*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Finding the right person to be in a committed relationship takes time and patience, and sometimes, even if you're sure you're in love with them, they may add a condition to be with you that you're not comfortable with.
Is it worth it to agree to something you don't know if you want just because you care so much about your partner and don't want to let them go?
Is it ok to have another baby only because they won't get married to you unless they can also raise a family with you?
My friend, Natalie, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been dating her fiance, Sean, for two years. They were both married before and had kids, and they decided they didn't just want to be single parents anymore.
"I didn't want to raise my three daughters on my own, and he was also looking for someone to share memories with and help him look after his two sons. So we felt being in love and having one big family would be a way to be happy again without blaming our previous partners," Natalie said.
She and Sean met at a party in Phoenix and have been together ever since. They exchanged phone numbers and then texted each other for about three weeks after meeting at the party.
"It was nice to know someone cared how my day was going, and I wanted to be in touch as often as I could. He was excited to get to know me and wasn't annoyed because I was a mom and couldn't be spontaneous all the time. Since he was a dad too, he understood that kids did come first, and he didn't get upset with me," Natalie said.
As time went by, they moved on to calls, and gradually, they learned more about their families and what they wanted in a long-term relationship.
"Family was essential to him, and he was responsible and wanted to help his parents too. I liked that about him," Natalie said.
After those weeks of texting and calling, Sean asked her out on a date. They had to plan it carefully so their kids had someone to watch over them, but once they made it, they were happy they took the time for it.
"We went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Phoenix. We just talked about our lives and how nice it felt to be comfortable with each other without stressing about making a good impression all the time. I could be myself around him, and I felt he liked me exactly as I was," Natalie said.
They kept meeting at least two times a week, and they didn't always go for a meal or spend the evening together. Depending on what they had going on, they took walks, got the groceries together, or picked up their kids from school and had a snack on the way home.
"It didn't really matter what we did, and we didn't need to get all dressed up and be on our own for our relationship to work. I liked it when he got to spend time with my daughters casually, with no pressure, and I also met his boys and saw they liked me," Natalie said.
Six months after they began dating, Sean proposed to her. Natalie accepted the ring, but it wasn't so easy to agree on a wedding date because they needed to discuss what their kids wanted too. Once they could all agree on a season and a specific month, they settled for this fall in Phoenix.
And while they were discussing the date, another topic came up, and Natalie was surprised by what Sean told her about his expectations for their relationship.
"I had assumed that since I had three kids and he had two, we were good that way and didn't need any more kids. But he told me he really wanted our child. I didn't know how to react. It's not that I wouldn't want to have another baby, but my age isn't helping. I'm getting married, and he wants a baby; I'm in my late forties. I'm worried there will be risks or that I won't be able to get pregnant at all," Natalie said.
And when she asked him how much it mattered to have another child, Sean said it was a condition for getting married and for staying together after that. He wasn't willing to go on being with Natalie if that didn't happen, no matter how well they got along.
"I don't think that's fair, but I still believe he didn't mean it like that. I'm sure he will change his mind later on, but it's just unsettling. Me and my daughters are counting on him. He can't just up and go based on a pregnancy that may or may not happen. That doesn't mean I don't love him. I value our relationship and our commitment to each other, but age matters too," Natalie said.
Sean hasn't mentioned the issue again, but it's still on Natalie's mind. And the more she thinks about it, the more doubtful she gets about their future together.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Sean to tell his fiancee their whole relationship and wedding depend on having a baby? Would it be better for Natalie to refuse and see if he will agree to be with her anyway instead of constantly stressing about it and what will happen after they get married?