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Does this sound reasonable as the basis for discussions about future marriage and children?

(72 Posts)
Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 00:47:26

It probably sounds a bit "clinical" but I'm trying to be clear-headed and I am a bit clinical anyway... and I have got to the "let's get married or I'm leaving" stage.

To me, these are non-negotiable:

-Either parallel careers with no children involved; or complete partnership with children, including legal committment, wills openly agreed upon, etc. Under the parallel careers option I would be pretty hurt if we didn't openly agree on finances and wills, but autonomy could be possible.

-Full economic partnership, pooling resources, unless there's a strong reason to do otherwise (eg one has debt or gambling issues).

-A declared partnership (in our case, marriage) means backing each other up, supporting each other first, presenting a united front in the face of criticism, be it from my mad family or from his family who dislike me. I have no problem with discussing things in private together, and no problem with being told I need to change my behaviour; however, I'm also capable of recognising when someone else is behaving inappropriately.

-If we have kids, this entails agreeing in advance how to do the important bits of parenting (such as what messages we send by what we praise, what behaviours we model and what behaviours we try to adjust in ourselves, what the ground rules and consequences are for behaviour, basic health and nutrition); backing each other up openly; and being consistent and transparent with boundaries, both with children, and with "participating and enthusiastic" grin grandparents.

Background -

We have been friends since undergraduate uni, together nearly 7 years, living together for 6. We are both 36, so if we are going to have kids we need to get on with it. We have recently moved from stressful, high-powered jobs in London, to sabbattical in [nameless laidback forrin country a long way from London], and for the first time in years, we have had enough sleep and can think straight enough to actually begin to discuss the future. I had a pregnancy "scare" a few weeks back and it didn't seem too scary, it actually seemed like quite a good idea (to me, before I tried to talk it through with DP). We are thinking of staying here and not returning to the UK, since we have the right to live and work here, and family are in the neighbouring laidback forrin country.

DP is a bit of a mummy and daddy's boy. This is good, in that his parents are lovely, very sensible, very high-achieving. However, it is totally clear that if he had to choose between me and his family, he would choose his family every time. His parents think I am a waste of space, partly because I don't get on well with my own narcissitic, screeching, grabby and abusive family, and partly because they don't like the fact I've "failed" at my career. They were perfectly happy with "our son's girlfriend the surgeon" but now it's out in the open I'm thinking of not going back to medicine, it's "oh our son has lots of women friends". And all DP has to say about that is "my parents aren't comfortable with your decisions and don't want to be drawn in and forced to take sides in your problems with your parents".

Our discussion of the future yesterday did not go brilliantly. He basically said that his attraction to me is either as a high-powered autonomous career person (in a career that i want to give up because I hate it - and have currently dropped out of), or as the mother of his children. He is not interested in marrying me or economically supporting me, as anything other than the mother of his children. He doesn't want to marry my "issues" with depression, my abhorrent family, my career midlife crisis, and all that's apparently what has stopped him from proposing in the past.

I said I wasn't totally averse to having kids - he said he would absolutely love to have kids. I asked what he thought having children would involve, tried to make it clear the right answer is "support each other through thick and thin, total partnership, backing each other up in adversity". I asked how he would respond if I got postnatal depression, we had financial problems, if the hypothetical baby had problems. He didn't answer.

So basically, he wants the good bits - my economic independence, my autonomy via my career, and my ability to carry and bring up his children, on my own. But he doesn't want to support me, only his own hypothetical children. And from what I've seen with our extended families and kids of friends, at every turn, he wants to be able to choose whether to play with the kids, or do his own work - he backs out of anything other than playing. At the moment, he is not bad re housework - he doesn't show initiative but does it if told what to do. He is fine with being told what to do. However, he would need initiative if there were children involved, and I've never seen him display initiative with respect to anything outside his work.

I don't think this is a good start to marriage and children, and am considering trying to set ground rules - which will be the basis for me leaving the relationship, within the next 6 months, if they are not adopted.

Is this too harsh? (sorry it's so long)

Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 02:28:40

Cheesestrung thanks for the idea - we are 1000s of kms out of range of Relate here, but will try to get the book and talk to him about it.

MiniMonty Mon 01-Oct-12 02:41:45

Anna... Herewith the best and worst one liner of all time: Medicine takes it out of you.
(and ain't it the truth)

But you don't need to be "House" or the top dog Surgeon to enjoy what you have put so much effort into learning over so many years.
You really could go off with Medicines sans frontieres and spend most of your time in triage (somewhere really interesting) zero stress medically and you might meet George Clooney.... Or you could get on the plane that goes every night from Birmingham to Afghanistan and back and do trauma containment for the squaddies whose legs have been blown off (no teaching, nobody judging you). You could look for a rural GP job with a farm attached and your kids running in the meadows of Merry England.

MANY things are in your future and I think none include the guy you've described to us all.

It's ALWAYS a lot easier to do nothing than to do something. It's VERY hard to walk away from where you are, what you know and all the time you're thinking "what will I tell my friends..." but fuck all that. You live once. And at 36 I reckon you've got that idea (almost) firmly worked out.

I say crack a bottle. Drink it alone and write some postcards to yourself FROM yourself for the next ten years.
(Postcard One):
Dear Anna, I'm on a plane, it's full of soldiers and medicos and we're off to collect wounded soldiers from Afghanistan. I can't tell you where we took off from and the SAS are on board...
(Postcard Two):
Dear Anna, I'm in Beziers. The crop this year has been pretty good but the warm nights through October may have ruined the grapes (but it's been fun treading the extras to make Rose with Alain).

You write the next twenty until you read one the next day that you really, really want to come true. Then just make it come true.

Aussiebean Mon 01-Oct-12 02:47:45

Hi Anna

I can't talk much about the career and babies part of your post but I can about the toxic family.

It worried me that you don't feel you can rely on either you partner or his family for support. I have a very toxic mother. It has taken a little for my DF to understand but I have his and his mother support in dealing with her.

At the wedding day, his mum has volunteered to stand guard and keep her away from me. That love and understanding I am so grateful for. It took her a while to get it. As she can't understand a mother being so awful. But for me she has got it.

That part of your post stood out to me. If you got married you two would be the family. And the fact that you already know he will put them first, means you will be battling him, your in laws AND you family.

You need someone who is on your side. ESP with a toxic family. If he can't be that. Find someone who can.

Hyperballad Mon 01-Oct-12 02:49:43

I think a little bit different to the poster so far.

I think he didn't answer you because he felt that it was pointless to. As in your not going to be open to his point of view of his answers anyway.

From what you've said I don't think you love this man as he is, I think you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

He has said he would love to have kids and that he would support you as the mother of his kids, I'm not sure what's wrong with that? Marriage isn't for everyone, it dorsn't sound like you want to marry him as much as he doesn't want to marry you.

I think most people would struggle to answer the question 'what happens if I get PND' but I think he more than some as his answer would be wrong.

It all seems wrong and I think it is because you don't love him as he is.

CaliforniaLeaving Mon 01-Oct-12 03:10:42

He can't cherry pick what he wants, you are who you are, medical problems included. Whats he going to do you have a bed week/month and need him to look after you and do all the baby stuff, will he run for the hills.
I think the, go back to London and marry a fireman was the best suggestion of all.

MovingGal Mon 01-Oct-12 03:18:22

Some questions you need to ask yourself:

What happens if you don't get pregnant?
Will he trade you in for a younger model after some years of trying?

After your kids are grown and left the nest will he fly off too?
If the kids do have problems will he wipe his hands of you & the kids?
What if the kids have no problems but just don't meet with his exacting standards?

I think people do need to think of the practical aspects of marriage and child raising but the best any of us can do is go in with realistic expectations and the best of intentions. The best intentions seem to be missing here.

justbogoffnow Mon 01-Oct-12 03:25:25

Well said MiniMonty smile. Go and do some living, laughing and loving Anna, it really doesn't sound like your future is with this guy. There are people who can make you much happier than this and you have time still to have babies if you want them smile.

justaboutiswarm Mon 01-Oct-12 03:40:47

I think that by and large your points are reasonable. But I think that in a good enough relationship most of this wouldn't need saying.

If you want a child, you can have one and be a single parent. It doesn't have to be done like this.

Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 04:14:06

Lovely ideas Minimonty, I shall start writing some postcards and see which one I like best smile

Good points here - thankyou all.

Hyperballad: there isn't anything wrong at all with "he would love to have children and would support them" except the bit that went with it: he wouldn't support me and sees nothing wrong with asking me to use my savings to pay rent and bills even if I can't work because I'm looking after "our" children, he doesn't want to marry me as I am but how he would like me to be, and the undeniable fact that unless he suddenly grew up a lot (likelihood: zero) he would be a depressingly useless "fun uncle" Dad who could always be relied upon to indulge the kids but never actually parent them. And having seen his parents interacting with our nephews, there would be clashes of ideas and i know he'd be backing up his mum and refusing to discuss it with me.

wine wine wine required this evening I think.

Hyperballad Mon 01-Oct-12 05:10:02

In that case then, why wait 6 months to leave him, think you should just get on and do it. It's a big decision after being with him all these years but it feels like you've already made it.

If I'm wrong and you still want to find a way to work things out with him then I think you need to focus on just the most important thing. I think you are piling up a lot of different issues and making a mountain when a lot of the things you can decide on as and when they happen or even if they happen. Dealing with little molehills along the way is easier than trying to get over a great big mountain.

Grumpla Mon 01-Oct-12 05:15:18

Life is far too short to waste another six months on someone who doesn't appear to love you and who you don't appear to love. Another vote for the fireman here!

Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 05:32:09

I've been economical with the "but I love him" because I already know from bitter experience that one-sided love is totally irrelevant in making a relationship work. Particularly after it's got to this stage.

I do love him. I would look after him til death do us part. I would work to resolve things. I feel affectionate and warm and fuzzy towards him.

But it is increasingly clear that just like the previous relationships, this is one-sided; and unlike in previous contexts, it makes absolutely no sense for me to be in this city or country, if I am not in this relationship.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Mon 01-Oct-12 06:02:28

Really, if things are so tricky now, having children would just sink this relationship.

You sound really lovely, if still suffering from the effects of work stress

Give yourself a few weeks / months space from this man, to really see how you feel about him. Affectionate, warm and fuzzy are, IMO, not particularly strong emotions...

Chubfuddler Mon 01-Oct-12 06:16:06

I don't understand the whole "support you as mother of his children but not wanting to do anything or give you financial support" bit. It sounds to me that his parents aren't the only ones hung up on your braggability as a surgeon. I also think you feel trapped by your age and in last chance saloon and if you were 25 or 30 you'd run like the fucking wind if a man offered you this half life. I also agree with whoever said that if you press on with him he will feel entitled to emotionally and probably totally check out the first time something is a bit hard because he's already "warned" you he would and you've tolerated that.

He sounds v v selfish and I really wouldn't want to put my heart in this mans hands.

NeDeLaMer Mon 01-Oct-12 06:41:07

I agree with the 98% of posters who have said this relationship is not going to work sad

When a man tells you who he is listen.

He has told you he doesn't want to marry your 'issues'. He has told you it's High Powered Surgeon or Drudge - nothing inbetween. He's told you his parents will always come first....

Really - what more do you need to know before you pack your bags and get out of nameless forrin country & somewhere that inspires you?

You are 36 - don't waste anymore time trying to make this relationship what you want it (and deserve it) to be, be by yourself for a bit, find YOU then you will meet a man who is right for YOU.

nooka Mon 01-Oct-12 06:54:52

Sounds to me that the two of you have generally enjoyed a life where you were both concentrating on your careers and possibly didn't really demand very much from each other because you were stressed out by other things. Now you are probably spending more time with each other than you have for years and perhaps you are discovering that you don't really have that much in common.

Your OP suggested to me that your partner was saying that if you had children he would support you as the mother of his children, but that otherwise he expected you to go on working. This seems to me a fairly normal expectation to be honest.

With regards to parenting I don't think that observing your partner with the children of friends and family is a very good guide to how involved a father he is likely to be. Neither dh nor I had very much interest in other people's children at all, but we are equally hands on parents (still not very keen on other people's children though!)

I also think it is a terrible idea to try and force anyone to answer a question with the 'right' answer, essentially you don't actually want their own opinion just to hear what you want to hear. Your right answer is not what I would have said to dh when he decided that having a baby might be nice, or what I would have expected him to say either. It's a question with many 'right' answers.

However regardless o all that it's fairly clear that both of you have very conditional feelings towards each other. You don't think he is fatherhood material and he thinks you have too many issues. At 36 I doubt either of you are going to fundamentally change.

bbface Mon 01-Oct-12 07:05:29

This is very sad. Also sad that you come to a anonymous forum for advise. You need a good girlfriend. Do you have one? To sit down and work these things through in your head. You need to talk to someone face to face. See who really and genuinely cares about you, and knows you. I desperately hope this is a possibility for you and, if it is, I would urge you to drop the thread and go to this friend.

bbface Mon 01-Oct-12 07:06:15

'Someone' who really and genuinely....

Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 07:24:13

Thanks bbface (and others). No, I don't have any good girlfriends of the sort you mean, or any relatives. The job i've had until recently was the sort where you have no other life, and once a couple of formerly good friends turned out to be more interested in things other than me, I kind of gave up and just focussed on work.

It's now blatantly obvious that I need to acquire a life.

LesleyPumpshaft Mon 01-Oct-12 07:55:50

OP, I am sorry that PIL's think you have failed at your career. Maybe at the age of 36 you feel as though there is more to life and that you are a human being, not a human doing.

Lots of people get fed up with working their backsides off to achieve some sort of status and career that impresses people they don't particularly like, while hating it themselves. If PIL and your partner think you have failed by deciding to take a different route, well, they are very narrow minded and have pretty much failed at being kind, tolerant and considerate people. So, they are not worthy of your time and energy for starters.

You need to do what makes you happy and look after your mental and physical health if you are feeling burnt out. The last thing you need is more stress from an immature and uncaring partner.

Also, this man does not sound like someone suitable to have children with. His attachment to parents who don't respect your life choices, the fact that he said would be unwilling to support you through the rough times says it all.

Being a parent can make you feel burned out and isolated when you have a decent and supportive partner. It would be unwise to have children with this man.

JustSpiro Mon 01-Oct-12 08:02:56

I don't think this is a good start to marriage and children

Bingo! I haven't time to read your whole thread atm but based on your OP, if it's that much hard work already I'd be thinking of getting out ASAP rather than tying yourself to this bloke any further.

marshmallowpies Mon 01-Oct-12 08:15:28

It's not an equal partnership when one person is doing all the running to make the other happy. My exP followed his dream career in academia, which left me dragged along in his wake working long hours in a job I hated. He could go into the lab pretty much when he felt like it, take a day off whenever he liked...and he'd get mad at me for not wanting to stay out all night or throw a sickie so I could hang out with him. And god forbid we go to visit my extended family (my parents were fine, but he refused to interact with my wider family) or spend the evenings/weekends doing something I wanted to do.

It's only now I look back and realise it wasn't a partnership, it was one person completely in thrall to another. All my choices were taken away from me and my life was pretty much what my exP dictated for me. You need, at the very least, to get yourself into a position where you can make choices about what you want to do with your life.

Anna1976 Mon 01-Oct-12 08:58:43

marshmallowpies- that's sad, and sadly very, very common in academia. Yes - there is a strong danger of that happening here.

He's out tonight. I was feeling too ill and unhappy to go with him - it will probably be taken as further evidence of my social inadequacy.

Corygal Mon 01-Oct-12 09:09:53

You want something that isn't going to happen if you stay with him.

It can only happen if you leave.

marshmallowpies Mon 01-Oct-12 09:13:41

Anna the thing that kept me going at the time was thinking 'well at least one of us is following our dream' and I was so proud of him for giving up his previously well-paid career to do something he really wanted to do (and also that might benefit humanity in the long run, as he might find a cure for a disease or something). But in all that pie-in-the-sky business there was nothing there for me, other than being his loyal partner and supporter.

Someone said to me, not long after we broke up, 'you ought to be in a relationship with someone where you aren't the junior partner, always the person in the background' and that turned out to be a very wise & accurate epitaph for that relationship.

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