When a couple disagrees about wanting kids

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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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 the situation from 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. Amy, 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.