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She wants kids, I’m old enough to be her dad – can this relationship work?

The question: I'm dating a woman who's 20 years my junior. I'm into her, but she wants children, and that's the last thing on my radar. What should I do?

The answer: May-December relationships can certainly work, but they are not without their challenges. Relationships, even in the best of circumstances, are difficult. And a significant age discrepancy amplifies a number of issues.

Some of the more common difficulties that arise with large age gaps include: differences in hobbies, interests and social activities; a lack of things in common with a partner's friends; having vastly different financial or career position, focus and drive; discrepancies in energy, including sex drive; health issues; and generational differences in life view and direction.

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One of the biggest potential areas of discord in couples that are decades apart in age is how they see their future, including having kids.

The only thing you can do is have a very open and honest conversation with the woman you are dating. It sounds like she is viewing your relationship as committed, or at least hoping it goes a direction that is even more committed than it may be now. It is unfair for you to mislead her.

If you are very clear that you do not want or foresee wanting children, you need to let her know in no uncertain terms.

This may not be an easy conversation, and the reality is that it may be a deal breaker in terms of things moving forward for the two of you.

You need to honestly ask yourself whether having children is something that you might change your mind about if you were with someone you loved who envisions having kids. But remember that rarely are we able to be happy in the long term if we compromise on something that is a substantive issue, such as expanding our family to include children.

The best you can do is talk to your girlfriend about how you really feel. Let her know that you are into her, that you know she wants children but be candid about the fact that you do not want them and it is not something you will change your mind about (if that is in fact the case).

She needs to go into the relationship with eyes wide open and make a decision whether continuing to invest her time and energy is worth it. Similarly, you need to decide whether being with someone who wants dramatically different things in life than you do will work for you.

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Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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