Ask Amy: The decision about kids is a deal-breaker

August 1, 2012

DEAR AMY: I’ve been dating my beautiful girlfriend for seven years now and I am almost ready to propose.

We’ve been waiting until we are more financially stable before we jump the broom. (We currently live in my mom’s basement.)

We have a snag in our relationship, though. She has determined that she doesn’t want to have children. I’ve always wanted a family and fear this is a game-ender.

We are talking about imposing a time frame on this — and that, if by the end of this time, she still doesn’t want children, then we will part ways. But I fear this would put a ticking time bomb on the relationship and it’s going to be a countdown to the end.

I am also feeling selfish. I feel like maybe I’m not seeing her vantage point, and maybe I’m not being fair to her.

I love her with all my heart, but I fear I would secretly be sad about not having a child and would blame her for it and hold negative feelings. What do you think? -- Storm of Fears

DEAR STORM: I agree that this is a deal-breaker.

Your desire to have children is not a selfish one. It originates way down deep in your cells, and I’ve never heard of someone who could shake it off permanently.

I’m not in favor of posting a deadline for a decision about this, however. You may think you are saying, “We’ll take until Christmas to decide,” but what you are really saying is, “You have until Christmas to say yes to kids. Otherwise we’ll have to break up.”

Parenthood is not like other pursuits that couples can agree to disagree about. Even when there are varying degrees of involvement, couples have to agree to the concept. Your girlfriend does not want to do this, and after seven years together you should trust that she knows her own mind.

Continue to talk it through. I give you both credit for being sensitive and truthful about a very challenging subject.

DEAR AMY: At what point is it okay for one spouse to walk away from a marriage?

I have been married 25 years and my children are young adults. I told my wife two months ago that I wanted to move out. Upon hearing that news, she cried and told me that she loved me and didn’t want to lose me.

After seeing her reaction, I felt like a heel.

Am I being selfish to want out for whatever reasons — for freedom, or to try a new relationship? I am in my early 50s and I feel like my job raising my kids is done. I think I am entitled to live for myself.

My spouse and I have little in common anymore. There is no spark and I am not interested in rekindling anything. She has grown very dependent on me, ignores our issues and is afraid of any change.

She is apparently happy to go on living somewhat separate existences under the same roof as husband and wife, when all we really have in common is our kids, and all we really do together is some occasional travel and go out to eat. -- Frustrated Husband

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Maybe it’s the way you express yourself, but if you want to leave your marriage, you’re going to have to work on your pitch, because you do sound like an entitled heel.

I think it’s possible that this isn’t only about your wife but about your own life being unfulfilling and stale.

The best way to leave a marriage is also sometimes the best way to save it, by communicating the truth and tolerating and respecting your spouse’s heartfelt reaction.

This conversation is best held in a marriage counselor’s office.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from “Neglected Child” about his or her mother’s cellphone addiction.

Have you been to a park or playground lately and watched the kids? If so, you would have been the only one watching. Every single adult is buried in a device.

I’ve had 13-year-olds complain that their teachers checked Facebook during class! -- Disgusted

DEAR DISGUSTED: I have noticed this at the playground, too, and I share your concern.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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