Ask Ammanda

I’ve been seeing the most amazing man for just over a year now. We have been slowly building up our relationship, have had some challenges but have fallen deeply in love with each other. We feel like we are in a solid, loving relationship which neither of us has previously experienced.

However, I’m feeling deeply depressed and upset as I recently came to realise that I’m ready to have a baby, although I don’t think he is. Are men ever ready? He’s 26 and I’m 31.

I’m not going to be one of those women who trick their boyfriends into getting pregnant. It’s cruel and not a healthy way to bring about life.

I love him and really want to be with him, yet I’m fully aware of my conscious mind saying “you can see more than him, he cannot see or understand what he is doing and being with a woman like me will mean being a father and he is just a boy”.

Please help me – what should I do?

Ammanda says …

I think the problem you’re facing will resonate with many people. On the one hand, you feel deeply in love with someone and on the other, you’re not sure if they feel the same as you do about starting a family. But from what you describe, it sounds like you’re agonising about this entirely on your own without actually involving your partner in the conversation.

I agree with your sentiment not to trick him into having a baby. It’s not fair, right or practical. It’s very likely instead to lead to resentment and bitterness and won’t benefit either of you. Two things however, come across strongly. Firstly, it sounds like you might be making decisions for and about him. Your letter reads as if you’ve decided that ‘he is what he is’ and on that basis, there are things he needs to do/be/have before he reaches the potential of fatherhood. I don’t get any impression that you’ve actually talked openly and honestly together about becoming parents and what that might mean for you as a couple, let alone for each of you as individuals. At the risk of sounding very challenging here, it does all smack a bit of you just wanting a baby regardless of where he fits in and I found myself feeling very unsure if being part of a couple was of any real importance to you or not. Yes, you love him and he loves you, but you’re now overwhelmed by your own needs. Nothing wrong with having primal urges, of course, but if you intend to stay in this relationship – and want it to have every chance of being successful – it might be an idea to discover what some of his primal urges are, too …

The second thing that intrigues me is your question about men never really being ready for fatherhood. It’s quite a sweeping statement – where did it come from, I wonder? It’s certainly true that some people find becoming a parent very challenging, over and above all the usual curved balls that fly your way when ‘two becomes three’. But if you truly feel that they’re never ready and can’t be part of a supportive framework that helps everyone be the best they can when raising a child, maybe you will run the risk of being permanently disappointed by his or anyone else’s efforts to co-parent.

Overall though, I would suggest that you approach your dilemma by being completely open with your partner about what’s important for you right now. Yes – there is an age gap but it’s only a small one, so really, I wouldn’t say that’s a significant issue. What really comes across is that you feel you’ve done something with your life and he hasn’t – but I wonder if he would see it like that? I always get a bit worried when people apparently ‘write off’ other people’s experiences as insignificant or not worthwhile. It can all feel a bit like a failed job interview – you know the sort of thing – someone didn’t have the correct qualifications, training and experience for this particular role, so we dismiss them out of hand.

If you do manage to talk about your respective wants and needs from this relationship fairly and equally, you may find that actually, he’s more than ready and willing to have a baby with you. But if it’s not the case, then at least you’ll have approached it wisely, thoughtfully and carefully before either choosing to postpone any babies until you’re both confident that this is what you want or moving on to someone who better meets your criteria.

One final point to consider: sometimes, the most successful relationships really do mimic that old saying about ‘opposites attract’. So, just possibly you being a wild woman and him being the shy retiring sort might actually prove to be a magic combination.

Ammanda Major is a Relationship Counsellor and Sex Therapist and Head of Clinical Practice at Relate.

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