Adapted from a recent online discussion.
If kids are a requirement for her, it's right for her to say so early
Maryland: Dating a beautiful woman, hope to marry her someday. However, I was really taken aback when she mentioned she would probably not marry someone who did not want children. I do, so it's not really an issue here, but I just wonder whether I should be concerned about marrying someone who is focused more on people that don't exist yet than on me, her potential husband?
Carolyn: I do love a good keyboard thump to the forehead.
She's not focused "more on people that don't exist yet than on me, her potential husband," she's telling you what her idea of a fulfilling life is. She wants a family. That's not just a bunch of people; that's a way of life, a set of values, a series of goals, a way of looking at the world. You may be the bee's knees, but if someone feels strongly enough about her way of life, values, goals and worldview to be willing to pass up on being Mrs. Bee's Knees — just because he would cost her too much of what she cares about — then give her some points for knowing who she is, and being honest about that.
You, too, should be honest, if this is the case — that yes, you want children, but that you see the husband-wife relationship as paramount. That's a matter of values, too, and one that's important to disclose.
This is a strange discussion, in a way, because couples who have children need to have a fulfilling marriage to give their little family its best chance of producing a well-adjusted bunch of people, both parents and children alike.
And, if for some reason she can't have children — for example, one of you turns up with a medical condition that precludes both childbirth and adoption — then it's also crucial that the two of you love each other enough to see your life together as fulfilling unto itself.
People do make the mistake of seeing spouses as a means to an end as opposed to an end unto themselves, which they tend to become at one point or another, even those who do raise children. (Those kids eventually leave the nest, at least theoretically.) But there's a lot of room between seeing a mate as a means to an end, and holding out for a mate who shares your goals, even if it means tearing yourself away from someone you love and who is great for you in every other possible way.
If distance is an issue, a breakup by phone can be appropriate
Dumped-by-phone-and-still-reeling: When, if ever, is it appropriate to break up with someone by telephone?
Carolyn: I'm sorry. It's definitely appropriate when an in-person breakup isn't possible for weeks, and so not breaking up by phone would necessitate pretending everything's okay until the face-to-face breakup can be arranged.
Getting dumped always feels lousy. If the means are particularly egregious, then you do need to do the extra soul-searching to see whether you ignored early signals to this person's cruelty, or whether you were cleanly duped.
But if the dumping tactics weren't cruel so much as clunky, then dwelling on them can be a convenient dodge. After all, "S/he done me wrong!" is easier to take than "S/he doesn't like me enough."