Perspective | Carolyn Hax: He said he wanted kids. Now that he’s married, he’s not sure.


He is now 39 and had been single 2½ years before he met me.

Our marriage has been tumultuous since Day One because of cultural differences, miscommunication and our continuous triggering of each other. We’re now into our second therapist and things have gotten slightly better, but he changed his mind about kids. He is up in the air now. Our therapists can’t even get a straight answer from him, but he mentions the unstable relationship as a factor.

I intended to have children in my early 30s, but this is affecting me now as I approach 30 and enter a one-year lease with him. I’m wondering how long do I wait, or do I start mentally checking out within this next year? Help me please!

Stuck in Limbo: Allow me this, upfront: The only right answer for a volatile couple is to change their minds on kids, even temporarily. Even if it feels like a broken promise, even if it makes the roiling worse for a while, even as windows are closing.

As upsetting and unwelcome as this development has been, it also presents a useful opportunity. Instead of multiple possibilities, problems and plans to sort out between you, you have one: Find a way to get along. Give that your full attention, and you’ll get to the answer sooner on whether it’s even possible — which then will tell you what options you have remaining for what comes next. The kid question, with him, could be moot.

This will feel counterintuitive, as if you’re ignoring something vitally important. Children are a valid dealbreaker, a legitimate priority for people who hope for them, and they involve a decision that can’t wait forever — but right now, potential kids are blocking a bigger picture.

I obviously don’t know your husband. But you do, better than you realize, maybe? Your description reveals someone who was not afraid to get into long-term, committed relationships — since you’re at least his third — but who found reasons to get out of them that were on the fearful side of the ledger. Too young, too much, not ready, eek! kids!

These tumultuous newlywed months could be his latest expression of the same deep, apparently unaddressed fear — eek! not ready! — his age and willingness to marry you notwithstanding. One incredibly common manifestation of such fearfulness is to pick fights with the person who represents the thing you’re afraid of. It’s easier to fight problems until they break up with you than to face them.

Please try this theory on for a while. See whether “scared to death” fits when you ask yourself why he’s balking, why you’re fighting. If it does, then try these: respond to him from the standpoint of allaying fears, and bring this possibility up in therapy.

Even if I’m wrong about the reason you aren’t getting along, setting aside the issue of kids — temporarily! — sounds right. Even think what you’d do if you couldn’t have them. To focus on where you are vs. where you would rather be would be calming if nothing else. Calm brings clarity. Clarity covers it all.

Hi, Carolyn: My ex-boyfriend from a few years ago has a habit of resurfacing every so often and asking me for small favors that would be completely reasonable if anyone else were asking. Things like reading the cover letter he plans to submit for a job application.

He dumped me. He always says he would like to be friends, and I think asking for favors is his way of trying to achieve that, but they leave me feeling raw and sad. I don’t exactly wish we were back together, but I am still attracted to him and drawn to his magnetic personality.

Do I need to just push him fully out of my life? Is there a way to get to the point where this sort of interaction isn’t so painful?

Ex-boyfriend Drama: If it’s not mutual and not part of an actual friendship, then asking for favors is a way to get people to do things for you for nothing. That’s it.

Please don’t do his rationalizing for him, too.

If you don’t look out for each other, unselfishly, then you aren’t friends.

Say no to doing the favors. If he remains in your life after that, you can decide then whether to push him out.

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