ASK LADY ESQ.
Relationship advice from a divorce attorney.
Dear Lady Esq.,
I need your sage advice. Here is my story. My girlfriend, whom I’ve been dating for the past year, has made clear to me her desire to have children and raise a family. She is 37 years old and like many women her age she feels that her time is limited in this regard.
When we first met each other she was in a previous relationship of three years that she ended so that we could start dating. This boyfriend was ready to get married and raise a family with her. Although she felt he was not the right person, she seriously considered going down the family path with him. After we met, however, she realized he was the wrong person for her and ended it.
From the beginning I have communicated to her that I was not ready to get married and have children. She accepted that and never really made it an issue. Until now.
We have a wonderful loving relationship. Our only issue has been the family one. She would be a wonderful mother and she deserves to have her desire to have children fulfilled. Unfortunately I cannot provide that for her and her desire for children is only getting stronger.
I have come to the conclusion that I have to end the relationship. Recently I broached the subject of ending things, and as expected, it went awfully. She absolutely does not want to end our relationship. I am in a real quandary on how to end this relationship without devastating her.
Lady Esq, what should I do?
– Dilemmaed in San Francisco
It seems to me the trouble here is one of bottom lines. Clearly you are willing to end this relationship over your desire to not get married and have children. The fact that you’re willing to pull the plug on this relationship over this issue makes not wanting to get married and have children your bottom line.
You are assuming her bottom line is wanting to get married and have kids. Yet when you broached the subject of ending the relationship over this issue she did not want to do so. If getting married and having kids were her bottom line, your girlfriend would be willing to walk away from this relationship when she knew that her bottom line will not be met with you.
You seem to be a caring person and you seem attentive to your girlfriend’s desires. Clearly you know she wants marriage and kids, and you want her to have that. But, at the end of the day, ensuring that her desires are met is her job, not yours.
Find out whether your girlfriend’s desire for marriage and kids is her bottom line, or if it is merely a strong desire. The way to do this is by telling her your bottom line. Let her know clearly and unequivocally that you do not want to get married and have kids. And let her know that this is your bottom line. Period. That no matter how much you love her and want to be with her, this issue is non-negotiable for you.
This leaves the forum open for her to be honest with you (and herself) about what her bottom line is. If her bottom line is wanting marriage and children, then the relationship must end. But the mere fact that she wants marriage and children does not in and of itself a bottom line make. Her bottom line may be that she wants to be with you. As important as getting married and having kids might be, she might prefer to stay with you without these things rather than lose you in order to pursue them.
Until you are open and frank with her about exactly where you stand and encourage her to do the same you’ll never know what her bottom line is. And if you are happy with her and want to be with her then it is unfair to both of you to end this relationship over an assumption that marriage and kids is not only a desire for her, but her bottom line.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. I sensed in your message that you want to end this relationship regardless. Maybe I am wrong. (As much as I like to think I am all-knowing, I cannot, in fact, read minds.) But something in the wording of your question made me think that you wanted advice on how to end this relationship regardless of your girlfriend’s bottom line.
If I am right, and you want out of this relationship one way or the other, then you just have to bite the bullet. Tell her you want to end things and that’s that. Breakups are never clean or easy. In fact, they can be quite messy. But being clear and unequivocal and unrelenting is the only answer. Once you end it and sever the ties that bind you then you both need time to accept it and move on, so no contact for at least a few months is a good idea, particularly if she’s not accepting of the idea.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Are you breaking up with her because you think she deserves marriage and children, or are you breaking up with her because you really want out of this relationship?
If you are breaking up with her because you really want out of this relationship then you need to own up to what you really want and end it because it’s what you want, not pin it on your girlfriend’s differing desires.
If you are breaking up with her because you think she deserves marriage and children, then that is a decision she needs to be allowed to make for herself. She must be honest with herself and with you about what is and is not her bottom line. Her bottom line should dictate this decision under the circumstances. Your unselfish desire for her to have everything she wants in life should not.
As is most often the case in relationships, open, honest communication is the answer. And if you feel the two of you can’t do it alone then perhaps you should enlist the professional assistance of a couple’s therapist. Go for a few appointments to work through this one issue and to have someone to help both of you determine whether to continue or end this relationship. I can recommend a great one in your area if you’re interested.
Thank you for sharing. I hope this helps.
– Lady Esq.