Mental Health

Talking to Our Partners about Biological Clock

by Rachel Wien

Is it crazy to ask my partner where this relationship is going? Is it crazy to ask if we are exclusive, or if they can see a future together? These are all fair questions to ask to yourself and to your partner as your relationship progresses.

Common fears holding women back from bringing up kids while dating

During the early weeks and months of dating, individuals are often hyper-aware of the way they might be perceived by a potential partner. Few are comfortable bringing up topics of commitment too soon for fear of being thought of as desperate or moving too fast. While it may not be as obvious, another common fear while dating is being perceived as too old. Women in particular, may wonder if a male partner might want someone younger, who “has more time” and is thus unencumbered by their biological clock.

Perhaps the biggest fear is the one that keeps many of us from bringing up difficult conversation topics is the fear of vulnerability. What if I share honest desires and worries with my partner and I get rejected? What if they disappoint me in their response and then I have to end the relationship? A very real phenomenon around this experience is known as a “vulnerability hangover.” In other words, individuals worry they’ll regret bringing up certain topics and wish they hadn’t, or that they had delayed it further.

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If women are open to talking about kids, it can feel like a matter of timing.

There are ways to read if a partner is open to talking about having children. One sign is any form of commitment, such as spending time together consistently or having an open and responsive line of communication. Another way to gauge a partner’s interest in the conversation around having kids is their lifestyle. Do they have a stable career and talk about the idea of settling down in any way? Or, are they out partying four nights a week? Finally, it’s important for women to remember that many men are actually pretty transparent about what they want. Signs that a man may be ready to have children, or at least explore the subject, might include discussions around enjoying children in their life or even hopes of someday being a dad.

How to start the kid conversation

Even if you feel confident that the person you’re seeing is interested in having kids someday, the natural next question I get is; “How do I start the kid conversation?” Recent studies showed that many men are open to talking about having kids and find it to be important. Nonetheless, it’s helpful to find some natural segways into this conversation – did the man you’re seeing bring up something about his siblings’ or friends’ children? Has he shared his dreams and goals for the future? Even if none of this has occurred, you can still have the conversation. Try to make it relaxed and off the cuff, the same way you would bring up much less serious topics on a date. This way, you can determine early on by the response you receive if it’s a good time for the conversation to go deeper or not. You can also bring up children in your own life and casually mention your excitement around having kids one day, and see the reaction you receive.

Conversations on any intimate topic is an important exercise in a relationship

Bringing up vulnerable topics like the desire to have children or to take a relationship to another level can be uncomfortable. These conversations may even fail to go over as well as you might hope - but that’s not exactly a bad thing. It can be easy in today’s world to take any level of discomfort or awkward interaction as a sign of a relationship doomed from the start, quickly moving onto the next fish in what can feel like an infinite sea. However, intimate and even uncomfortable conversations often bring couples closer and present opportunities for deeper and more meaningful connection. 

Rachel Wien:

Rachel Wien is a licensed clinical psychologist based in New York. She specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, perinatal mental health issues, and fertility issues. Website: www.milestonecbt.com