In The UnGuide to Dating, a he said/she said look at adult dating relationships, authors Camerin Courtney and Todd Hertz discuss singles and the biological clock:  guys who are ready to get married and start a family and gals who perhaps are not. …

What Do We Do About It?

Todd:  In the midst of several hard conversations that led to a breakup, I noticed a trend. My then-girlfriend kept repeating what I thought was one of those sincere compliments paid during a healthy breakup. She said often, “You’ll be such a good dad.”

I didn’t think much of it at first. I mean, I was saying things like, “We’ve had so much fun,” and “You’re a great friend.” Then, I realized her repeated line wasn’t just a compliment. Nor was it really about my potential fatherhood skills. Instead, this was a nagging thought as she was processing our breakup. She knew we were splitting for legitimate reasons, but she just couldn’t let go of one idea:  This is a chance to have a family. And she was watching it disappear.

This was the first time I saw the power of the desire to have a family. That desire isn’t necessarily a negative, but both genders have to be aware of the role it plays. Yes, we date to find a spouse and — God willing — a partner in parenting, but of course we can’t just pick anyone who carries the needed set of chromosomes. My then-girlfriend, knowing the relationship didn’t fit with what God wanted for each of us, was obviously torn. With a few different variables, maybe we would have stayed together, mostly fueled by our mutual desire to have kids. But, it wouldn’t have been right.

Of course, people settle for less than God’s best in romantic relationships for various reasons. But for never-marrieds who are getting older and for singles looking for a spouse to help parent existing children, there’s an especially pervasive little voice saying, This one’s good enough. Go for it.

I’ve seen my desire for children cloud my thinking when looking for a spouse. Tag-teaming with my desire to not be alone, the desire to have kids has pushed me to remain in relationships I shouldn’t have and ask out women not based on our chemistry but her availability and potential as a mom. Besides that, I face a whirlwind of questions when considering a woman I’m interested in. What do I do if after a year of dating she announces she doesn’t want kids? What if she isn’t sure whether or not she wants children? How do I balance my hopes for fatherhood, a woman’s desire to be a mom, and God’s leading when making decisions about dating?

For me, I think the key to discerning the answers to all these questions is honesty: honesty in the relationship, honesty with myself, and honesty with God. You really have to look at your intentions — and hers — and be honest about what you see. With God, I try to be open about my motivations and pray for wisdom and discernment. In the relationship, openness is just as important — especially in the beginning. I know, you don’t want to open the first date with, “So, do you want kids?” But I’ve found it good to at least broach the topic in the first few months in order to save great heartache later on. Then, once the commitment grows, so can the specifics of this discussion.

Sometimes, it’s hard to really evaluate whether you’re practicing all this needed honesty. This is why observant, trustworthy, and frank friends are necessary (in addition to older, mature married couples who can guide and mentor). Ask these trusted friends to look for internal pressure on the relationship and to be honest with you — even if you don’t want to hear it.