The Ticking Clock

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on having children.

Is his clock ticking?

Wanted: Wife and wannabe mom. Serious, qualified applicants only, please.

Men who want to settle down and start families? Extinct, some say. Nope. They’re out there: Guys with biological clocks that have started sounding alarms, warning that they’re heading into middle age without families—so they’re looking to build one, and soon. These men are relatively easy to spot: They may mention marriage moments after meeting you. They may follow-up casual questions like “Do you enjoy your work?” with pointed probes: “Do you think you’ll give it up to stay at home when you have a baby?” On date number three, they might describe the blinding bling they want to buy you—or offer more “subtle” suggestions of a together-forever future: Remarks à la “My mom will love you.”

While such behaviors may seem refreshingly romantic at first, eventually they can start to feel confining if you’re not on the same speedy timetable to get hitched. Here’s how to handle an over-eager partner while you sort out how you feel about your futures:

Tip #1: Be straight with him

Why it’s important: If he’s open with you about what he’s looking for, you owe him the same thing. While it’s scary to have a guy spring marriage and babies on you on the first date, having all the cards out on the table up front can be a good thing. “I actually recommend it,” Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship. “What’s the point of dating someone who doesn’t have intentions that are compatible with your own?” says Kuriansky. So be direct: “Tiptoeing around the issue only leaves misunderstanding and misguided hope,” says Anne Dean, 29, a divorced public relations director in Henderson, NV, who found that her comical “anti-marriage” quips only confused her boyfriend of 10 months. “We had to have lengthy discussions about specific reasons for my not wanting to remarry and about what he can expect from me and when,” says Dean.

How to do it: If his talk of the future is making you uncomfortable, say so—and say why. Start the conversation with a positive point — why you like spending time together — then ease into why you’re not ready for marriage now (or ever) and when you might be, whether you ever see yourself with kids and approximately when. “Be honest. Don’t agree to something just to pacify someone,” says Toni Coleman, LCSW, a dating coach and psychotherapist in McLean, VA. “It’s not fair to pretend that you’re on the same page and then later say, ‘Oh, by the way, I really don’t want kids.’ If you’re not 100% sure, say ‘Hey, look, I have to tell you: You just expressed your dream of having five children, and I’m ambivalent about kids.’” Listen to what he has to say about it, and know that while some give-and-take is possible, if you truly don’t want the same things out of life, that’s probably a deal-breaker. “You might be able to negotiate timing—but you shouldn’t try to negotiate ‘kids’ or ‘no kids,’” says Kuriansky.

Tip #2: Make sure he’s looking at you for you, not your ovaries

Why it’s important: If he’s busy fitting you into the bride/baby-maker slot in his mind, you’ll both be missing out on the chance to see if you can connect as people, not simply future parents. Sarah, 34, a quality manager in Denver, had a brief online correspondence with a man who seemed less interested in who she was than in whether she met all the criteria required to be the mother of his children. “He revealed his plan to retire from the Army in five years, get married and have three kids, each a year apart,” says Sarah. “He was way too interested in my thoughts on the spacing of children and being a stay-at-home mom.”

How to do it: “Ask questions that will offer insight into his attitudes about relationships in general and how he feels about you, specifically,” says Kuriansky. Start with these: Have you ever wanted to marry before? Why is it a good time for you to marry now? What do you like about me? Why might we be compatible as a couple? If it’s clear from his answers that he does care about you and not just your parent potential, draw out his thoughts on fatherhood. “If he just wants a child because all of his friends have kids but has no idea what parenting involves and assumes you’ll deal with all of that, you may want to back off,” says Kuriansky.

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to ask for space

Why it’s important: Sometimes men looking to marry are guys who crave constant companionship; it’s not so much that they want family life but that they don’t want to be alone. Be alert to this type, though it’s usually pretty easy to spot. He calls four times an hour. He wonders why you’re not spending Saturday and Sunday with him. “These behaviors can be red-flags to a dependent personality,” says Coleman. Michelle, 27, a designer in Hinesburg, VT, discovered this firsthand last year when she starting dating a guy who told her on the first date he was looking for a wife and as the relationship progressed, “couldn’t handle that I wasn’t with him 24/7.” When she asked for space, he told her that she needed to learn to compromise her time if she ever wanted a real relationship. At first, Michelle wondered if he might be right, then realized “he needs to find his own hobbies and learn that just because someone doesn’t want to be with him all the time doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like him—or that she has issues.”

How to do it: Engage him in a dialogue that will get at the emotions that drive his all-over-you actions. Tell him that you feel he gets upset when you’re unavailable. Express that you think you have different perceptions of the “perfect” relationship. Ask for his thoughts. As he responds, pay attention to his words—and his body language. Does he clench his jaw? Assume a defensive posture (armed crossed, etc)? Talk through this process, says Coleman. “Point out that you feel he looks angry; invite him to discuss those feelings. Eventually, it will come out that he is upset, which gives you a chance to explain that you can’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect your independence.” Give the guy another chance only if he agrees to back off a bit—and you truly believe he means it.

Source: Nicci Micco, co-founder of and a contributing editor for SELF, also writes for Cooking Light, Men’s Health and More.

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