Adapted from an online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have been together about eight months. He makes me laugh, he takes care of me, he’s responsible and kind. Because of covid, I spent three weeks with his immediate family at their home, and it went really well.
But our timelines don’t match up. His general stance is to just wait and take as much time as possible. He’s 32. I’m 33 and feel differently. I feel confident I would be happy with him long-term. I am ready to move in, be engaged within the next year and a half, and then marriage and kids. He wants to date for 2-3 more years and then be married for 2-3 years before having kids.
I understand that … but if we don’t start having kids until I’m 38 or 39, will we be able to have kids, or more than one? What kinds of problems will it cause if it turns out we waited too long?
He sort of grasps that, but says he can be really stubborn and isn’t sure whether he can change his own mental timeline.
He also says if we did break up, it would be something he regrets “for the rest of his life.”
If he feels that it would be a huge mistake, why can’t he compromise on his timeline a little? I am willing to compromise — I also said I will happily move to his hometown to be close to his family for the rest of our lives (even though I know no one there), but he seems to be a little stuck.
Timeline: A man who thinks it’s a good idea to date a 33-year-old woman for three more years and then wait three more years beyond that to start trying to have children is a complete knucklehead. And that’s the most charitable, printable word I’ve got.
I started to write an answer that reflected the intricacies of your question, then changed my mind.
If he is committed to the knucklehead path because he has defined himself as “really stubborn” and is so locked into that self-conception that he can’t even envision what you need, then I don’t see this going well for you.
Stubbornness might be the single trait most predictive of a partner’s misery. Life doesn’t yield, because it’s bigger than all of us; he doesn’t yield, because he’s self-important; guess what that means for you.
In the interest of fairness: At eight months, locking down a future would be premature for most couples (some just fit). But all he had to say to you was, “I understand kids are time-sensitive, but I also won’t rush — I’m enjoying getting to know you at the pace we’re moving now. Please be patient with me and in return I promise I won’t drag my feet.”
But instead he gave you schedule salad. Ugh.
So, my advice: Call the salad what it is, and give him one more shot at an adult answer. If one is not forthcoming, then, you stay at your own risk.
Re: Timeline: My ex said the “regret for the rest of his life” thing for years. Those declarations didn’t stop him from letting me go anyway.
Anonymous: Right. So manipulative. Like it’s her job to keep him from contradicting himself into an origami crane of sadness.
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