Afternoon Quickie: “I Dumped Him Because He Doesn’t Want Any More Children”

I live in Japan, and I am 39-year-old single female who has never given birth to a child. I got divorced when I was 37 and, although I am childless, I have always wanted a child of my own. The guy I have been dating for 1+ year until yesterday is a father of two children (13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son) with his ex-wife. When we first met, he promised that he will cooperate for me to have our child. However, last night he said that he had changed his mind and that he does not want any more children. I was very hurt and confused, because we love each other and I wonder how he could have done that to me, breaking a promise? He said that he’d be okay if we stick together and marry in the future, provided I give up on the idea of a child of my own.

The reasons that he doesn’t want anymore children are that raising a kid all over again from birth is hard on him and he is not confident of his health. (He is 41 years old). Also, he is financially unstable right now, and he worries that he cannot afford to have another child, which is understandable. I told him that I cannot agree on his proposal and so we broke up, but I am so lonely living alone. We have been texting every day, and I miss him so much. But I cannot make my mind up for giving up my child.

There are two options: 1) become a couple again and give up a child, because one rarely meets a perfect match; 2) just leave the relationship as is and go find another man.

But before I give into him if the choice is #1, I want to know what his heart is. I am afraid that he might change his mind again and say that he will never marry me. I asked that question over and over again, but he says that he wants to marry me ONLY IF everything goes alright.

I am so afraid of giving myself to him again, fearing that we might not end up marrying and I will end up being a lonely old woman.

Your advice/comment/anything would be greatly appreciated. — Childless and Now Single

It sounds like what you want from this guy is not only a guarantee that he will marry you — that he will fulfill THAT promise when you feel he has broken another — but also a guarantee that you will be happy enough with him that you won’t regret sacrificing having your own child. He can’t promise you that. And, frankly, he can’t even promise you that he will marry you eventually. Anything could happen. He could, in fact, change his mind before you make it to the altar. He may decide that fear of your resentment is too much and he can’t live with that. Conversely, YOU could change your mind. You might agree to marry him and then decide you simply aren’t willing to give up the dream of having your own child after all.

People change their minds. It’s a risk we’re all aware of when we fall in love and pursue relationships. We know that, at any point, the other person could decide he or she is done. What keeps us going is the hope — and most importantly the TRUST–that it won’t. And, obviously, the reward has to be worth the risk of pain. Is it for you? Is being with this man, despite knowing he does not want another child, worth the potential of a broken heart? And is the risk of ending up alone worth the opportunity of finding a partner who will want a child with you? Is the desire for a child so great that you’re willing to have one alone if you still haven’t found someone to co-parent with you in the next year or two (keeping in mind that you are already 39 and your chances of conceiving easily will diminish quickly in the next couple of years)?

These are questions only you can answer. And time is ticking, as you know. If you feel in your heart that you can’t really trust this man or that he’s not worth sacrificing a dream of motherhood for, I think you need to decide quickly and move on. But if this love is worth some risk, you owe it to yourself to see where it will go. No relationship is risk-free. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll spend the rest of your life searching.


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  1. Oh, this is such a hard one. Giving up your connection with someone you love; or giving up the dream of being a mother.
    A few phrasings in your letter have me worried, though. Especially when you say that you asked over and over if he’d marry you, and he answered with ‘ONLY IF everything goes alright’.
    What’s ‘everything’? When will it go alright enough for him? This reeks of an unbalanced power dynamic between the two of you. He has every right to change his mind about not wanting to father another child, but the way he promised you that and backtracked, then promised you he’d marry you and is now backtracking to ‘ONLY IF everything goes alright’ kind of makes it sound like he’s stringing you along a bit.
    What do YOU want? If having a child is of the utmost importance to you, even if you’d have to do it alone – which, let’s face it, might be the only option within your time frame – then what is your plan of attack? How can you arrange for this to become a reality? Conversely, if you choose to prioritize your relationship and sacrifice being a mother, then choose it because you choose it NOW, as is. Not because you’re ‘buying’ a built-in guarantee for him to marry you. Don’t use your choice as a bargaining chip. Just choose honestly, go for what you really want, and accept that you still might not get it in the exact shape you wished for. Sadly, that’s life. Best of luck with this hard decision!

  2. Interestingly enough, just this morning I read another version of this question in an excerpt from an online chat with Carolyn Hax. Except in that case the writer, a woman, is the one who didn’t want to have a child. I’ll post the link here, but also wanted to share a comment that was posted:

    Twenty-five years ago, I was in a really good relationship with a woman who didn’t want kids, and I very much did. It was a deal-breaker for me, and we ended the relationship. And now, 25 years later? I never found another relationship that was as good, and never had kids. So I guess I’d suggest that you not end it now, and give it a chance to see if one of you changes your mind as to whether this admittedly serious disagreement is worth ending a potentially good relationship.

    Here is the link:

    1. But at 39, how much longer should she wait? Yes, she probably has a few more years that it will be relatively easy for her to get pregnant, but not a ton.

    2. Thanks for sharing the link.
      Yes, it is difficult to meet someone who fits you…
      I’ll give it a thought once again, to make sure I won’t regret leaving him.

  3. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Eh, I’ve always found that my friends who REALLY wanted a child somehow found a way to have one LONG before 39… Think about it.

    1. A bunch of my friends had their first child at 38-44 – all of them always planned on motherhood – they just waited to be financially stable first with their ducks in a row. Sure you can somehow find a way before your late thirties but if you aren’t fully prepared, you do your future children a disservice. Waiting isn’t an indication of apathy. Maybe just the opposite actually.

  4. Think about your worse case scenarios. You leave him to have a child but don’t have children? You stay with him and he leaves you? Would you resent the loss of the child more than the loss if the man? Really you seem to want guarantees. There aren’t any. But you do have more control over having a child (sperm donors etc)than making a man stay with you.

  5. I’m not entirely sure how these things work but I would actually feel incredibly cheated if I was in the LW’s position. I guess anyone has the right to change their opinions whenever they want to, true… But this sort of ruins the whole idea of making promises if you can make up your mind whenever you feel like it. If you know this certain thing has meant the world and was the meaning of the other person’s life, making a promise about it and then just changing your mind after years of being together seems very insensitive and irresponsible to me. I mean here we talk about how two people should discuss important things before, for example, moving in together (or getting married), what’s the point of these discussions if one of them can just decide they want something completely different any given moment.
    I do get this is one of the risks of being in a relationship, but regarding such huge super important things such as becoming a mother or not, I think it’s almost inexcusable to just change your mind and deprive a woman from her natural instinct and desire to be a mother. For many people things like this will be deal breakers in the early stages of a relationship (having kids or not? pets? countryside or city life? save up or travel? etc) and when someone promises you something which fits so well with your values only to change their minds after years of dating is just…. painful and slightly deceptive, I think.
    Particularly in this case it’s very painful, as the LW is 39 and wants to be a mum… and he is telling her this now when she may not have many other options and the biological clock is ticking.

    LW, my advice is that you don’t really know how things will change with your boyfriend (the comment about the marriage is particularly worrying) while becoming a mother is something which obviously stays with you forever. I think you’ll hold lots of resentment if you stay with him, even if he is the perfect partner right now. This is a huge, huge thing to sweep under the carpet, I think it will be a huge elephant in the room with you 24/7. It will come up whenever you see a kid around you running around or when anyone mentions anything about having a child. I think if you decide to follow the path of motherhood, even if it means as a single mother, in the long run you will be happy. You may find someone who is looking forward to being a dad, with whom you’ll share the same idea and values, and you will have this wonderful thing (newborn) as a strong bond between you.
    This is what I think, obviously Wendy’s advice is very rational and you need to weigh up things on your own.

  6. I have had to consider such things lately, so I totally understand. In my case, I decided not to even date the guy because he is sure he doesn’t want anymore kids and I’m sure that I want at least one (preferably two). I suggest you take a little time to yourself to really think about how important it is for you to have a child of your own. If you know deep down that it will kill you inside to never be a mom (like me), move on and try to find someone who is open to that life. If you value this man’s company more than your dreams of motherhood, it might be worth it to keep him in your life. However, keep in mind that staying with him is no guarantee of marriage. I spent 9 years with someone who decided in the end that he couldn’t handle that commitment, and we sure talked up a storm about our wedding for several years. Just my two cents. Good luck. 🙂

  7. His word isn’t worth much, is it? Have you never heard: The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. He did a classic bait and switch on you – with NO REMORSE. Not any acknowledgment that lying to you or leading you on was to your detriment. Just some vague promise that if everything is perfect he will marry you? This is the man to give up motherhood for? Go have your child. Even alone. Nothing precludes love from entering your life later if you do. But picking him closes the door forever on being a mother. And then you are stuck with him until he breaks another promise to you.

  8. I hope this is not too depressing, but I would urge you to consider what will make you happy independently of being with this guy and independently of whether you’ll have a child. As for your relationship with your boyfriend, I find it really problematic that he promised to have a child with you and then took it back. To promise a 38 year old woman that should be taken very, very seriously. I wonder if he thought you weren’t really serious about this? I mean, this wasn’t a situation where you could easily make other plans if he changes his mind down the line (which has now happened). I don’t know what the reproductive medicine options are in Japan (are there sperm banks single women can use?), but if you want a child you probably have to do it on your own rather than looking for another guy, because that might simply take too long.

  9. tbrucemom says:

    As far as the guy breaking his promise, people break promises all the time unfortunately. When you take a marriage vow and end up getting a divorce you break a promise so I don’t fault the guy for changing his mind. The LW needs to figure out what is the scenario she can live with the most. Either leaving him and having a child on her own or hopefully find another partner who is on the same page or staying with him and accept the fact that at least this point she wouldn’t be able to have a child. Maybe down the road they could adopt or maybe she can have an active role as a stepmother to his two children. Only she can make that decision. HOWEVER, if it were me I couldn’t bear the thought of not having a child so I would leave him and do it on my own and keep my heart open that some day I’ll also have a partner than will love me AND my child.

  10. LW you need to take charge of your own happiness. I feel like you are not so much in love with this guy but that you are actually afraid of being alone. You don’t say how long you were married. But at 37 to suddenly be alone can be scary and you may have jumped into a relationship before you got comfortable with your single self. I think you should give up on the guy. What I do get from your letter is that you want a child and have limited time. If possible you should pursue that without a man.

  11. Thank you for your comment.
    He would marry me only if I give up on my own child, if his kids say ok to live with me, and if he becomes financially stable.
    He currently lives with his parents, to get his parents’ support on raising his kids (also financial support). He doesn’t seem to thrive to be on his own to raise kids, as long as his parents are still healthy and working. He is also suffering from panic attacks/anxiety (mental problem).
    Maybe this shouldn’t be a hard decision to dump him…

    1. Oh, this does sound like a MOA situation. You deserve better. I think if you made a list of reasons to stay and reasons to leave list it would become very obvious what you need to do.

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