Love and Long-Term Relationships

A successful relationship needs both people's views of future happiness to involve moving forward in the same direction (cnn.com).

Are these two heading in the same direction (blogs.cnn.com)?

It took eight years, but Jon Hamm is finally an Emmy winner. Sadly, he won on the only Emmy night he’s attended without long-time partner Jennifer Westfeldt. After 18 years together, thetwo split earlier this month, and now we know why. It seems that while the couple shared a great deal of history, they disagreed about their future.

There are dueling reports, but they suggest the sticking point was whether or not to become parents. US Weekly contends that Hamm wanted kids and Westfeldt didn’t. Meanwhile, New York’sDaily News claims that “Westfeldt wanted a wedding and a baby, but the ‘Mad Men’ star was content to continue in their eternal courtship.”

It’s hard to know which publication is reporting the more accurate version, given that both actors have spoken publicly about their interest in, and ambivalence about, parenthood. Hamm, for example, addressed the issue of marriage and children in 2012, telling People magazine, “To me, people [should] get married when they’re ready to have kids, which I’m not ruling out.” The same year, Westfeldt told The New York Times:

I’ve thought about this a lot lately. I never thought I’d be this age and not have kids. But my life has also gone in a million ways I never anticipated. . . . I kept feeling like I’d wake up with absolute clarity, and I haven’t. And we have a pretty great life together. The chance that we’ll regret it doesn’t seem like a compelling enough reason to do it. 

If it was Hamm who wanted children, he’s better positioned to realize his dream as a 44-year-old man than Westfeldt, who’s 45 and would likely need expensive help if she wanted to experience pregnancy and motherhood.

But regardless of which way the inclination to have kids went, and whether there were other still private, insurmountable problems, a relationship’s imploding after 18 years is sad. By Hollywood standards, 18 years is an eternity. It’s pretty incredible their relationship survived media scrutiny, Hamm’s incredible fame for playing Don Draper, and Hollywood’s push to focus on self and career. That said, it seems Hamm and Westfeldt weren’t meant to be.

According to the Daily News, the pair — who co-starred in 2012’s “Friends With Kids” — were even urged to go their separate ways by their families, who had grown tired of hearing them complain about their differences. “They said, ‘We love you guys, but it’s time to move on.’”

Those family members sound wise. Hamm and Westfeldt could have had strikingly beautiful children, but in this era of widely available contraception and legal abortion, procreation requires a conscious choice. And in a functional, equitable relationship, both potential parents need to be on board with that life altering decision. It sounds like they weren’t.

Perhaps this is the life lesson herein for the singles among us: Having children is a big decision, and it’s also something that’s most easily accomplished in your 20s or 30s. So, if having children is important to you, seek out a partner who shares that vision. Be confident, rather than embarrassed about your priorities, and don’t waste time in a relationship that’s not heading in your preferred direction. Because this is your life, and there is no do-over.

This article appeared in altFem magazine.

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