When do I tell my new date about my artificial insemination? Cathi and Dan offer advice.
For the best advice on sex, love, dating and relationships we ask two experts with personal experience. Cathi Hanauer is the author, most recently, of Sweet Ruin, a novel about love, marriage, and adultery. Daniel Jones is the editor of both the "Modern Love" column for The New York Times, and Modern Love, an anthology derived from the column. They've been married for 15 years, and together they provide a his and hers take on relationship questions. This round: pregnancy and dating.
Question: Entering my forties as an unattached woman, I decided to try to have a baby on my own. Weeks after starting an artificial insemination program, I've met a really great guy. When do I tell him about the A.I.? Odds aren't great that I'll actually get pregnant, and it could end up freaking him out for no reason. —O.S., San Francisco, Calif.
Cathi: The easy answer is "right away." Who wants a relationship founded on dishonesty? And if he really loves you—or could in the end—it won't damage what you have. (I could fill a book with the clichés.) But really, who am I—with a husband I met in my twenties and two kids who followed in an almost scarily timely fashion—to preach an ideal of blunt revelation to someone in a very different position? Thus, my more realistic answer is that you should think twice before saying something that might freak him out too soon. No doubt you both have a lot of history to cover, and who's to say it shouldn't unfold gradually?
That said, I now go partway back to my first instinct: Witholding major information and having to be constantly on guard is not healthy. Plus, you'll miss out on the comfort you get when you reveal yourself to a guy and he sticks around anyway.
If things continue to progress between you, your desire to have children—and his similar wish, or lack thereof—will be a topic that can't be avoided and shouldn't be lied about. If he won't date someone who's considering having a child, better to know that sooner rather than later, since you'll then be faced with deciding which is more important to you: having children or having this guy in your life. So don't wait too long.
Dan: Wait, you're worried about freaking him out for no reason? This is a huge decision, and it will exact an emotional toll, whatever the result. If you decide to keep it a secret from your Really Great Guy (R.G.G.), how can you reveal to him anything more than your most superficial self? Granted, some men don't want much more than a woman's most superficial self. But is this the kind of man you want? No good can come from waiting. I see four possible scenarios:
1) You grow closer, but don't sleep together. Meanwhile, the A.I. works, and you have to drop a true bombshell, at which point he freaks out and leaves you.
2) You grow closer, sleep together, and you find yourself pregnant by you're-not-sure-whom. A year later, you, your baby, and your R.G.G. appear on one of Maury Povich's paternity-test segments, at which point all of your friends freak out and leave you.
3) You grow closer and fail to get pregnant by R.G.G. or A.I., but he freaks out and leaves you anyway because, let's face it, a great guy can probably tell when a woman isn't being straight with him about the most important emotional issue in her life.
4) You don't grow closer. You don't get pregnant. You break up with R.G.G. and remain alone and childless. Nobody freaks out, but it's still kind of depressing.
There is another way! Take R.G.G. to a nice restaurant and, when the mood is right, explain to him where you are in life. Tell him you've always wanted children but time is now short (make a joke about not putting pressure on him), and so you're looking into doing it on your own. Tell him you're ambivalent about it and still looking for the right man (make another joke), and see how he reacts. If he is indeed a really great guy, and if the restaurant is nice enough, he probably won't freak out on the spot. If he says, "But I want to be the father of your baby!" you've got options. If he says, "I've never wanted children," you've cut to the chase. If he says, "Tell me more," you can both move forward—or not—with full knowledge.
Best case, he'll respect the difficulty of your decision, the agony of your admission, and the generosity of your spirit, and you'll both have my admiration. Or you can put it off until you and R.G.G. are on Maury Povich's couch, trembling and weeping as he rips open the envelope. The choice is yours. But if you choose the latter, be sure to let me know so I can set my TiVo.