He doesn’t know if he wants kids

I just found out my boyfriend of two years is unsure about having kids. We moved into a house he bought about six months ago and things have otherwise been going very well. We are working out the kinks of living with another person and learning each other's quirks and preferences. It seems we are really compatible life partners. I have never felt this stable in a relationship before.

The only problem I am having surrounds life's big questions: babies and marriage. We have now discussed both of those things. On the topic of marriage, my boyfriend was unable to have a clear conversation with me (he shuts down whenever I want to have these important relationship discussions), and eventually said we weren't ready and that if we discuss it too soon, we may jinx ourselves. I have since told him how I feel when he shuts down in conversation, so the more recent discussion of having children was much more productive and enlightening.

I had always assumed he was interested in having kids. He is great with children. We have also had conversations about our future together in which I have explicitly talked about us having kids. He has never objected to any statements of that nature so I assumed that meant he felt the same way. When it came up naturally in conversation that he could "go either way" on having kids, I was surprised and asked for more information. I stated clearly that I do want to have kids and he seemed surprised, although I feel like I have never hidden that from him. He is in his mid-30s, and I am 26. I am not ready to start a family yet, but I would like to know that at some point by my early 30s we will be working toward that.

How do I feel secure about the future of my relationship with this man who is ambivalent but open-minded about the issue?

– Wondering

This is going to involve some compromise on both sides.

The kid thing is a big deal – and a potential deal-breaker. If "I could go either way" means "I'd rather not," that's something you need to know. On the other hand, this does require some patience. It's possible he doesn't know what he wants at the moment, and that’s OK. He's doesn't want to make promises he might not be able to keep.

While you work on enjoying the present, he should be thinking about next steps, at the very least. He’ll be in his late 30s when you want kids. What are his other goals for the future?

Your conversation was much more productive when you took marriage out of the equation. For a lot of people, marriage starts to mean wedding, which is a very different thing. It helps to be specific. If your vision of marriage means saving together, building family, traveling, etc., say that. Everyone does this kind of commitment differently. Be clear about what it means to you.

In the meantime, know that you might not get security right now. Two years into a relationship, there’s potential, hope, and discussion, but you don't have any guarantees. Frustrating, I know. It’s a process, and you have to let it play out until you're ready to make moves. It helps to spend quality time with people who will be with you forever (maybe a best friend or relative). That usually helps take the edge off the risk.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you stay comfortable in a relationship when the big questions haven't been answered?