I am a 28-year-old woman who is dating a 50-year-old man. He is not a rich man (I’m only including that information because that is the stereotypical May-December romance situation). It is the easiest relationship I have ever been in. We don’t have petty arguments, and whenever a real problem crops up (there have been two), we discuss it like rational people and get past it together. This is a big departure from my past relationships where the main attractions for me tended to be adventure, talent, and substance abuse instead of common values and lifestyles — in other words, I liked to date musicians. My current boyfriend is the only boyfriend I’ve ever had who actually makes me feel like he is looking for a real partner, and respects me on all levels (values, interests, opinions, intelligence, humor).
We began seeing each other six months ago, so it is still a relatively young relationship. I’m not trying to take it for any more than it is at this time, but I also don’t want to get way overly emotionally invested in something that doesn’t have long-term potential, as has been my tendency to do in the past. However, Boyfriend and I see eye-to-eye in the way we behave towards each other and in terms of what type of future we might have together. We are taking it slowly. We live 1000 miles away from each of our families (mine being my parents, his being his children, who are 5 and 8 years younger than me) so we haven’t met each other’s families yet, but he seems to have no nervousness about introducing me to his kids. We have many mutual friends, and have met each others’ friends from other parts of the country with good results. He respects me and feels lucky to be with me, and I feel the same way.
I have two main hangups about our relationship, and I am seeking your (and your commenters’) advice as to whether I should actually consider these to be problematic given the circumstances in our relatively young relationship:
1) I want to have kids, but he has already had his family (my words, not his) and has been thinking about getting a vasectomy for the last couple years. When I told him that that would probably make me fall away from him slowly due to my desire to have a kid or two, he seemed touched that I would ever consider having kids with him, and very sincerely said that he loves children.
2) He is considerably older than I. While this is not currently a major issue for us, I have concerns in my mind about marrying someone who will probably die well before me, and who would not be as mobile as a younger man with young children.
What do I need to think about while moving forward with him? — May-December
Ah, the ol’ “I want kids, but he’s not so sure” question. I get a variation of this letter every month or so and keep answering it publicly so that all the women — or men — in your situation will recognize themselves and MOA if there isn’t an absolute agreement on kids. What does that mean for you? It means your boyfriend has to be 100%, absolutely committed to the idea of having children with you. No: “Eh, maybe I might consider it.” No: “Well, let’s keep dating a little longer and see how I feel about things in six months.” No. You’re 28 years old. If you truly want children, and you want to have them with a partner, then you are too old to be emotionally investing in anyone who isn’t completely open to the idea of having kids with you.
Let’s say your boyfriend, who is “touched” that you’d consider having kids with a man as old as he, asks you to wait six more months to see how serious the relationship is then. Maybe he’ll have a better sense in a few months whether he’s committed enough to you and a future together to take on parenting a baby again. Fine. But in six months you’re going to be 29 or close to it and what happens if he’s decided then that he needs more time? Or that, as much as he loves you, he simply doesn’t have room in his life and heart for a baby? Then you have to go through the emotional hell of leaving a man you love in every way so that you can fulfill your dream of becoming a mother.
Then, let’s say it takes you six months to a year to get over him. Maybe you never really get over him, I don’t know. Maybe he remains this figure in your mind forever, a symbol of a path not taken, and every time one of your future children acts out or pushes your buttons, or the father of said children does something to piss you off, you’ll think back to this life that could have been and this partner you could have had and you’ll feel a sense of loss and sadness. Wouldn’t that kind of suck? Especially when you were given fair warning — the man said he had been considering a vasectomy for years! — very early on that he didn’t want more kids and yet you stuck around and invested more of yourself into the relationship hoping he’d change his mind.
But let’s say you give it a few more months, break up, and you actually have no trouble getting over him. Great. But you’re still 29 or close to it at that point and time is beginning to feel a little tighter. You still need to find someone to fall in love with. That could take years! And then you have to get pregnant and have it stick. If you’re lucky, it happens right away, but the older you get, the harder it is to get pregnant and successfully carry a healthy baby to term. What if you break up with your boyfriend when you’re 29, take a year to get over him, and then don’t meet anyone you really click with until you’re, like, 32 or 33? And then you want to date him for a couple years before you have kids, so then you’re close to 35. And you know what happens when you get pregnant at 35? You’re considered “high risk,” as in high risk for having a baby with birth defects, because you’re an “older mom.”
If it sounds like I’m saying all this to scare it’s because I am. We women don’t really have the luxury of being all leisurely in our pursuits for partners and fathers of our future children — not past a certain age, we don’t, anyway. As teenagers? Sure, of course. Teens shouldn’t be looking for baby daddies anyway. I’d even say early-mid-twenty-somethings can take their time. But once you’re pushing 30 and are serious about wanting a kid, it’s just stupid and irresponsible to waste time dating men who don’t want children with you. It’s hard enough finding the right partner. Why steal time from your search by spending it on guys who can’t offer what you’re looking for?
As for your boyfriend being 22 years older than you, if he’s healthy and in good shape and takes care of himself, I wouldn’t worry that much about it. Some people live quality lives until their 70s and some even through their 90s, and in the next thirty or forty years, those who are living quality lives as nonagenarians will increase substantially. Who’s to say your current boyfriend won’t be one of them? And who’s to say that a man 15 years younger than he won’t get hit by a truck next week? We never know when our time is up or what might happen to us to make the time we have left here less enjoyable, productive, and healthy. Best to choose the people whom you spend your time with based on common interests, shared values, and how they make you feel rather than how long you think they’ll be around.