I am 37 and have been with my boyfriend for six years. Since we first met we have talked about the fact that we both want children, we’ve even discussed names and where we’d move to when we have them. I am in finance, and have just been made a partner and so don’t want to disrupt my career for at least another couple of years. But last week I said I thought it might be a good idea for us to have a fertility MOT, and he suddenly announced he didn’t want to have children because he would be a terrible parent. He had a dysfunctional childhood and fears he would replicate it. He apologised and offered to move out, but said he still loves me and wants to be with me but does not want to be a parent, end off. I am so upset, I keep crying at work and don’t want to tell anyone – not even my mum or closest friends – because I feel so shocked that he has done this. Elle W, Tooting
Gosh that is quite a U-turn! No wonder you feel so upset. Your partner’s change of heart just as you were trying to work out the how and when and if of having children together represents a quite substantial loss. The loss of a planned, shared future. And what you are feeling in response to this is grief, which is a complicated set of emotions that can hit all at once or come in stages.
It has also opened up a lot of uncertainty as to what next. Will you stay together? If you do, will you be able to adjust to the idea of not having children, or is there a possibility you can work with him to change his idea of himself as a ‘bad parent’? If you don’t – will you set out to have a child alone or to meet someone else? Or… what? One thing is certain — you have a lot to find out at a time when you are shocked and sad and angry.
And you are all on your own with this, because right now you don’t feel ready to tell anyone. However, I wonder if when the shock wears off you will be able to talk to someone about what is going on for you. I think it would be very helpful to you to have a safe space in which you can discuss this and work out where you are with it all. Change of any kind can be very unsettling and frightening, but starting to set it out and work out where you are with it all with someone you trust could be an important way of helping you to process this.
I wish you very much luck.