When it comes to deal breakers, we start filtering with the usual suspects: smoking, level of education, religious background, etc. However, life goals—like the decision to have children or not—shouldn’t be treated any differently.
According to the US Census Bureau’s survey in 2014, 28.9 percent of women between the ages 30-34 are . This percentage is at an all-time high and, according to other surveys, this trend isn’t stopping anytime soon. Women are postponing pregnancy or not having children at all. For many women thinking about their waning fertility, the topic of kids—to have them or not—is a topic better had sooner than after months of dating.
Although men don’t have a biological clock to contend with, they might have family expectations of their own or want to be sure their partner wants to remain before committing. In one poll conducted by the Associated Press in 2013, more than 8 in 10 men said they were interested in becoming fathers. With men’s continued desire to procreate and more women opting to postpone pregnancy, figuring out where kids—or if—kids fit into the plans is a crucial milestone.
Talking about future family plans is important, but it’s a tricky conversation to initiate. Women worried about family planning will want to initiate the conversation sooner, but often they do so at the risk of scaring potential partners off or making their partners feel like sperm donors. Men, on the other hand, might feel like they’re adding pressure to their partners to bear the burden of pregnancy.
Step 1. Consider timing.
The first three dates should not reference a future. Talking about your future life together before spending enough time together sends a desperate message: Your partner’s personality and behavior isn’t that important. If you’re bringing up kids before establishing any real connection, your partner will feel more like a means to an end instead of being an actual end.
The best time to weave hopes of a future family is when the relationship is transitioning from dating to something more serious. When it’s safe to assume you’ll see each other rather than wondering if you’ll see each other, you can start weaving in references to a future family without any kind of pressure-inducing discussion.
Step 2. Consider your word choice.
When you talk about a future family, nix the deadlines. The point of the conversation is to understand where your partner falls on the family-planning spectrum—not when you’d like to get pregnant/impregnate.
If you’re sure you want children, try:
- I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually looking forward to driving a minivan full of little leaguers.
- Not now, but in the next few years, I’d be interested in starting a family.
If you’re sure you do NOT want children, try:
- Although I enjoy kids, I’ve never felt the call to have my own. I want to make sure you know that upfront, so you don’t miss out on any life experiences you might be looking forward to.
If you aren’t sure about having children, try:
- I haven’t spent too much time thinking about my future family. I think so much of that answer depends on my partner.
Step 3. Get honest about your needs.
If you’re sure you don’t want children and you know your partner does, do the right thing and set your partner free. To continue dating despite misaligned future paths is a waste of time for both of you. If, on the other hand, you’re sure you do want kids, and your partner doesn’t feel the same, do not waste your precious time trying to convince him or her otherwise.