My Honest Advice to Single Women Who Want a Family

 

“How and when should I have the conversation that I want marriage and kids?”

Good question! And definitely a tricky subject for most people. We are told to be honest about what we want, but we also worry about scaring someone off if we bring it up too soon.

I get so many questions on this exact topic every week, because getting clear on this can save you a lot of time and prevent unnecessary heartache down the road.

In today’s video, I give you 6 practical steps to help you determine if someone shares your goals and timeline, figure out exactly what you want (and come up with a plan for each possibility), and approach these conversations in a natural and confident way. 


MATTHEW HUSSEY

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the channel. I’m Matthew Hussey, a coach specializing in confidence and relational intelligence who, for the last 17 years, has been helping people find love. I’m the author of the New York Times bestseller, Love Life. Check it out.

And in today’s video, I give my honest advice for the very real challenge that is faced by so many single women who feel that they are running out of time for one of their major life goals—to have a family.

The way that I want to talk about this topic is in a series of six practical steps that I outlined today. And these steps were actually a response to a real question that I got from one of my Love Life Club members, Maryam, who asked me a question about the tension she felt in dating, knowing that she wants a family and she wants one soon, but not wanting to make bad choices. So, I gave her six practical steps that I know are going to relate to you too if you’re in her position or one like it. Also, stay until the end of this video because I have something very exciting and free to share with you. All right. Onto Maryam’s question.

“I wanted to share my Love Life story to get a different perspective from the stories I have created in my head.”

Smart. We all do that, don’t we? Create stories in our head.

“I am a 38-year-old woman who has never been married and has no kids. I have dedicated the last 15 years to working on getting established in the U.S., learning the language, completing college, getting positioned in a good job after coming from Malaysia. All of that is done and I’m proud of my accomplishments. But I shut down my love life for several years. My thought was, that will eventually happen. It will come. And here I am now thinking, it should have come already. I want a family but the biological clock is messing up my brain and I don’t want to make the mistake of choosing the wrong person because I am close to being 40.”

“For some reason, I’m starting to be attracted to younger men. I’m talking about five to six years younger. And I have never dated someone that young. Help.”

So, I’m going to take this in steps. The first step is to be clear with yourself about what your path is.

Now, it sounds like Maryam, to a large extent, has already done that. She has communicated that what she wants is to have a serious relationship and to start a family. But it’s really important to be clear with ourselves about the level of priority that’s apt for us. Because if we don’t, then we suddenly could come across someone we’re very attracted to. The fact that we’re very attracted to them and we have a great connection with them can make us forget all about these goals we have, and figuring out whether that person has any of the same intentions we do.

I always am quick to point out when someone in Maryam’s situation, let’s say, goes even younger. Let’s say, someone in Maryam’s situation finds that she’s out one evening and meets a 24-year-old. And that 24-year-old is fun, and charming, and sexy, and they hit it off, and they start dating. I’m always quick to point out that that is a very, very dangerous game that Maryam or someone in her position would be playing in getting swept up in how she feels about someone and ignoring this goal that she has had for a very long time that in a much calmer, more objective moment, had surfaced as a priority at this stage of her life.

So, for anyone out there in Maryam’s position, be clear with yourself right now. What is my priority? Not just what do I want but what’s the order of importance? I might want attraction with someone today, then I can have a great weekend this weekend, seeing someone I like. But a bigger priority, it could be, and I’m assuming for Maryam this is true, is finding someone who has the same goals as I do in the area of having a serious relationship and starting a family.

That doesn’t automatically mean that if Maryam gets attracted to someone five years younger, that’s a problem, right? That’s not the biggest age gap in the world. But it does mean that she has to pay attention to the very real challenges that can come from even a five-year age gap when someone is a few years behind her, even if they want children, is a few years behind her in wanting the same thing. Because for her, those few years matter.

Step 2, know your options. Of course, one option is that you go out, you meet the love of your life, and you have a family with them. But is there an Option B? Have you been clear about whether you’re prepared to not only make peace with Option B but be aggressive about making Option B happen if your life calls for it?

In Maryam’s case, she’s 38. At what point does she decide, you know, what? Having a family is so important to me that I actually might consider doing this by myself. Now, it may be the case that Maryam never wants to do that. And that’s fine too. None of this is prescriptive. It’s all personal. These are intensely necessarily personal choices. But it’s important for Maryam to actually come to terms with whether that is an option for her. And the reason I say that is because those options create a sense of power, a sense of autonomy, a sense of confidence, and they are a pressure valve. What it allows Maryam to do is date, always knowing in the back of her mind that if someone isn’t right, she has a Plan B that she can go to at any time if she really wants to, or that there is an age by which she says, “Enough is enough. I haven’t met my person yet. I’m going to do this because I really want to do this.”

So, getting clear about what your options are can create a true sense of empowerment. And part of that conversation for so many women, though not all, because it’s not available or possible for all, is egg-freezing. So, I’d encourage Maryam, if you haven’t already, to at least have that conversation with a fertility doctor, to look into whether it’s something that’s possible for you. I say that knowing full well that it is cost-prohibitive for many people, not available for some in the part of the world that they’re in. And for many people, it’s simply too complex and too invasive a procedure for them to want to go through with, not to mention that egg freezing is by no means a guarantee when the time actually comes to use those eggs.

So, the calculation on whether to do egg freezing is for many people, razor thin, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a conversation worth having for someone in Maryam’s position or for you, even if you’re a few years behind Maryam in your position. Those are not conversations that I am an expert in but they are conversations that your fertility doctor is an expert in. And I encourage those conversations because those conversations are power. And like we’ve been talking about, they remind us of our options, and options are power over your own circumstances.

Now, you’ll notice that Step 1 and Step 2 are both steps that you take before you’ve even met someone that you like. Now, let’s talk about what you do when you do meet someone you like. And of course, for many people, especially those who are running out of time to biologically have their own children, who really have this as a major life goal, maybe the major life goal at this stage in their lives, meeting someone they like can feel incredibly disempowering because instead of just being able to organically get to know someone, they feel like they’re bringing this baggage, not that it really is baggage, but it feels for so many like baggage, of, “I have this big thing that I want and you hold the keys to it, and I have to somehow go through this fun, playful, attraction that’s carefree and nonchalant and enjoyable, at the same time as having this deep, desperate urge to move quickly on something that’s window is rapidly closing.

That leaves many in what feels like an impossible situation.

Now, the whole point of Steps 1 and 2 is to actually start to take some pressure off of that, that if we know what our choices are, that if we get clear about our goal, and you create the options for yourself ahead of time, then you no longer do feel like you are solely relying on this person to make that dream come true.

So, let’s talk about from, hopefully, a slightly more relaxed place, what to do when you meet someone you like.

Step 3, communicate to that person where you are in your life. That means we have to be brave enough to actually communicate our goals to someone. The big question is when, right? Because it feels like if I do that too soon, I’m going to scare someone away. If I do it too late, I run the risk of wasting tons of my time when I don’t have that time to waste.

But I like to think of this, not in terms of when is the right time to say it because I actually think that’s a red herring. What it does is it suggests that this goal that we have is baggage like we’re revealing something dark and scary, and ominous instead of just talking about a goal that we’re excited about.

I’d like to think of the example of if you had a dream to start a flower shop in the next three to four years. You wouldn’t feel embarrassed or shameful or scared to bring up the fact that you’re really excited to start a flower shop, and you have very clear intention to do so. It would just be one of the goals in your life that you’re excited about.

I want to challenge you to put getting married or having children in the same category as the flower shop. Now, I know it feels different in that situation because it feels like, well, yeah, but with the flower shop, I’m not asking them to co-sign on the flower shop and dedicate their time and resources and life savings to doing it. And it’s the fact that when it comes to marriage and children, I am asking them to co-sign on these really big things that makes me feel like I have the potential to scare them off with this conversation.

I get that.

But what if we reconnected with that optionality that we talked about in Step 2, knowing what your options are, and that allowed you to talk about the fact that you want to get married or you want to have kids in a much more similar way to the flower shop?

In other words, you told yourself, a) this is not a bad thing. Let me remind myself of that. This is a beautiful thing that I want to do. And right now, the fact that I want to do it actually has nothing to do with this person, especially on date 1 or 2 or 3. It has everything to do with me and my future. And by the way, I know in my mind that I would not do this with the wrong person. You have to know that in your mind. Because if you know that in your mind, it will come across when you speak to that person, and that will be power. I’ll show you how in just a moment. But that you wouldn’t do it with the wrong person. And that at the end of the day, if this is true, I’m only speaking to the people this is true for. By the end of the day, if you’ve decided that at some point, you’re going to call time on doing this with another person and be prepared to do it on your own, then that’s yet another source of power when you speak to someone about the flower shop, that I’m doing this with or without a person. So, this really genuinely has nothing to do with you in front of me right now.

So, what I encourage you to do is instead of trying to think of the perfect moment to say all of this, think of it like the right moment to say these things is when we’re just talking about what we’re excited about in life. So, you could ask me what I’m excited about or, you know, what’s on the horizon for me. And I say, “You know, I’ve spent many years of my life now, 15 years of my life, securing my place here in the United States, which was a dream of mine, and working to learn the language, and getting myself to a very secure place financially, where I feel like I have a good job, and my life is settled. That didn’t allow a lot of time for me to think about a relationship, let alone a very serious relationship. And it didn’t allow me a lot of time to think about my ultimate goal of having a family, which is something that really excites me. So, I’m now at a place in my life where alongside some of the other things that I’m excited about in life, I am really excited for the next chapter of my life, which for me is about taking the next steps in the next few years to having that family and to, hopefully, finding an amazing person to do it with. But, you know, I also know for me, doing it with the wrong person is something I would never do. It’s something I’m excited about and it’s a beautiful vision I have. But I would never do it with the wrong person. It would have to be the right person. And if it wasn’t, I’ll do it on my own because it’s something that’s just really important to me.”

And when you’re saying all of that, you’re talking about it in a very positive way. You’re not talking about it as this big, heavy thing. I actually think that Maryam’s story that she told, when I was reading her question about how she moved to America, and learned the language, and worked really hard to get where she is, and hasn’t had the time or the bandwidth to think about having a family, I found all of that really endearing when I read it. I don’t know about you. When I read it, I was like, wow. That’s really endearing. She was having to do other things. And now, she’s in a place where she is ready for this. There’s something very beautiful about that.

So, she shouldn’t be ashamed of that. I actually think her story is part of the way she should frame it and talk about it when she’s speaking to someone on a date.

Now, once you’ve talked about the flower shop, your goal of getting married or having children as an exciting next chapter of your life, there’s something you can do in Step 4, which is really, really powerful.

Step 4 is demonstrate non-dependence. And the way that you do that is by taking the optionality that you had created in Step 2, and finding a way to casually communicate that optionality in the way that you talk about this goal.

So, for example, after you’ve talked about the fact that you’re excited about that chapter of your life, you can say, “But one thing I know about myself is that I would never do that, any of that, marriage or kids, with the wrong person.”

You can even frame that up by talking about other people you know. “I know people. I have friends who, I know, have rushed into things because they really wanted it to happen. But they did it with the wrong person. And that’s something I could never do. I made the decision a long time ago that if I didn’t meet the right person, I either wouldn’t do it, if that’s true, or I would do it on my own, if that’s true.”

When you say all of this you take away that effect that a lot of people are worried about, that they’re giving up their power when they state this goal, as if they’re saying to someone, “You can now do no wrong because I really need you for this thing.” Instead, what you’re saying to someone is, “I don’t need you for this thing. I may want or even need this thing in my future but I don’t need you for that thing because if you turn out to be the wrong person, I’ll find someone who’s right or I won’t need someone at all. I’ll do it by myself.”

What you’re, in essence, saying to someone is, “You can’t mess this up because I don’t need you. You still have to win me over, in the same way that I have to win you over.” This is still just two people on the same level dating. It is not that now that I’ve stated this goal, I have handed you all of the cards.

Now, in this stage, where you’re just enjoyably sharing goals, you don’t need to know for sure if they’re exactly on the same page as you. And bear in mind, being on the same page as you doesn’t mean that a) they have the same goals, that b) they have the same goals and the same timeline. It’s entirely possible that Maryam meets someone who’s six years younger than her, wants kids one day, but doesn’t want them in the next four years in the way that she does. So, it’s not just about whether they have the same goals. It’s, do they have the same goals on the same timeline?

So, Step 5 is when it starts to get serious, then we have to get clear about whether they have the same goals on the same timeline.

So, even if in the first few dates they danced around the subject of what they were looking for in the next few years, and you let that slide because you were like, “Hey, we’re in the fun, get to know each other stage. I don’t need to know everything about this person’s timeline right now.” At the point of spending lots and lots of time together, at the point of, I’m now seeing this person to the exclusion of everyone else, at the point of agreeing on exclusivity, you and I are in a committed, serious relationship, I do need to know whether this person is on the same page as me.

And that conversation can go something like, “Hey, I know that you and I have a really good thing going. I am so enjoying what’s developing between us. I’m excited about the prospect of giving it a real try with each other. But I also don’t know whether my goals and my timeline for those goals is something that you see for yourself. And I’m not suggesting that this is a tomorrow thing for me. But it is a, in the next two or three years thing for me because that’s the timeline that I’m on. And that doesn’t mean by the way you couldn’t turn out to be wrong for me a year from now or I couldn’t turn out to be wrong for you a year from now. That’s just normal. That’s relationships. We’re still getting to know each other. But if it works, then I know that that’s going to be something that’s important to me in that time frame. And I know that no matter how much I like you, I wouldn’t be getting into anything serious if you weren’t on the same page as me in that department.”

So, what you’re allowing for in this conversation is a) complete and utter transparency but b) you’re still not putting that pressure on. This isn’t that traditional kind of pressure of, “I like you and I want children with you. And you’re going to want them because I want them with you,” which makes someone go, “Ah. We’re just getting started and I’m already feeling like I have to make a decision about having kids with you.”

This isn’t that. This is the, “I am on a certain timeline for when I want these things. You and I are still getting to know each other and there’s still room for us to decide that we’re not right for each other. But if it continues, and if it works, I would need to know that you could see that for yourself on the same timeline.”

So, you’re removing the forced pressure of you and I are going to do this together. But you are introducing a standard that you have for who you choose to have a relationship with, which is that if someone’s not on the same page as me, I just wouldn’t bother having a relationship with them no matter how wonderful and sexy and attractive they were or how much fun I had with them, all of which is true for you, by the way. I cannot stress enough how important this is as a standard. Not a wish that they want the same things as me but a standard.

So many women have a standard for how attracted they want to be to someone, for how much of a connection they want to feel, for the chemistry that they want to experience. But they don’t have a standard for having aligned goals and intentions.

So, we have to start to raise our standards in this area. I can still have a standard for attraction but I better couple it with a standard for someone who has the same goals and intentions as me. Or all I am doing is acting as a co-conspirator in the theft of my own future.

Step 6, our final step for this video, be honest with yourself about whether there is the appropriate level of progress within the relationship as time goes on.

If you’re two years into dating this person who you’re only dating because in the beginning, they made clear when it was becoming serious and exclusive that they did have the same intentions as you on the same timeline. If you’re finding that that person cannot, will not, have the conversation about the progression, about when you might start thinking or looking at those things, if they can’t have those conversations, something is going wrong. There is a level of squeamishness from their side that might be able to be tolerated in a relationship where two people have all the time in the world but can’t be tolerated by you in a situation that is predicated for you on the two of you being on the same page.

So, don’t have the conversation once at the beginning of the relationship, and then bury it because you’re afraid to have it again in case it sabotages the relationship.

That’s a good reason to sabotage the relationship. And that doesn’t mean it has to be brought up every single day, but if after a year, you start talking about those things, and maybe that person says, “You know, I’m really excited about it. I just need a little bit more time but I am. I’m with you. I want the same things.” If you talk about it six months after that, and nothing is shifting for them, they just keep acting afraid to have the conversation, and make you feel like you’re treading on eggshells, then that is a sure sign as any that you are not on the same page. Because anyone who has a natural intentionality on the same timeline as you, doesn’t make you feel afraid to have a conversation about something. The conversation is easy. It’s fluid. It’s transparent. It’s more of a planning conversation than a, “Oh, you’re bringing up the war conversation.”

You have to be willing to have the conversation and then be honest with yourself about whether there is a sense of progression. If there’s not, never be afraid to stop the relationship. Never be afraid to walk away while there’s still time. Okay?

There’s a great—what’s that Mr. Rogers quote where he says, “I can stop.” I really want to find that quote. We can maybe—let me see if I can find this right now. So, this is what Mr. Rogers said. There was actually a song but he said, “It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong and be able to do something else instead and think this song. I can stop when I want to, can stop when I wish. I can stop, stop, stop any time. And what a good feeling to feel like this and know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a woman and a boy can be someday a man.”

Know that there’s a feeling deep inside you that is not going away, that is an expression of who you are and what you want in your life. And if the person you’re in a relationship with isn’t having the same feeling, you can stop. You can change direction. You do not need to stay in a relationship that you’ve sunk time and energy into just because of the so-called sunk cost fallacy that I need to make good the investment that I’ve already made. If you know it’s wrong, if you feel in your gut that this person is not going to get there with you, you can take that feeling that you have and leave that relationship, and use that feeling to express your full self to self-actualize and achieve and create everything that you always wanted.

Let me know what this video meant to you. Leave me a comment. And please pass this video on. Is there someone you know this could help? It would mean the world to me for you to help me reach more people with these messages. I think they’re messages we don’t hear nearly enough. I think many people have no idea where to go with these feelings that they have with the anxieties that they feel, with the panic that never leaves them. Please help me spread the word about this. Send this to your community, if you have one. Post about it. Send it, email it to friends and family. Help me spread the word and help more people.

Also, before you leave, I have something very exciting to share with you. Drum roll, please, Audrey and David. I’m not sure you can even hear that drum roll. But we have created a brand new, free guide for anybody who wants to get out there and start meeting better-quality people. Maybe you’re a little tired of the apps, you can’t stand this messaging random strangers online and hoping for that lightning-in-a-bottle feeling that you might get with someone. But you want to actually go and meet people in real life.

I can relate to that. I met Audrey, my now wife, at an engagement party of my friend. Didn’t know her before that party. I’m an advocate for the old-fashioned ways. Not to say dating apps are a problem. But, you know, we get tired of them. They can burn us out.

If you want to go out and meet someone in the real world, this guide is called Spark and Connect. It’s free and it gives you nine conversation starters that you can use with anybody you see today that you want to connect with. It’s super practical. It gives you very specific things you can use. And I know that you love my advice for that, for giving you very practical things that you can use just like this video has. So, if you like this video, you’re going to love this guide. Go to WhatToSayNext.com to download it for free right now.

By the way, if you haven’t already, like this video, subscribe to this channel, and don’t forget to hit the notification bell, so that the next time I do a video, you get notified. Thank you for watching this video. I will see you in the next one. Be well, my friends, and love life.

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3 Replies to “My Honest Advice to Single Women Who Want a Family”

  • What do you do when the other person lies about what they want? I married that man and am scared that will happen again

  • Wonderful advice and I just want to say a very big thank you – as I did this, I drew the line at 40, then went the donor route and had my beautiful son on my own. 10 years on your message here helps me to feel supported, when so many people judged me for making the best decision of my life I made. Happy Mum with a beautiful happy son. Still open to finding the one. Xo

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