I’m coming up on my 35th birthday this week. I don’t necessarily feel like that’s old; Genetics say that I’ll likely live into my 80’s, so I’ve still got more than half of my life ahead of me. And I’m definitely one of those people who can say that my life is getting better as I age. That being said, the last few weeks have definitely been an emotional roller coaster. You see, I’m at a point in my relationship where I need to decide what I’m willing to give up.
Back in September, Sam at Financial Samurai posted In Defense of Resourceful Women. I commented on the post, and was met with the question of why female bloggers don’t write about relationships. My initial reaction was to think “Well, because I write about personal finance, not relationships”. But the more I thought about that, the more I realized how wrong that was. Not as to what I write about, but the idea that finance isn’t connected to relationships. After all, how often have I heard that two of the most important financial decisions you’ll make are who you marry, and then to stay married? There’s no denying that the person you marry has a huge impact on your financial situation, for better or for worse. Married couples on average have more than double the net worth of a single person. Money is at the core of most divorces in the United States. And no one can deny that divorce is expensive, no matter how much money is involved. Especially if there are children in the picture.
With all that in mind, I can’t pretend that my relationships aren’t an important part of my financial picture. And, as an unmarried girl, it becomes even more of a question. I’ve mentioned my boyfriend in previous posts, but I try not to say too much about him. His financial situation and life are his business, and it isn’t my place to share it with the world. And, as you can probably figure out by the fact that I’m turning 35 and have never been married, I’m not exactly an expert on the whole dating thing. Actually, at a year and a half, this is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. My second longest was six months. I haven’t really dated much in my life. I could give lengthy explanations and stories, but again, that’s not really appropriate to this site. So, let’s just say I was “broken” at a very, very young age, and I have serious trust, communication, and self-worth issues, and leave it at that.
My mother always said that you should never start down a path that you wouldn’t want to follow to the end, especially when it comes to dating. So, in that sense, it’s very much my fault for starting into this relationship in the first place. But, at a certain point in life you start to realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect man. So, you start considering what’s really important to you, and what you can live with. Not settling, mind you. Just being more realistic with your expectations. There’s an almost 20 year age gap between my boyfriend and I. It really bothered him when we started dating, but it was never really an issue for me.
The biggest concern was having children. He has two sons who are now in their 20’s. He’s waffled a bit in the past year and a half, but he doesn’t really want to have more children. I’ve always thought that marriage and children were just a natural part of my life. But the longer we dated, the more I questioned that assumption. My Grandma always said “You have the children you’re meant to have, one way or the other”. So, if I was destined to have children, it would happen. And what if I wasn’t meant to have children? Would I even be a good parent? Would I have the patience? Would I be able to raise a daughter to respect and value herself? Would I be able to raise a son to be a man, and respect women? Was my boyfriend the type of man I would want as the father of my children? Would we see eye to eye on raising a child? The longer we were together, the more I began to think that maybe not having children was the best idea. And a life without children could still be a great life. We could be DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids)! And then we could plan for an early retirement together. We could travel, and garden, and putt around the house. It’s not the life I’d always imagined, but it could still be a wonderful life!
Every few months the idea would still bother me. With such a large age difference, he’ll likely die many years before me, as he liked to remind me. And then what? I wouldn’t have children, or grandchildren. As much as he thought his children would become like my own, I had serious doubts. The youngest doesn’t even know I exist, and my interactions with the oldest haven’t been that great. Not that I blame him. But still, they’d never replace having children of my own, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that any relationship I did manage to have with them would be gone if my boyfriend were no longer there. But still, we could have a great life together, right?
The last couple of weeks though, reality has come crashing in, completely destroying my romanticized version of our future. In truth, we’d never be DINKs. Having walked down the aisle twice before, he really has no interest in doing so again. And the house? Well, he already has the house. And he’d really like to keep it for his kids. All the times he’d say to me “Well, I’m old”, what he was really trying to convey is “Well, I’ve lived my life. And now I want to put everything into my kids living their’s”. He’s wrapping almost everything financially into his two adult children, and living on the remainder.
So, there’d be no children. No marriage. No house together where we’d garden, and putter. We’d live on the remainder. And when he’s gone, I’d have nothing to show for it. I wouldn’t even have a home, unless I’d bought one of my own, or kept the one I have now (which he’d never want to live in). We’d just be dating for the next however many years. He’d continue to spend weekends and Holidays with his boys, most likely without me. We wouldn’t really have common goals, or shared dreams. After all, he’s lived his life already.
I truly love the man, and being with him does make me happy. But this isn’t a life that I want for me. Honestly, this isn’t the life I want for his kids. There’s a difference between being supportive and helping your children, and supporting your children long-term. I think it’s a terrible thing to never teach your children to be self-supporting and to go after their dreams. And I think it’s equally as bad to saddle your children with your dreams, instead of letting them find their own. But, I’m not a parent, so it’s not my say.
The decision seems like an easy one: This isn’t the life I want, so I should move on and go after my dream. But life is never that simple. Moving on means trusting that there is someone out there for me. But what if I don’t find anyone? If I’m going to be pursuing my dreams alone anyways, wouldn’t it be easier to have someone I love in my life?
In my twenties, I probably would have let things play out, and see where they ended up. But at 35, I don’t feel like I have the luxury of time. Not that there’s a deadline on everything; My Grandma’s good friend was a virgin bride at 82. She married a wonderful man who was a widower. They traveled and had a wonderful life together for several years. And she was by his side when he entered hospice recently. There’s no expiration date on love, or marriage. But, as a woman, there is on having children. I have 5, maybe 10 years left. If I’m lucky. Anything after 35 is kinda thought of as a crap-shoot. Although, I come from a long line of Irish-Catholic women, and late in life babies aren’t all that uncommon where I’m from. My Grandma had my Uncle at 42. He was a “change baby” (i.e., she thought she was going through menopause). Change babies were so common in my neighborhood, every family had one. A good friend of mine growing up was a change baby. As was his younger brother. Oops!
I already know how this is going to end. I have to choose the unknown. It doesn’t make it any easier, or any less scary. But as they say in finances, you can’t expect big payoffs unless you’re willing to take some risks. I may not find what I’m looking for. But I definitely won’t get there by staying where I am now.
– Cindy W.