Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend is a Sperm Donor and I Can’t Get Over It”

I’m a 28-year-old female, having dated my 30-year-old boyfriend for about 11 months now, and he and I love and care for each other. He’s a really sweet guy and hardworking, and we had a good relationship until about four months ago when he told me that he had donated sperm after college for money. He donated at a sperm bank every two to three days for a year, and he could have dozens of biological kids out there. I’ve done the research and some guys have 50 or more kids since not all banks are well-regulated. At 18 these biological children can request to have access to my boyfriend. I can only imagine they would want to have a connection with their biological father. Many do. I’m a very private person and would not be comfortable with strangers exerting some sort of claim to my partner and my future family. I know he didn’t cheat on me, but it somehow feels like he did. I can’t stop wondering every time I see a kid that looks a bit like him, and it makes me sad for some reason.

I’m upset about many things from feeling less special to being so overwhelmed with uncertainty that it has made me sick. I’ve even gone to therapy to help me process this and figure out how to move forward. Our relationship has struggled due to my becoming more cold. I think deep down I don’t respect that he donated sperm for money and I don’t respect the process of sperm donation, though I can appreciate how assisted-reproduction can be a good thing. (Still, I don’t think life should be bought or sold.) I don’t like that he didn’t think about the long-term impact sperm donation would have on him and his partner and on their future. And it makes me wonder if he had this weird need to spread his seed or something. (He also has family stresses that aren’t helping. I have a hard time relating to and enjoying spending time with his rather needy family. Someone is always asking for money or getting in trouble with the law.)

I’m having a hard time letting him go, but should I just cut my losses and try my luck somewhere else? — Feeling Less Special

There’s a lot to think about and unpack here, from your feelings of being “cheated” on, to a potential difference in values between you and your boyfriend, to your feelings about his family, and the idea of what a future with your boyfriend might be like if it includes biological children coming out of the woodwork in the next ten years or so. That’s a lot, and it doesn’t sound like you are ambiguous about your feelings on any of this: You say how bothered you are that your boyfriend seemingly didn’t think about how the decision to donate sperm would affect his long-term future; you say you don’t respect that he made sperm donations for money; you imply that you don’t even respect the idea of sperm donation in general – or, the idea of “buying and selling life” (which is such a strange and reductive way of thinking about sperm donation, but ok); you can’t accept the idea of your partner’s biological children inserting themselves in your lives should you have a long-term future together; and, in addition to all of this, you don’t enjoy or respect your boyfriend’s family. You are not ambiguous about any of this. These are your feelings, and your job is to weigh them against your feelings for your boyfriend to determine whether the reality of the situation is a dealbreaker for you or whether you can live with – and be happy in spite of — the reality that isn’t going to change.

Generally, my school of thought is if there’s this much drama so early in a relationship — the sperm donation drama started about seven months into your relationship, and that’s pretty early — when you’re still getting to know each other and determining whether your lifestyles are a match (versus, say, building a life together, having children together, etc.), it’s probably best to cut your losses and find someone whose values and lifestyle better align with your own. And I feel no different here, with your situation.

What’s unique to you and what I worry will follow you to your next relationship is your seeming inflexibility and unrealistic expectations. This isn’t just about your boyfriend having potential biological children who may reach out to him one day; you actually think that a decision he made years ago, before he even knew you, is reflective of cheating on you. Unhappy with a decision he made years ago and its potential repercussions on a life you might build together, you’ve turned cold. You don’t mention any discussions you’ve had about HIS feelings — what he thinks about the idea of biological children reaching out to him one day, how he feels now about the decision he made years ago to donate sperm, how he envisions a future with you. You are making assumptions – and a lot judgments — based on your own disappointment. Your disappointment is understandable, but your treatment of your boyfriend is not. And if you go into your next relationship thinking that every decision your partner has ever made, even before meeting you, is a reflection of his feelings for you or his commitment to you, you’re going to suffer more disappointment.

People are not perfect. People make mistakes. People have made decisions in their past they wouldn’t make with the knowledge and resources they have gained as they have grown older. Certainly, it matters if those decisions affect one’s present or future. What matters most though when considering the future of a relationship with someone is how your values align, how well you communicate and problem-solve together, and whether you share similar lifestyle goals. And, yes, whether a person has a family you enjoy or not comes into play, but if you’re pointing to that to beef up a cons list and justify leaving someone you care about, the truth is your cons list is probably already long enough.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

20 comments… add one
  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ February 27, 2020, 12:21 pm

    Wow. LW, obviously, you need to end this relationship. It’s not working for you.

    As for offspring looking up their sperm donor, did your BF consent to being “discoverable”? I know with the ubiquity of genetic tests nowadays, consent likely doesn’t matter as much, but I do wonder about the wisdom of looking up someone who may have never intended or wanted to be found, particularly when they donated sperm anonymously for cash in college, likely never even thinking about being contacted by successful offspring decades later. It’s such a thorny issue.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. February 27, 2020, 12:43 pm

    You’re making a lot of assumptions, here: that any children will want to look up your boyfriend, that they’ll be allowed to, and that he will want to be a part of their lives. None of these things are necessarily true. I’m also not sure how his decision to donate sperm for cash makes you feel “less special”. That decision has nothing to do with you and it is unreasonable to expect him to take your feelings into consideration when he didn’t even know you. I definitely think you need to walk away from the relationship and maybe get some counseling to process some of these unrealistic expectations that you have.

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    • avatar

      Jet February 27, 2020, 5:37 pm

      When this sperm donor’s “needy” family hears that they can take a genetic test and be connected to any biological nieces/nephews/cousins/relatives whose parents could afford reproductive assistance they might be really excited to communicate and ask for money or legal assistance. The family might do that instead of respecting the sperm donor’s privacy.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. February 27, 2020, 7:15 pm

        That would be the other family’s problem, not the LW’s. It’s a waste of energy to get this worked up over something that has nothing whatsoever to do with her. If she wants to MOA because of his needy family, that’s another issue.

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  • avatar

    Jennifer February 27, 2020, 12:53 pm

    I am a person that has benefited from this type of thing. When my husband and I tried to have children in our late 30’s, we had a very painful experience of losing a fetus and then having a miscarriage. After being tested, it turns out my eggs were prematurely aged. Two fertility doctors told me that my egg quality was so low that the odds of me carrying a healthy baby to term were ridiculously low. After a lot of soul searching and therapy, I decided to use an egg donor. Yes, it cost us money, and it was a lot more than if it had been sperm. The process of egg donation requires a lot of drugs and then a painful extraction for the donor. Who would do this for free?

    Because of the generosity of a donor not unlike your boyfriend, I have the amazing gift of my twins. Some woman I will never meet allowed my husband and me to have these amazing kids. To imply that there was somehow cheating involved to use someone else’s biological seed is just absurd. The entire process was entirely clinical, and I never once felt like my husband was cheating on my when his sperm was injected into her egg.

    And let me tell you this. We started the process 6 years ago, and I was sure at the time we’d never find out who the donor was. DNA testing services such as 23 and me were not big yet. I’ve had to since grapple with the fact her anonymity may not always be the case. It appears that your boyfriend probably did this about 8 or so years ago based on his age. I’m sure he needed money, and he didn’t think in a million years these children he may have helped to create would ever have the capability to find him. Technology changes this world in a faster and faster pace. And think about this. For all you know, his sperm fathered no children. The first egg donor we tried to use had no quality eggs to use.

    To say you “don’t respect” this is just annoying. I hate when people always throw out the privilege card, but you are coming across as exactly that. It’s very easy for someone who hasn’t gone through the utter heartbreak of losing very wanted babies to dismiss donation so flippantly. I had to give birth to a dead baby, and the fact that someone did this incredibly “disrespectful” thing so I didn’t have to go through that again to me is anything but. How does his donation of sperm make you “less special??????” Just break up with the guy.

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    • avatar

      Allornone February 27, 2020, 1:45 pm

      Thank you for sharing that, Jennifer. It needed to be said and it’s far more powerful and meaningful coming from someone who truly knows the heartbreak and struggle.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor February 27, 2020, 1:00 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I’d just like to add that aside from people with fertility challenges, female same sex couples need sperm donors to conceive. Many of them rely on people “buying” and “selling” life like the LWs boyfriend.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino February 27, 2020, 3:24 pm

    Not your sperm, not your say. Also it was way before you. Again, you get no say in this matter.

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  • avatar

    mellanthe February 27, 2020, 3:41 pm

    WWS

    This isn’t cheating. Any more than it would have been if one of his previous girlfriends had fallen pregnant and you both only found out about the kid later. You point out that it makes you feel less special – why? It sounds like you’ve tried to get past it and really struggled. It sounds like you’ve tried therapy – has it helped?

    I can see why it might be scary; because it potentially changes the rosy future that you pictured. But this is no different from dating a guy with kids; this is either a fact you can deal with, or it isn’t. If the idea of his sperm donation kids potentially contacting him bothers you to a big degree, you may have to evaluate if you can be with this guy if it’s making you miserable. it might never happen, but you have to be able to accept that it may. Then again, any boyfriend might have an ex show up with a baby they weren’t told about. People have made decisions in their past. Maybe he’s fine with it, and maybe he thinks it was a mistake but it happened and can’t be changed now.

    They also won’t be strangers. They’ll be biological offspring of your partner. I doubt my boyfriend donated sperm, but it woudn’t bother me that he did, any more than it bothers me that he had sex before we met (thanks, ladies, for whatever lessons you gave him!) and a pregnancy had ensued. If it turned out some ex had raised a baby of his, I hope I could learn to respect that child enough to get to know them – because they are his, and the child of a man I love is someone I want to be able to love. If he ends up having a relationship with them, then it’s his kid, not a ‘stranger.’ It might be reasonable to be upset if he’d covered it up and a kid showed up, or a kid ensued from an affair (which would not be the kid’s fault, but harder tobut in this situation your guy is keeping nothing from you.

    It’s OK that you feel conflicted about this. It may not be something you can get past. But please don’t judge people for donating, or judge those going through fertility treatment. As it is, I’m undergoing gynaecological investigations in recent months; perhaps fertility will be an issue, perhaps it won’t. But I have a deep respect for the struggles people go through with fertility issues, and the people who help them.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 27, 2020, 4:41 pm

    NEWSFLASH: Your boyfriend didn’t “think ahead” as few plan on ever dating a deranged and judgmental brat.

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    • avatar

      CinderALLIE March 1, 2020, 8:17 pm

      Haha, I love this comment.

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  • avatar

    ron February 27, 2020, 7:06 pm

    LW — you are 28 and dating a 30 year old. It is totally unrealistic (and controlling) to think anyone you seriously date is going to have a prior decade of sexual history of which you are entitled to know all and approve all. Life isn’t like that. You take guys as you find them today. If you like how they are today, and apparently you do, then everything which came before you is just something which forged the person you fell in love with. You come across as incredibly controlling and ideological. Let your bf go. This relationship isn’t going to work and its failure is 100% on you, because he did absolutely nothing wrong.

    Really, you should have married your virgin H.S. sweetheart when you were 18. That’s about the only way to have as much control over a guy’s sexual history as you demand.

    I see nothing morally or philosophically wrong with sperm donation. An emotionally-charged, super-religious phrase like “buying and selling life” tells me that you are going to be a good match for only strongly religiously conservative guys.

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  • avatar

    brise February 27, 2020, 7:39 pm

    I also find the LW judgmental, I think that she is freaking out and overreacting. That said, it is not an easy new to hear and I wouldn’t be thrilled either. You have to have some detachement, maturity and good communication with the man to be able to deal with the situation. You have to project yourself in what seems to you the worst case scenario and see wether it would be really the disaster you imagine. I don’t think so.
    But you have to wonder if you want to deal with the situation in the first place. It is a process and you don’t have to do it.
    LW, if a one year old relationship drives you to the therapist, and drives you nuts the way it shows in your letter, you had better end it. I think that you will never really accept it. It is OK and your right to walk away. You don’t need to justify yourself or judge your BF: it doesn’t work for you. Anyway, I think you have already made your decision. You have one foot out, you dislike and despise his family. Go find a boyfriend who will give you a more secure feeling, and take some lessons in the advice you read today.

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  • avatar

    FYI February 27, 2020, 7:50 pm

    Demanding that the world and its people be a certain way in order for you to “feel special” is never, ever going to work. Why do you need to prove special-ness anyway? Can’t you just like yourself as you are?

    I was mildly sympathetic to your insecurity, until you came out with “I don’t respect the process of sperm donation” and “I don’t think life should be bought or sold.” Really incredibly narrow-minded and kinda mean.

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    • avatar

      anonymousse February 28, 2020, 8:33 am

      Yeah. I agree with this. At first I was ready to be like, “Hey we all have irrational feelings sometimes…” but then the absolute audacity to be so judgmental and holier-than-thou. Ugh.

      Just break up with the guy, but please make sure he knows it’s because of your weird hang ups, and not anything he has ever done.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 28, 2020, 8:50 am

        I got an email reply from the LW telling me that she’s actually been treating her boyfriend and his family well “considering all that has been going on.” She really does not get that he didn’t do anything wrong and that she’s the one with the weird hang-ups and unrealistic expectations.

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      • avatar

        ktfran February 28, 2020, 9:25 am

        Not surprising.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros February 27, 2020, 9:10 pm

    I can get finding it weird and deciding that’s not what you want in your life, but it’s not really appropriate to frame this as him doing something wrong. Some people wouldn’t care or would get over it. It bothers you and appears that it won’t change. Just break up, but acknowledge it’s about you, not him.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 27, 2020, 11:35 pm

    I was also — frankly, a little put off how Wendy seemed to imply that what he did was… somehow… a mistake. Worthy of judgment even. More — that her feelings of “disappointment” were in any way valid. This letter struck me as unbelievably fucked up. So vapid and narcissistic.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 28, 2020, 7:03 am

      I certainly did not mean to imply that what he did was a mistake. I did use the word “mistake” in the final paragraph, but that was in reference to the general mass and not to the LW’s boyfriend, specifically. Sorry for confusion.

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