and tap-tap-tapping your foot because his six months are up is not the way to show this respect.
There will be a day when he's had sufficient time to make up his mind, and reasonable people can disagree on when that time is — but after only six months, this possibly unreasonable person wishes you were challenging your own assumptions about him a bit more.
What if you married him and for some reason you couldn't have kids. Would you still be glad you chose him? And since you are openly choosing a father for your kids: Is he a dad you'd want? If you do get married and it doesn't stick, will he be a good ex-husband, a good joint-custodian?
Maybe you've weighed all this to your own satisfaction, but I'm skeptical given the amount of brain space you've devoted to your biological clock.
Plus, choosing to your satisfaction might not be as tough a standard as choosing to your future kids' satisfaction. Set your mind to these questions, don't rationalize, and give him room to ponder what's his to ponder about you.
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at Washingtonpost.com.
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