Hi, Carolyn: My girlfriend of three years does not want biological kids, whereas to me it's very important. She thinks I'm naive and don't understand how completely life-altering and difficult childbearing and child-rearing are. I feel I understand all that, and understand the greater biological burden on her, but it's still important to me.
We have talked about adopting, and I am open to adopting a child, but would want a biological child as well. I know it's somewhat selfish and maybe old-fashioned to "pass on my genes," but I feel it strongly nevertheless.
How do we compromise on these issues that have massive repercussions for both involved? I'm worried that whichever way we compromise, the compromising partner will resent and regret the outcome and this will ruin our relationship in the long run. Do couples just need to be on the same page regarding big issues to make the relationship work, or are healthy compromises possible?
V.: Healthy compromises are possible, of course. But what you’re talking about isn’t compromise. You don’t have a halfway kid, or a partial pregnancy, or a halfway-biological kid . . . well, that’s doable. You see my point, though. What you’re talking about isn’t compromise, it’s concession. It’s about who gives up on having something because the other doesn’t want it, and how to do that without holding grudges.
And we might as well just say it since the biology is on her side, unless you’re game and able to hire a surrogate to bear your child: This is about your giving up the idea of biological children because your girlfriend does not want to bear them, and your finding a way to be happy about that instead of wishing for the rest of your life that you had made a different choice.
Note the phrasing: “that you had made a different choice.” If you even begin to think it’s about wishing she had chosen differently, then you’re out of the realm of healthy concession. Responsibility, healthy; blame, unhealthy. She’s making a choice, yes, but for her body, which is her purview. You still have agency with your mind and body so whatever you do is on you.
If you want her companionship more than you want genetic continuation, then you choose her as your life partner, and you own your choice as something you did vs. something she made you do, and put your full heart into your family of two or family by adoption, and you happily-ever-after yourself by not looking back.
Again — not a matter of compromise. It’s a matter of your either taking no for an answer on this particular vision of your future, or breaking up with your girlfriend in hopes of meeting someone else who falls in love with you and who happens to want to bear children.
What else can I tell you. “Yes” to anything will always mean “no” to something else. Accepting that as the foundation from which you operate, on large decisions and small, is the most effective vaccine we have against resentment and regret.
That, and knowing and respecting what your own voice is telling you, and knowing life sometimes gets the last word — but those are two columns unto themselves.