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Is her ticking biological clock sabotaging her relationships?

January 1, 2019

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

How do women in their mid-30s, who hope for biological children, date without obsessing over looming questions about the future? I have seen two relationships crash and burn because my partners rightly suspected I was trying to suss out where things were headed — and disappointed with how long it was taking.

I don’t have the money for egg-freezing; realistically, if I don’t find the father of my children within the next couple of years, I will hit my “expiration date.” How do I NOT carry that knowledge into my dates?

— Dating Without Deadlines

This answer is almost impossible for me to write without sounding dismissive, so my apologies.

You stop it with “the father of my children.” Because that’s living almost entirely in a future that isn’t entirely in your power to get — and so puts you in the awkward spot of being at the mercy of others.

It is this awkwardness that likely pushed away the men you were dating. There’s nothing wrong with you, or with wanting what you want, but you weren’t in the present with these partners. You weren’t with them as people — you were in your vision of what could be and what they could give you. And there is something wrong with that. It’s not fair to them. Imagine if they dated you transactionally — say, for sex or connections or security.

Or frame it this way: If a boyfriend told you he wouldn’t or couldn’t have kids, would you stay with him? Just for his companionship?

This is a fraught question, obviously, because the kid question breaks people up all the time. But that doesn’t change the baseline message: “I like you, even love you, but you alone aren’t enough.” It hurts.

Since living and dating for kids has been self-defeating, I urge you to decide instead to live fully in the life you have. As it is. You and all your wonderful gifts. And in the company of men you enjoy for their company alone.

Conveniently: No matter the context, embracing what you have has an uncanny way of improving whatever comes next.

Re: Deadlines:

I can tell you it was a tremendous relief to reach 40, without having married or having had children, and to realize I was still here, with much to be grateful for, despite having this “worst fear” realized. So, not only try living in the present, but also in that future you dread, too. You may find it has much to recommend it as well.

— Relieved

Well said, thank you.

Re: Deadlines:

I wasted years not asserting what I wanted for fear of scaring a guy off. By the time I met my husband, I was very upfront about my plans. I was no longer afraid of anyone walking away. Now I’m married and pregnant at 39. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

— No Longer Afraid

Re: Deadlines:

Or go ahead and have your baby. I wrote to Carolyn years ago about picking a sperm donor and am happy to say I have a beautiful baby boy. I’m also dating. There’s less time for it, but I don’t have to suss out anyone’s intentions. It’s the best idea I ever had.

— Anonymous

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