A woman thinking about how to tell the man she's with that she doesn't want kids.

Dear Joan Actually,

I don’t want kids. Having kids doesn’t appeal to me. It never has, and I’ve felt this way for years. It gets complicated because I never know quite when I should share this info with the guys I’m dating. Now that I’m seeing one guy in particular, I feel like I should clear the air. I don’t want to lead him on but, at the same time, it feels presumptuous to tell a guy I started seeing about my long-term family preferences. My question is when/how do I break the news? I know this definitely a deal breaker for lots of guys, so maybe sooner rather than later? 

-Omaha, NE

Dating will seem even more daunting if you feel like you’re withholding a deal breaker. And, given that kids–your decision to have them or not– are an important life decision, I agree that you’re better off discussing sooner than later. Like most things, it’s easier said than done.

“Delivering this news is hard for women, because childbearing  is often seen as synonymous with femininity,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and bestselling author. “A departure from this view of femininity can make women feel like something is wrong with them which is not true, of course.” Aside from deeper gender issues, there’s also the obvious reason: “You risk losing your partner if they want kids. It’s not like you can compromise and have half a child.”

Timing the conversation correctly can prevent extra heartache. “If you’re looking for a serious relationship, this should be an early question,” says Dr. Saltz. “Once the possibility exists that they are a keeper, you should let them know.”

Couch the topic in a conversation about other important life choices such as religion or money management. “These are personal beliefs, not something to be ashamed of or something you should force on your partner,” says Dr. Saltz. “Making sure that you’re on similar pages early on will lower the likelihood of splitting up when the stakes are higher.”

There’s a time and a place in your relationship for compromise; your important life decisions shouldn’t be among them. The right partner will understand and look forward to achieving similar life goals.


Joan Actually

Dating Expert

Joan is a writer and dating expert.