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‘My fiancée thinks I’ll change my mind about having kids, but I won’t’

Ask Roe: ‘Other than the child issue our relationship is great’

Dear Roe,

For nearly four years I’ve been with a woman, who’s recently become my fiancée. She’s more than 15 years younger than me. From the moment we started dating I told her I don’t want children. We rarely talk about it anymore, but if the subject comes up she seems to still hope we’ll one day have one.

I don’t want to lose her, but I don’t know how else to make her understand that I don’t desire to be a father, ever. More recently, she says she’ll opt for a surrogate to have our child. I don’t worry about who would carry a child of mine because I just don’t want a child. Period. Other than the child issue our relationship is great and I think she would agree. But what should I do about this child dilemma?

I sincerely hope that you haven’t put down any non-refundable wedding deposits. You and your fiancée need to stop planning for a wedding day and instead start talking very clearly and explicitly about every other day of your imagined lives together.


You say that “apart from the child issue” your relationship is great, but this issue points to serious communication issues and a lack of a shared vision about your life together. Something in your conversations about children is being obscured, deflected or just ignored. Your fiancée is bargaining, which implies that she is convinced that you would consider having children under the right circumstances.

People who don’t want children often face a lot of patronising ideas that assume they will change their mind eventually, which could be at play here, but I’m also curious about how you respond in the moment to her repeated references to children. Are you consistently explicit and unequivocal? Your fiancée’s repeated wishes for a child and suggestion of surrogacy strongly imply that children are a priority for her, and I’m wondering whether you, knowing your stance is likely a deal-breaker, have avoided addressing this head-on.

Because you are certain and unmovable in your position, you need to be very aware that this conversation could be the end of your relationship – no matter what your fiancée says

No matter how your past communication has been, you are now both assuming that the other will “come around” eventually, but children are a make-or-break issue for many couples. You cannot be passive about this, particularly not with a wedding on the horizon. It is imperative that you have a serious discussion where you tell your fiancée, categorically, that you never want children and that you cannot get married until you are both very clear on this.

Because you are certain and unmovable in your position, you need to be very aware that this conversation could be the end of your relationship – no matter what your fiancée says. If your fiancée says she needs to have children, you must end your relationship.

But your fiancée loves you and so there’s a chance that when faced with the risk of losing you, she may well say that she chooses you over having children – but you then need to make a decision. Are you comfortable asking her to sacrifice her chance at motherhood, and risking her resenting this decision (and possibly you) in the future? You say you love your fiancée – do you love her enough to end your relationship if that’s the only way she can have the life she wants?

A couple’s therapist might help you both have this conversation, and address the communication barriers that have muddied this issue for so long. I hope you find the best decision for both of you.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford

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