I have been with my long-distance boyfriend, “Craig,” almost a year and a half. We both graduate with undergrad degrees in December (we are a little older than the typical college grad crowd) and talk about moving then and eventually marrying. I love him and he makes me very happy; he is truly the only person I feel I can be completely myself around, but we differ on one big issue: He wants biological children while I have zero interest in that.(I might in the future but right now cannot guarantee it and find it unlikely.) I do, however, want to adopt or foster (I am even graduating with a degree in social work partially to help ease the process). I have never ever had biological maternal feelings, and, to be honest, I have had every pelvic issue you can imagine and the thought of going through labor and destroying my body further honestly gives me panic attack-inducing nightmares. I also suffered from severe clinical depression, mental illness runs in my family, and I would hate myself if I willingly subjected my child to it via genetics.
Craig is very scared of the concept of adoption, thinking adopted kids are “used” children, and would be upset his own genetics wouldn’t be reflected in his children. I personally believe being a parent is about unconditionally loving children and trying to provide them the best opportunities possible, whereas he is really focused on the genetic part. I took him to see that Mark Wahlberg movie where they foster and eventually adopt children and it made him cry (good tears); it seemed to calm him down a little, but I still think this issue might be a huge fight waiting to happen. He has never said it would be a deal-breaker or that the relationship would not work out if we never had children, but I know it would upset him deeply and he might resent me later on.
I do not want to prolong a doomed relationship and think it would be better for us to break up and find new partners where we can both be fulfilled if this issue is a deal-breaker. I also do not want to move for a doomed relationship, as I will be choosing a law school based on where he ends up getting a job and don’t want to be stuck for years if we break up. I’d like to have a little more clarity on this issue before one of us uproots everything. What should I do and how should I go about it?
Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks! — Hopeful Future Adoptive Mom
First of all, please don’t choose a law school based on where your long-distance boyfriend of a year and a half gets a job. It would be one thing if you were in a long-term, committed relationship absent of major potential deal-breakers, but that isn’t the case and it would be incredibly short-sighted to jeopardize your advanced education – and future career and earning potential — for someone who, let’s face it, may not be in your life for very long.
In regards to your differing parenting desires: It’s certainly not a crime for someone to want his or her own biological children (nor is it automatically noble or valiant to prefer or want to adopt), but people’s reasons for wanting or not wanting certain things do say something about their character and I urge you to deeply consider what Craig’s reasons are for wanting biological children versus adopted children. I can’t imagine that his referring to adopted children as “used” squares with your own values. Does it reflect deeper chasm in your differing values? How about his focus on passing down his own genes? How is that different — or maybe even similar — to your wanting to avoid passing down some of yours?
It’s possible that Craig has used poor choice of words and phrases that don’t necessarily reflect his values and character. You need to find out what Craig truly meant when he said adopted children are “used.” All of us, to some extent, have fear of the unknown, and becoming an adoptive parent holds even more unknowns that becoming a biological parent (which is already so full of surprises). Having limited knowledge of your child’s genetic makeup and family medical history can be particularly nerve-wracking, as would any concern that the adoption process may be heartbreakingly jeopardized before being finalized; maybe in a potentially awkward attempt at expressing this fear, his words came out wrong. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here; obviously, you would know more about his character and whether his word choice was a just reflection of how you know him to be.
Regardless of what Craig meant exactly by that particular phrase, it’s clear he has trepidation about something that is important to you. Whether he can be persuaded or convinced to embrace your adoption and to give up the idea of having biological children is impossible to say. What IS possible to say is that you may not know the answer to this question for a long time. It’s also possible — likely, even — that if Craig does come around to embrace adoption, you may worry that he’ll see doing so as a sacrifice for you and that that sacrifice may lead to resentment. I imagine that question may weigh on you like a heavy burden unless Craig can make a very convincing argument for a change in heart, and at this point there isn’t even a hint of that happening in the near future.
You say that Craig has not expressed that this issue is a deal-breaker for him, but you need to consider whether it is, in fact, a deal-breaker for YOU. Can you commit to a relationship with someone who, at this point, does not want to adopt children? If you cannot commit to that, please, please do not make choices now solely for the benefit of the relationship that will affect your life in the long-term.
I don’t know what do to anymore. Please, can you give me advice? We both are in our twenties. — In Cross-Cultural Relationship
You do not need your parents’ acceptance. Sure, it’s nice to have, but it is not necessary for the future of your relationship, your happiness, or even your well-being. What IS necessary for your relationship and your well-being though is that you stop fighting over — and with — your racist parents. This may require you to essentially cut ties with your parents, or it may mean drastically cutting back on the amount of time and ways you interact with them. It’s a very hard, but ultimately super simple, solution to your problem. Your parents are causing tension in your relationship, your parents are being racist and unreasonable, cut out your parents.
Two things are possible when you cut out your parents (or cut down on interactions with them): They will miss you and, like your boyfriend’s parents, will eventually come around to accepting your relationship if it means having you back in their lives; or, they will double-down on their hate and cut you out of their lives with an even deeper and longer-lasting incision. Either way, you still have your relationship and the absence of people actively meddling in it and creating tension between you and your boyfriend.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.