“Growing up I always dreamed of being a mom, and it's something my fiancé and talked about when we started getting more serious (he's also always to be a dad). In the last few months, though, I've started to rethink whether or not I actually want kids. I'm scared that if I bring it up to my fiancé, he'll say we have to break things off. How do I broach this very touchy subject with him? Does this fundamental difference in what we want mean our relationship is doomed?”
Your timing makes so much sense. When you dreamed about being a mom, it was from a distance. As we get closer to a major decision, we see the choice through a different lens.
Sometimes there’s this sense that with big life decisions, we’re supposed to just know what we want, and not deviate from that knowing. But as you approach marriage, this is exactly the kind of conversation marriage counselors encourage.
It also doesn’t help that there’s a societal tendency for others to start asking, “So…when is the baby coming?” as soon as a couple makes plans to say, “I do.” Honestly, given the cultural norms around this, I commend you for even recognizing your uncertainty, rather than pretending it’s not there.
And the bottom line is that rather than “dooming” anything clarity and open communication only strengthens a relationship. After all, if I, a complete stranger, feel so curious about your process, I can only imagine how much your fiancé might like to be involved. And as your inner world ebbs and flows, I can only imagine what is happening for him. You’re both on the brink of a monumental commitment—sounds like a great opportunity for rich, necessary conversation–with yourself and with your partner.
When you do have these conversations, I urge both of you to communicate with compassion. Your fear may stem from empathy and thoughtfulness--you really get that this might indeed be very difficult for your partner to hear. Tell him that. Acknowledge that this is a shift from what you shared before.
But I encourage suspending the fear long enough to share your truth, and hear his. This will help you hear him out, listening to understand, rather than listening to respond or defend. You’ve had much more time to wrestle with this question. He might feel blindsided. Or, he might be rethinking kids himself. You don’t know, and I certainly don’t know. Whether it’s deep breathing, or something else, prepare in advance to stay receptive as you hear him out.
If it’s possible for you, consider having these conversations with a professional couples counselor who specializes in premarital counseling. Sometimes faith leaders, if you have a trusted (emphasis on “trusted,” as rapport is key) minister or rabbi, will offer this service.
If you have this conversation in a way that is compassionate, present and open, you’ll be in a much better position to respond to your fiancé rather than react. Then together you can determine what this means. Even if this does lead to the end of your relationship (and I’m not saying it will), I promise it is better than staying silent.
Sarah Greenberg, MFT, is a psychotherapist, board certified coach and consultant to mental health/human development start-ups. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, via her website or through her column at Psychology Today.
Editor's note: This content is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional treatment.