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.