Q&A: Choosing between partner or child

A 40-year-old woman has been involved for five years with a man who doesn’t think he wants a child. They broke up a few years ago because she wanted a child, and he said he’d go along with it. But she now realizes that’s probably not going to happen. She is in the common Thinker’s space of choosing between partner or child.

She asked, “Is it really worth me trying to get the man I love to go the next step, have a child together that he really doesn’t want to have, or move on and have a child on my own?” Several women who have been in similar situations responded…

Said one woman: “I’ll share my story in hope that it might help you. I’m 41 and have been in the ‘trying’ phase for 7 months. I had a long-term relationship that stagnated for years. I was too complacent and frankly, too lazy, to move on and figured it was better than being alone at that time. (I’ve never liked dating.) Looking back, the relationship was enough of a distraction that it kept me from doing some really hard thinking and making some hard decisions in my mid-30s when it would have been much easier for me to conceive.

After 6 IUIs (nearly $10K), I’m trying to decide whether to move on to a $25K IVF. All of my test results have been great. To be really direct, age is not on our side. We have less than a 50% chance of success even with IVF.

Maybe the most revealing thing you could do is to ask yourself if you would still want to be with this man when you’re 46 if you don’t have the child you dreamed of. Would you be happier with a 5-year old son or daughter without him, or would you be happier with no biological child, but with him in your life? If you stay together and you try on your own for a year but never conceive, will you resent him for the time he spent stalling, and could you forgive him enough to live a happy life with him?

I know how hard this is and I wish the best for you. I find that having a group like this really helps. Keep us posted on your decisions.”

Said another woman: “Set the boundaries and be as clear as possible. I’m in a relationship now and that is what I had to do. I’ll start in Sept this year. I basically had to say to her ‘this is what I want and you are either on board or not.’ Although I love my partner very much, a live-in relationship is definitely something I would give up if we’re not on the same page. If i don’t see it, like a light switch, I’ll turn the relationship off. It’s just that simple for me. Good luck.”

Another woman: “I am really happy to see so many ladies chiming in on this thread. A few weeks ago, I felt like I was the only woman in the world going through this. I had a tremendously isolated feeling. I’ve been in a relationship for 3 years now and I’ve always made it clear my desire to have children. My partner says okay but not right now. The trouble is I did go to an RE and I have diminished ovarian reserve, so even at 33 I was told that I simply cannot wait. I was ready to walk away and I am getting prepared for my first IUI in 3 weeks, but after some discussions with my partner, together and with the help of a counselor at the clinic, we might try to make it work. He is okay with co-parenting with me even if the baby is not his biologically (we are still working out the specifics). The fact that he has been so far willing to come with me to these conversations and be involved in the process makes me feel like he is in this for the long run and I’ve come to respect his decision about not wanting to be a father again right now.”

Moderator Lily added, in response to a different woman’s story of a relationship partner who has offered to co-parent with her but does not want to be a father: “How much do you want someone around your child who doesn’t want to create a strong bond with you? If you have a baby, your relationship will be altered no matter what, as you will have another primary responsibility and concern. While children don’t take the place of companionship, they certainly fill the time that companionship will fill.”

What do you think? Have you faced the “partner or child” question? How did you decide?


  7 comments for “Q&A: Choosing between partner or child

  1. Isabelle
    February 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I met a wonderful man when I was 40 who said he didn’t want to have kids for at least 5 years while we got to know each other. Stupidly I waited. Four years into our relationship, he said he didn’t want to have biological children with me but was happy to adopt. I had always been happy to adopt but now having applied, it’s still going to be a two year wait with no guarantees of being allocated children anyway. I wish I had had the guts to walk away when I was 40, the self awareness to realise how important having a child was to become for me, and the trust that the Universe would provide me with a suitable partner within two years (my arbitrary cut off date for natural conception) who was happy to be a father to my children. I would prefer my child(ren) had a known father in their lives and that I had a partner in my life, so rather than go down the donor sperm route, I am waiting for the adoption department to process our application. I"m currently 45 years old and urge any woman considering these issues to think about what they want 10-15 years before I did.

  2. Lori Sullivan
    August 24, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Here’s my story and comment in one post. I married at twenty nine and gave birth to my son at 30. The marriage became emotionally draining and it seemed we argued daily – in front of our beautiful son. We ended the marriage when our son was three.

    Next, I rekindled a relationship with a man I had been involved with before my marriage to my son’s father. YES, he still loved me and YES, he wanted more children. We married and six months after he changed his mind about both. I came home from work and he and everything he owned was gone! Now I’m 35 and single again. I’m also still fighting with my son’s father on a regular basis!

    At 37 I met the real true love of my life! He had a 13 year old daughter and wanted to have at least one more child with me, if not more. Six months into the wonderful relationship, he flipped 180 degrees the other direction and we spent the next year arguing about it. News flash! The is no way to compromise when one person in a relationship wants children just a bad as the other one doesn’t. I ended our relationship when I found him stretched out in his recliner, with an ice pack nursing the vasectomy he’d had that day.I had no idea he had scheduled the procedure.

    OK,so now I’m thirty-eight and my son is eight. I had learned two things – I’m not very good at picking men and men LIE!!

    Forget the thinking stage! If I’m going to have the honor of parenting two children I had to get busy! Fortunately I conceived on my fifth donor IUI procedure and my daughter was born when I was 40 and six months old.

    Toward the end of my first trimester it was time to tell my now nine year old son I was pregnant. I decided to call my son’s father to give him a heads up on the news before I told our son. As you’d expect, he and I were STILL fighting like cats and dogs and he went ballistic when I gave him the news, yelling "I can’t believe you would bring a child into this world knowing that he/she won’t have a father!!" I took a long slow deep breath and replied "Why would I want another YOU in my life?" He was quiet for a moment, pondering all we argued about regarding co-parenting our son and heartily said "Congratulations! I hope the pregnancy goes well and I know our son will be very excited when you tell him the news!"

    The moral of my story? Men are temporary, but children are forever! I’m now 51 and still single, my son is twenty-one and my beautiful CHOICE daughter, Sierra, is eleven. A man in my life would be an OK thing – but I think doing crafts in the kitchen with Sierra more than makes up for the dinner dates I don’t really miss! ;o)

    • Amy Moss
      July 17, 2018 at 9:05 am

      I’m sorry. I completely disagree with this. If you found the love of your life, would you discard him if he was infertile? That’s not how love works. If I had to choose between having my partner or having children, which is a choice I am going through right now, I would choose my partner. I would choose to stay with the person who loves me and makes me feel safe. Meeting the love of my life was no coincidence. I trust enough in fate to the point that even though not having children hurts tremendously, there is probably an underlying reason why I’m NOT supposed to have children. But since I made this decision of my own accord, I know the importance of not pestering or trying to make my partner change their mind. Thsee kind of actions and arguments will only make the relationship fail. When you make your decision stick to it.

  3. lori
    April 26, 2010 at 1:46 am

    I was dating a man who didn’t want kids when I was 33. I wasted no time breaking up with him and 13 months later gave birth to my baby girl. She is now 4 years old and the light of my life. I guess I loked at the big picture…at age 50 would I be more upset about not being married..or not having a child. Everyone is different so you just have to figure out what you want. Good luckK.

  4. Liz A
    April 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I spent a long time with a partner who told me he wasnt ready for kids yet, what he really meant was he wasnt ready for kids with ME. Im not bitter about it. He felt our ethnic backgrounds were too different and I understood his position. I just wish he had been clearer sooner. At 37 I am now trying, but I might have had a better chance at 35!

  5. SilverBrumby
    March 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I commented in the forum, but briefly I want to add here that my biggest regret was waiting so long to start trying. I wasted 3 years in a relationship with a man who declared from the off that he "didn’t want kids ever". I should have walked right there but I convinced myself that he "didn’t really mean it" because I liked him and I was young and dumb and figured I had all the time to change his mind. I was in my early 20s then. One thing I’ve learned is don’t try to change people. If he’s declared that he doesn’t want kids and you do, then it’s time to say an amicable goodbye. It’s better to try alone than to force someone into doing something they’re not comfortable with as that will just breed resentment. It’s also not fair to yourself to stay in a relationship when your own needs are not being met. At your age, your chances are already low. Fertility begins to drop exponentially after age 37. It’s hard to let go of a familiar relationship but try to imagine yourself at 50, 60, 70..80? With no children, no grandchildren…and who’s to say this guy will still be in the picture then? Just do what is in your heart even if it means a big change in your life.

  6. LeslieC
    March 15, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I have to agree with the first respondant – if you really want to have biological kids, run, don’t walk to your RE. At 41, your chances of being able to conceive and carry to term are already VERY slim. There is so much misinformation out there – stars having children in their late 40s but not revealing they used donor eggs. If I had known today about fertility and age, I would have started trying at a much younger age. I saw so many women on the donor egg groups who were in their mid 30s who couldn’t have biological children due to a variety of issues. You have to make the decision for you, about what’s right for YOU. At 41 you don’t have time to convince a man who isn’t ready to try to have kids.

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