Our writer told her boyfriend she didn't want children from the start, which he accepted, so why did he then leave her for someone else? Here she shares her story of being dumped, eight years into their relationship.
When I met Gary*, I was 24, determined to become a journalist and I imagined my Mr Right as being tall, mature and successful. Gary, meanwhile, was four years younger than me, quite short and a skint undergraduate lacking in ambition.
But somehow, none of that mattered when we met via mutual friends. He made me laugh more than anyone I’d ever met. But he was also immature, so I resisted until a friend said, "Why don’t you just ask him out? Your face lights up whenever he’s in the room."
We quickly fell in love, but our relationship wasn’t easy. While Gary was still at uni, we only saw each other once a fortnight, and the train tickets ate up my wages. Then, when he graduated, we could only afford a rental flat, with its very own rat problem.
I told Gary from the start that if he ever changed his mind and decided he wanted children, we had to end things right away
Compromising on children
Over time, I began earning a reasonable salary, but Gary’s job never paid well, which bugged me. As the years rolled by, we began talking about marriage and children. I knew Gary was planning to propose, after my friend let it slip that he’d talked to her about rings. We’d also come to an agreement about children: while Gary hadn’t ever really thought about being a dad, I knew I didn’t ever want kids.
I’ve never felt broody, so I told Gary from the start that if he ever changed his mind and decided he wanted children, we had to end things right away, because I wouldn’t want to stand in the way. It didn’t seem likely, though – he was too carefree for the responsibility of fatherhood.
After eight years, cracks began to show. Paying more of the bills and doing most of the housework was starting to grate.
My friends stormed onto Facebook to give him a piece of their mind, but I stopped them
Shock over dinner
I’d read that difficult relationship discussions were best held in public so they couldn’t escalate into a slanging match, so I booked us a restaurant and started my pre-planned speech.
"I think you need to start pulling your weight around the house," I said.
"I’ve decided I want children," Gary replied, out of the blue.
I was stunned. After his nephew had been born a year earlier, I knew Gary had been thinking about children differently – but I never dreamed he’d want to give up what we had to become a dad himself. What could I say, though? He’d made his decision and ended our relationship there and then.
When I told my friends, they were devastated for me. Some of them stormed onto Facebook to give Gary a piece of their mind, but I stopped them.
"He wants children and I don’t. That’s hardly his fault, is it?" I told them.
The younger woman
As we worked through the two months’ notice on our flat, we continued living together, but I was heartbroken. I had no idea where I’d live, or how I’d meet someone new. Meanwhile, Gary seemed strangely calm. I didn’t understand why – until he announced he was taking a colleague, Bethany*, to Winter Wonderland.
I’d always liked Bethany. She was lively, funny, very pretty and also eight years younger than me. So I asked Gary outright, "Do you fancy her?"
He laughed, "Of course not," but I knew he was lying. Sure enough, soon after we moved out, they officially became an item. We’d agreed to stay friends after our split, but Bethany told Gary he couldn’t see me anymore, so I lost my home and my best friend all at once. As I struggled to settle into the cold, damp flatshare I’d found, it felt like my life had fallen apart.
As I struggled to settle into the cold, damp flatshare I’d found, it felt like my life had fallen apart
Finding my Mr Right
In the years that followed, I tried online dating, but whenever men found out I didn’t want children, they lost interest.
I waited for news that Bethany had fallen pregnant – if they had children, it would mean our break-up was for all the right reasons, that we'd split because Gary wanted to be a dad. But 14 years later, I’m still waiting. They're engaged but apparently, she’s not interested in having children.
Luckily, I’ve found my own happy ending. Nine years ago, I met Tom*, who is kind, generous and makes me laugh – but is perfectly happy not to have children.
No relationship is a waste – we learn something from them all. If I could turn back the clock, I’d only change one thing: after Gary dumped me, I’d unleash my friends on Facebook, and let them give him hell.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.