Dear Ms Peirano,
my girlfriend and I have been together for three years. I'm 36, she's about to turn 35. In our environment, many people get married and have children. And I know that my girlfriend definitely wants to have two or three children.
She incorporated that relatively early in the relationship. I wasn't that far back then, I still wanted to go abroad, I wanted to be free and enjoy being together. There were also arguments when I told her not to nail me down so tightly as to when and if I wanted children. My girlfriend hasn't broached the subject in a year, but I also know from her parents that everyone is waiting for her to have a child.
That puts me under pressure. I'd probably like to have children someday too, but now isn't the right time.
I lose interest in sex a bit because I feel like a producer.
What approaches do you have for me or for us?
Dear Thomas R,
I have accompanied many women in my practice for whom the desire to have children was a very central issue. Among them were single women who were wondering how they could meet a man with whom they could start a family. Other women or their partners were biologically unable to have children, and sometimes these women were in fertility treatment and spared no expense or risk to have a child.
I have accompanied women who were already in their 40s and had to deal with the fact that they would probably remain childless. And I've met women who can no longer have children and have mourned it. I've met unintentionally childless women who were secretly jealous of their friends' children.
And of course I also got to know many women who didn't want children or who credibly said they would relax and wait and see whether they would have children or not.
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
What I mean to say is that family planning is often a very important issue for women. And women are under more pressure than men because they have a biological clock ticking. From a certain age, the probability of getting pregnant drops dramatically, and around the mid-40s the train finally left.
In addition, the desire to have children is a question that you have to clarify together with your partner. In this question, it's not common for everyone to just do their own thing. You can live separately in a partnership, even in different cities or countries. One person can get a dog or a horse and the other can largely stay out of the topic. You can have separate circles of friends or hobbies that your partner doesn't share. Everything is possible. But with a child you have to decide together for or against it, and that should be done before the woman has left the train.
And if a woman wants to have several children, then including pregnancies and intervals between children, she should actually start in her mid-30s, around the same age as your girlfriend is now. Can you empathize with your wife's unrest and inability to act? After all, she can't just start with the topic on her own, but is dependent on you giving her the green light.
If I put myself in your girlfriend's shoes and transfer the quintessence of the conversations I've had with other women to her, then your girlfriend is currently in a much worse position than you because she is a woman.
Because their options look dreary. She could put pressure on you to have a child in their partnership. Now we can clearly imagine that the shot backfires, because you're already getting a bit discouraged. It would probably strain or even destroy the partnership if your girlfriend gave you an ultimatum. And who believes that a man who didn't want a child will also become a dedicated father?
She could break up and look for another man. But honestly, what is the situation like for a woman in her mid-30s who wants to have children and who is no longer so relaxed about waiting a few more years, enjoying the relationship and traveling around the world?
How do you feel about the fact that your girlfriend is under so much pressure? Do you have sympathy? And how important is this woman and this relationship to you?
You don't have all the time in the world to start a family with this woman either. You can of course tell yourself that you can always find a younger partner with whom you want to start a family in ten or 20 years. But how does your partner feel when she senses this?
How would it be if the situation were the other way around and for you the train to fulfill a wish that is very important for your life would leave in a few years and no new one would come - and not for your girlfriend? What would you wish from her?
I would advise you to take responsibility. Responsibility means giving answers (in English the word "responsibility" comes from "to respond"). Responsibility doesn't mean giving in to pressure and doing what your girlfriend wants. Rather, it means dealing with the topic in depth. Because your girlfriend wants children (even if she hasn't expressed the wish for some time). And to know where she is with you, she needs answers from you.
Here's my advice: Answer the question for yourself about whether you want to have children in the foreseeable future.
To help: How was it for you to be a child? How did you experience your family? If it was good: Would you like to pass on similar experiences to your children? If you had bad or even traumatic experiences as a child: Do you dare to do better than father? What would you need?
Based on movies, books, friends, can you think of a family model that would suit you? How realistic is it that you could live like that yourself?
How do your friends and family see you? Do you get mirrored that you could be a good father or do you get "I can't really imagine that from you" feedback? Why is that?
At a later point in time, get your girlfriend on board and discuss together what kind of family life you could imagine or where you also see problems. What possible solutions would there be?
What would be your biggest fears about being a father? What would be your greatest hopes and dreams?
If you can't get anywhere together, you might be able to do couples counseling, but for a limited time. Because if you do couples counseling at longer intervals for two years without getting any results, that is also a kind of avoidance behavior. This is of no use to you and your girlfriend.
I think that you can build a lot of trust at this point if you take your girlfriend's desire to have children very seriously and look for the right answers to the best of your knowledge and belief. And in turn, your girlfriend's trust could be severely damaged if you allow valuable years to slip by without your child being pursued.
I hope you can tackle this together!