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The question

I met the man of my dreams (MOMD) six years ago. We spend almost every moment together and each feel like we're missing a limb when we're not together. His parents, who I think of as my parents, have begun pressuring him (when I'm not around) to have children, probably in response to his cousin's announcing the imminent birth of their second child. (His cousins are at war with MOMD's parents and refuse to allow them to see baby No. 1.) When I met MOMD I was upfront and told him the chances of my bearing a child were slim to none, but I'd be open to adoption. Now his mother is afraid that he'll die alone and is offering him money so I can go through expensive fertility treatments. I now feel that if I don't give him this child, our relationship will be over. I've inquired about adoption but the waiting lists are long and not encouraging. Does every couple have to be parents to be happy? How do I get his parents to stop trying to divide and conquer?

The answer

You mean the ones you think of as "your parents"?

Maybe start by deep-sixing that naive notion right away. They don't sound like they "have your back" at all, but are rather plotting and scheming behind it.

Maybe your MOMD's cousins have the right idea: All-out trench warfare with your interfering in-laws! Bayonets at dawn!

Hang on, I seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here. Let me start again:

As often happens, I wish I knew a few more details, e.g., your age, what doctors have said, whether MOMD says he wants kids or not, and hmm, let's see, what else – oh, yeah: Do you want children? That last consideration is a glaring omission from your question. You should only have them if you truly want them – though whichever way you go, it's possible you could change your mind in retrospect.

In my 20s I was absolutely certain I wouldn't have kids. I wanted to be an artist, see, a Vincent van Gogh of prose, and believed, along with Cyril Connolly, that "there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hallway."

But then I met a someone just as dead-set on having kids as I was dead-set against. I knew from pretty much my first glance in her direction I'd do whatever she wanted me to do for the rest of my life, and so it has come to pass: Her "let's just have one and see" quickly turned into two, then she was all "I don't feel finished," and now we have three beautiful young men.

Sorry, Cyril; sorry, Vincent. I'd take a bullet for any one of them – and as I slide down the wall, leaving a bloody track, I'd smile quietly to myself, knowing I'd done the right thing.

Enough about me. If you really can't conceive, but do want kids, I'd look harder at adoption. There are many options.

But if you don't want to do it, don't. Either way, I'd say: Examine your motives. Whatever you do, do for your own reasons. Certainly "pressure from in-laws" is not a good reason for having children.

Sit down with MOMD. Discuss with him whether you two lovebirds want children, and why or why not, and how it might all work out. Come to some conclusion you can both live with. The sooner you sort this out, the better for both of you.

While you're at it, tell him to instruct his mother to remove her proboscis from your affairs.

Well, say it more nicely than that. Maybe something like: "This should be between the two of us and your mother's pressure is stressing me out. Could you please talk to her and tell her to give us room to inhale and exhale?"

Bearing in mind, of course, that it's a natural inclination for many wannabe grandparents to see their DNA passed on, and they'll sometimes do naughty things to help ensure it happens, including all this histrionic hogwash about MOMD "dying alone."

But putting pressure on someone who may not be able to conceive to undergo fertility treatments is crossing the line, and you shouldn't be the one who has to deal with it. That's the job of MOMD. If he truly wants to live up to his moniker and continue to be your phantom limb, he'll do it cheerfully.

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