I grew up watching my mother struggle with body image and disordered eating habits, and I internalized them. I was at one point severely anorexic, and, while I am doing much better now and have been for years, certain habits and mindsets do resurface from time to time, and I would hate to have any daughter grow up learning from me what I learned from my mother. I’m a pretty rational person, and those are the intellectual reasons telling me I shouldn’t have children. Right now, I also don’t have any biological urge to have them anyway, but I’m pretty young and fully recognize that might change.
Up until now my boyfriend has always been very understanding of my uncertainty about children. That all changed this weekend. He told me that watching his coworkers have kids made him realize that it wasn’t an experience he was willing to give up. He seemed to have a hard time accepting that I truly don’t know whether or not I want kids. At one point he said that, since my answer was I don’t know, he could continue to be with me until I decided, but, if I do decide I don’t want kids, then he’d be done.
Obviously, he and I have continued and will continue talking about this, but I don’t know what to do. Do I stay, given that I could still end up wanting kids, and deal with what happens if I decide I don’t? Do I leave preemptively, to allow him to go find someone who is sure? How do I stay in a relationship with the knowledge that it could all end the minute I decide whether or not to have kids?
We’re also likely to be long-distance starting in July. The rational part of me says maybe it’d be better to just end it then, to let him go. But even typing that sentence made me start crying again; I don’t want to break up. I’ve known for years that I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Other than the kids issue, we enjoy the same things and want many of the same things out of life. I want this to work, but I’m having a hard time seeing how it can. — Unsure about Kids
For you specifically, I would say just hang in there. Why break up? You could decide you want kids. Or… frankly, there may be another reason for you two to break up down the line. No relationship has a guarantee. Even if you were on the same page with the kids situation, it doesn’t mean you’d end up married (or married forever). Maybe your relationship won’t survive the long distance. Maybe one or both of you will meet someone else. Maybe you’ll just drift apart. Maybe that’s depressing, but it should also be a reality check for you.
Relationships have risks. Loving someone means risking a broken heart. And disagreeing about having kids is just one way your relationship could potentially not work in the long run. My point is, if you’re thinking about breaking up in order to save yourself from getting hurt later, you might as well just stay single forever because any relationship with any person carries that risk.
I say stick it out and see what happens. If YOU were the one who wanted kids and your boyfriend wasn’t sure, my advice would probably be different (depending on your age). But you don’t really have anything to lose here. Sure, you might invest more time in this relationship to only end up with a broken heart, but, if you aren’t anxious about a ticking biological clock, what difference does that make? A broken heart will hurt whether it comes now or later, and, if your relationship has the potential to last for the long run, it would be a shame not to give it a chance just because you were scared of getting dumped down the line.
Beyond that, I would suggest going to therapy (if you aren’t already) to deal with the mental health issues you allude to. It’s great that you feel mostly fine these days, but if the issues still resurface from time to time — enough that you worry about modeling unhealthy patterns and behavior to a potential daughter (or son, for that matter) — a therapist could help you change those patterns and find the confidence in your ability to be a good mother. A therapist could also help you unpack and process the different feelings you have around the idea of having children and maybe help you arrive at a decision.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.