The reality is that neither all women nor all men want children.
In fact, currently, 10 to 20% of women reach the age of 45 without having children in the United States and Europe, according to Väestöliiton research. Married couples with children made up the majority merely decades ago, but now nearly 57% of U.S. households are childless, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Some people don't want children because they feel that they lack a parental instinct. Others value their independence and don't want to give up their free will to put children before themselves. Some are hyper-focused on their careers and don't want to spend their time or focus their energy elsewhere. Some are concerned about the environmental impact that bringing more people into this world can have, and others are afraid to raise children in our oft-merciless society. For many, the idea of children is simply unappealing.
Then there are those who cannot have children due to physical complications. Infertility affects about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Whatever the case, having that conversation with romantic interests isn't easy.
"Since the beginning of our relationship, I have been open with my partner around my desire for kids, and despite a 'disagreement' on how many, we at least agree that children are in our future," says Michael Kaye, Global Communications Manager at OkCupid. "For those who don't want kids, that's okay! But there is a lot of societal pressure, especially for women, to want kids. Besides that, there is a stigma around those who don't want kids, regardless of gender."
OkCupid research actually finds that 72% of respondents would still stay with a partner after finding out that kids are off the table. Specifically, 75% of men and 67% of women would stay with a partner who could not have children and did not want to adopt. That's not always the case, however. Because many other people do want children, not wanting to or being unable to reproduce could, of course, be a dealbreaker.
So here's how real men and women share the fact that they're not going to have children. (And that, no, they're not going to change their minds someday!)
"I usually tell dates early on during the phase where we're getting to know each other that I'm not interested in having kids and why I feel that way," says Brandon Moses. "I find that it's better to get these things out in the open as soon as possible because that can be a deal-breaker for some. A lot of women I've encountered my age are already mothers. I usually get one of three responses: 1. They are fine with it. 2. They want kids and it won't work out. 3. They want to continue dating and don't care if they happen to get pregnant. The point is, if you want to date someone and start a relationship, be honest and open from the beginning so you can avoid problems down the road."
"The question about whether you want kids or you choose to be without them is serious; moreover, it can become an obstacle for the ones still in the dating pool," says Nikola Djordjevic of Medalerthelp.org. "In my opinion, 'baby talk' should happen early on in the relationship, but not before we see 'potential' in the partner we’re currently dating. For instance, dropping the question on the first or second date can be too soon and even seem presumptuous. However, we can explore how our partner is feeling by dropping small signals or casually bringing up questions seemingly non-related to kids. Later on, when we're able to form some picture of what our partner might think, we should be able to ask this question more directly without being pushy."
"Don’t talk about having kids on the first day anyway; always keep conversations present-moment focused, light and positive," says Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "Ask open-ended questions, but stay away from deep topics like having children on date #1. You don’t even know if you want to go on a second date with this person! When it does come a time to talk about kids, remember, you might not want kids right now, but you may one day. Be curious. Just like sexuality, it can be fluid. I would focus on the things that you do want, not the things you don’t want. If you want a balanced, stable life, time to yourself, a home, a fitness-focused lifestyle — these are all things that you can share with your potential partner on a date."
"Not wanting children is not something you could keep from someone that you intend to build a relationship and a future with," says Chris Seiter, a relationship consultant and breakup specialist since 2012. "If you are dating with that intention, it is best that you be upfront about it in a non-confrontational way. I would wait to see how the date goes. If the date goes well and you see a second date in the future, that is the time to mention it, either at the end of the first good date or at the beginning of the follow-up date. 'In my opinion, this has gone well. Assuming you want to spend more time together, I think it is best that you know something upfront...' Assuming they are on the same page, you are setting the relationship up to have a foundation of healthy communication."
"I was really upfront with my partner when I met him — I think it was the second date, and I told him outright that I wasn't interested and never would be in having children," says Melissa of Helium Media Group. "I felt it was important to let him know earlier on, so that if he had his heart set on children he could make the decision over whether he wanted to continue dating me or not. We've been together for eight years now, and got married last year!"
"I believe the best approach is to simply wait until the topic comes up — having just met someone, it can sound rather presumptuous to introduce yourself and immediately state you don't want children," says Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany) and Online Dating Avoid The Catfish!: How to Date Online Successfully. "Truth be told, most dates do not evolve into serious relationships, and most serious relationships do not lead to marriage. When it comes to love and relationships, most of us fail our way to success. Very few people hit a home run their first, second, third or fourth time up at bat. If this were not the case we would all be married to our high school sweethearts!"
Dating is supposed to be a fun social activity especially early on, Darné says. So it may make little sense to discuss marriage and children with someone who is, ultimately, a stranger.
"A lot of people do some early vetting by asking serious questions to quickly exclude relationship prospects; however, if someone is attracted to you, most likely they are not going to say or do anything that might blow their chances with you," Darné goes on. "Prior to my first marriage I had already had a vasectomy. I believe people who do not want children should not have children... But I, for one, would be wary of anyone asking me about having children who had not bothered to get to know me."
"The situation has come up and, personally, being fully transparent is the direction I go for," says Joe Alcaraz of HausOfSmoke. "Ask a simple question about how he or she was like as a kid, just to bring the word 'kid' into the sentence. The window of opportunity will soon come up where you shoot the main question... 'Do you like kids?' Once you get passed that question, no matter the response, it's an open discussion. Of course, always be sympathetic to one another's feelings and opinions."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.