Dear Carolyn: I am engaged to a wonderful divorced woman who has a 4-year-old son. When we got together I wasn’t sure I even wanted kids, but seeing her with her son has convinced me that I would actually love a child . . . of my own. Her son is a great kid, but he has a very involved father already. I want to have a say in raising my child, to take them hiking, share my interests with them, share their interests with them.
Thing is, my fiancee doesn’t want another child. She’s promised to think about changing her mind after the wedding next year, but I worry that is just begging for trouble.
I’m thinking of breaking off the engagement now, but she argues it isn’t fair to give her an ultimatum and not let her have time to make up her mind. And that I might change my mind again, after all.
I do love her, and it’s going to break my heart if I leave. However, staying doesn’t seem like a good idea with the wedding moving closer.
A Firm Maybe
A Firm Maybe: Oh, my goodness, “She’s promised to think about changing her mind after the wedding next year”? This is horrible.
My horribility standard here is subjective, of course, but does any of us think for a minute she’d put up with this if you said it? “Yeah, yeah, it would be a centerpiece of your life and all that, the most profound decision you might ever make in your whole life, but let’s settle what I want first and we’ll worry about you later.”
Okay, so it isn’t “fair” of you to expect her to make this decision on short notice — and if you phrased it as an ultimatum, then it’s more than unfair, it’s extortion.
So postpone the wedding. Give her the time she wants, give yourself room to think — about kids, about stepparenting, about what that horrible “maybe” says about your fiancee — without the pressure of a wedding bearing down on you.
One thing to consider is that, as long as he actually lives with you half the time, more or less, you can have all the things you mention with your stepson. It’ll take time to develop that relationship with him, but having an involved father doesn’t preclude the involvement of a stepfather. The more cooperative adults involved, the merrier — and the better for this child.
If you struggle to make sense of and/or talk about these issues, please also postpone so you can work with a skilled family therapist.
Start with that awful “Ask me next year, Dear,” which my mind still can’t wrap around.
Re: Maybe: Just as a thought experiment, imagine how you’d feel if you couldn’t have kids (infertility), and then also imagine she was incapable of having any more. Not won’t, but can’t. Would you marry her then, knowing there will never be a child? What would you do if she agreed to have a baby with you and honestly tried, and only then found out it’ll never happen?
If it’s a dealbreaker for you, she needs to know that ASAP. (And if there’s a difference between “won’t” and “can’t,” that needs to be parsed.)
Anonymous: Excellent point, thanks.