Dear Mary: 'Would my boyfriend make a good dad?'
Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.
I'm in my early 20s and I've been going out with my boyfriend for some years now. He's a few years older than me and everything is good between us.
I can really see myself having a future with this man, and I think he feels the same.
The only concern that I have is about any future children. I've always wanted kids, and he says he does too, but I think we'd have very different parenting styles. He was brought up strictly enough, and I've just noticed his attitude and behaviour towards his younger siblings and youngsters is, in general, quite different to mine: he's of the mindset that tough love works and that issues should just be gotten over, rather than talked through and sorted out lovingly and supportively.
I know you'll suggest talking to him, but I feel it's always different discussing these matters hypothetically versus when there's actually a child involved.
I don't want to be fighting with him about how to raise our children five or six years down the line - that's not fair to anyone and at that stage there would be too much invested.
I'm just wondering should I relax and enjoy the time together now, or should this be a preoccupation in my mind?
Mary answers: Yes, I think you should relax and enjoy the lovely time you are having together right now. What we worry about most rarely happens, whereas something totally unexpected can hit us and change our lives forever.
I think there is time enough to discuss your potential differing parenting experiences, and therefore potential differing styles, when the time comes to have children - if you are lucky enough to get pregnant. This doesn't always happen, no matter how much a couple want children.
I don't think there is anything to be gained by over-analysing things at this stage. If you are sure he is a good man and that you will take care of each other as best you can, if you want to wake up next to him in the morning, if he makes you laugh a lot and all the other things that go into a successful loving relationship, then concentrate on letting him know how much he means to you and how much you would look forward to spending a lifetime together. Children will be a bonus.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at email@example.com or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.