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Ask Sahaj: He wants kids, but I don’t. Should we break up?

(María Alconada Brooks/The Washington Post; iStock)
3 min

Dear Sahaj: I am a 40-year-old woman with two kids, ages 7 and 12. I started dating recently and got in a relationship with a 32-year-old man. When we started dating, I asked him whether he had a desire to have children, because I am not interested in having any more. At the time, he said he thought about having children but didn’t want to anymore.

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Sahaj Kaur Kohli is a mental health professional and the creator of Brown Girl Therapy and Culturally Enough, communities focused on people with bicultural identities and immigrant parents. She’s given advice about setting boundaries with your parents, friends who keep mispronouncing your name, and relationship problems.
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Now we are about five months in, and he told me recently that he thinks he might want children in two to three years, and that he’d especially love to have children with me. He is a wonderful man whom I have feelings for; I don’t want to lose him, but now I’m wondering whether we should continue to see each other.

— Wondering

Wondering: Everyone has non-negotiables in relationships. For some, it might be sharing religious values. For others, maybe it’s how money is spent or saved. For you, it sounds as if it’s not having more kids.

Because you are still in the early stages of this relationship, think about what you want and are okay with, then have an honest conversation with the man you’re dating (again). It may be frustrating that you were trying to avoid this exact situation by having a direct conversation when you first met, but that doesn’t change the fact that a decision still needs to be made — and the sooner the better.

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Chemistry and a wonderful personality are certainly important factors for a relationship to work, but so are shared values, goals and timelines. Be honest with yourself about what you want from a relationship. Are you looking to take things to the next level (living together or marriage)? Or are you happy with keeping things casual and separated between the two of you?

Either you change your mind, he changes his mind or you want different things. You can’t compromise and have half a kid. Denial won’t make the issue go away; it will just temporarily spare you from having the inevitable conversation about it. At some point, the issue will resurface — and it may be even more difficult or painful.

If you hold off on making a decision about this, you risk being even more invested in the relationship and getting more hurt than you would be if you addressed this now. Because you’re speculating about whether you should keep seeing him, it sounds as if this is a real concern for you already.

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I also wonder about where your existing kids factor into this conversation. Him wanting to have kids with you doesn’t erase the kids you already have, who will be a part of his life if you do stay together. Have you discussed them or the role he will play in your current kids’ lives if you keep seeing each other?

If he definitely wants to have his own kids, and you definitely do not want more, then the kindest choice is to let each other go. This will still hurt and be upsetting, but you’ve had the experience of having kids, and he deserves that opportunity, too. I know you don’t want to lose him, but if you’re not both freely living out your honest and authentic lives together, then do you really have each other?