I know I don’t want children

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Hi Meredith,

I'm a 23-year-old woman who has been single for a few years and is seeking a long-term relationship. In the past six months, I've met two guys with whom I connected super well, but they each ended it really early on because I don't want children and they do. These guys are close in age to me, so I find it pretty odd that this issue is coming up so much when we're so young. I'm unsure of whether I should make wanting children a dealbreaker or not, and I feel like there are compelling arguments on both sides.

I'm looking for a serious relationship because I really want to find connection and experience love. I'm not specifically looking for marriage right now – I'm so young, and it's likely that the next person I date will not be the person I marry. I have so much time. So in that case, I feel like it shouldn't matter if he wants kids or not. On the other hand, part of why I'm looking for a relationship is to experience growing with someone and building a life with them. Knowing that we will inevitably have to break up someday because we have different future family plans could be like a dark cloud hanging over the relationship.

While I'm not specifically looking for marriage, it would be pretty cool if my next boyfriend wound up being my future husband. In that case, maybe it's best to only date men who don't want kids or are currently unsure about kids. It would be silly of me to expect other people to be as certain as I am about children, so I'm open to dating men who are unsure. But when it comes to men who know they want kids, I don't know what to do. What do you think? Am I limiting my dating pool and stopping future connections by making this a dealbreaker? Or am I setting myself up for future heartbreak if I keep going on dates with guys who know they want kids? Thank you! I look forward to your advice!

– Unsure

"Maybe it's best to only date men who don't want kids or are currently unsure about kids."

This sounds about right.

Basically, stay honest during these dates and see where it goes. You don't expect your next relationship to lead to marriage, but maybe some of these guys want that kind of connection. If you're transparent about your plans when the topic comes up, the right people will stick around.

It's great to know that these two men ended it early, when they knew it wasn't going to work. That's better than them not believing you or trying to change your mind. You wouldn't want that. I remember people telling me in my early 20s, when it came to children, "Who knows what you'll want over time?" I think these people meant well – they were telling to give myself space to see how life unfolds – but ... sometimes kids just aren't in people's plans. I'm glad these men listened.

I would imagine that there are plenty of unsure people around. The pool won't be so limited.

Also know that sometimes you meet someone who is designed to be temporary in your romantic life, no matter what. Perhaps you'll be on a vacation and meet an adorable person with whom you'd like to have a lovely evening. More casual circumstances can call for ... casual conversation and different expectations. You can still have those experiences too.

- Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on going out with people who want kids when you know you don't? How does age play into this?