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What Do You Do If You Want Kids and Your Partner Doesn’t?

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Image source: Instagram via Lewis Hamilton

Newspapers in the UK reported that Nicole Scherzinger has split from Formula One champion race car driver Lewis Hamilton for a fourth time. According to rumors, the 36-year-old ex-Pussycat Dolls singer has parted ways with her 30-year-old boyfriend due to the pressures of a long-distance relationship after a seven-year romance. But a source told The Sun newspaper that Scherzinger allegedly called time on the relationship this time around because the race car driver refused to marry her and start a family, saying: ‘They’ve been fighting for months but things had got much worse. She finally had enough. Nicole knew Lewis had no plans to marry her. She’s completely gutted and feels lost about her future.”

It is a story that happens to many women (and indeed men), where one person is on a completely different page than their partner. So how does it come to be that the person you’ve fallen in love with doesn’t envisage the same future as you? And more importantly, what do you do about it?

Over the years I’ve had several friends who have had to make the agonizing decision of whether or not to split up with someone they deeply love because they both wanted different futures — namely she wanted kids and he didn’t. Most of these women have waited, in vain, hoping against hope that their other half would change their mind, only to wake up post-35 to discover that they haven’t. Then the decision is even harder: stay or go? Stay with your partner, knowing that even if you’ll never have a family, you’ll be with someone you love? Or leave the relationship in the hopes of maybe meeting someone else to have a family with? In either scenario, there’s always the worry of “what if.” What if I don’t meet someone new, and I’ve left my relationship for nothing. What if I stay with him, but could have met someone who actually wanted a family. It’s a difficult situation either way.

The thing is, I wonder why they didn’t have “the conversation” at the beginning of their relationship. I once read a book when I was 30 years old where someone said: “The only thing you have to decide before marriage is if you want children and what religion you plan to raise them in. The rest you can work out along the way.” At the time, I was living with my boyfriend and didn’t pay it that much heed. But thinking back, we did in fact talk about kids and how many we wanted prior to getting “serious” and long before we got engaged.

I remember at my bachelorette party, my girlfriends asked me questions about my husband-to-be and played back his answers on tape, having interviewed him previously. One question was: “How many kids do you want?” The multiple choice answers my fiancé could choose from were: “A) a whole brood if she has her way; B) two; or C) no idea, we’ll talk about that later.” I remember clearly answering “B) two” and the tape proving my answer was in fact right. He said the exact same thing. We’d discussed it. We were on the same page. (In fact, when it came to having baby no. 2, I reminded him he promised me two kids and referred back to this tape!)

So how is it that people, seven years into a relationship, get to a point where one wants something completely opposite than the other? It’s actually a lot more common than you might think. I have a good friend who has been married for almost nine years. She got married in her early twenties and assumed the maternal instinct would kick in at some stage. Except it didn’t. She feels guilty and awful because she isn’t sure she ever wants to be a mother, and she knows her husband desperately wants children. She worries that she will ruin his life if she doesn’t have them, and even more that she will ruin her own if she does.

It’s easy to go into a relationship wanting one thing, and thinking, “Hey, maybe I’ll change my mind over time.” Honestly, when I was 24 years old and in the dating world, I never thought I wanted to have kids. It wasn’t until I met my husband that the idea of kids sounded appealing. And that’s simply because I wanted them with him. It’s hard to know what we actually want until we get there. Over time, careers, health, and circumstances can all change and what we thought we wanted at one stage can be the last thing we want at another.

This is why I think it’s so important to start having the baby conversation as early as possible. Explain your feelings. If you definitely want kids, tell your partner. If you know for a fact you don’t, be honest. And if you’re on the fence, thinking that one day you’ll change your mind and want them, explain that. This way, you can both try to work towards the same future — or decide earlier on not to. While it isn’t easy and sometimes we don’t know what we want, the first step is talking it out. Because more often than not, we know what we don’t want, and that is at least a start.

What do you think couples should do if they find themselves on different sides of the baby fence?

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