Jenny McCarthy and T.J. Holmes on The View, March 18, 2014
Screenshot of The View

I wasn’t sure if I’d get out of there alive. Sitting onstage with four women, in front of a studio audience of nearly 200 women, I made this statement: “We [men] know exactly what to say to keep y’all hanging around just a little longer.” Oh my.

I had the pleasure of guest-hosting The View this week, and one topic of discussion was actor Jason Statham’s relationship with his Victoria Secret model girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. They’ve been dating for four years, and reportedly, Huntington-Whiteley’s friend is telling her to give Statham an ultimatum: “Propose or I’ll leave you.” To which I replied on the show, “He should go ahead and leave her first.”

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The reaction to my comments from the hosts and audience was incredulous, and there were a few jeers as well as some stunned looks. The conversation went on for a bit, but what I didn’t get to explain to The View audience is that my statements were swift and definitive because of personal experience.

I’ve been on the receiving end of what you’d call a marriage ultimatum, and as I saw it, these were my options: 1) Accept her ultimatum, propose but then resent her for it; 2) Call her bluff, ignore the ultimatum and stay together, but then she resents me; or 3) Realize that something must be wrong with this relationship in the first place if we need ultimatums at all.

I went with option No. 3 and ended the relationship a short time after she issued the ultimatum.

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I’m glad I took that marriage ultimatum seriously years ago. I knew I wasn’t ready, although it’s possible that I could eventually have proposed. I just knew I couldn’t meet her deadline. But even if she was bluffing in her ultimatum, I didn’t want to be responsible for costing her more time if things didn’t work out. That doesn’t make me a good guy—in fact, you could argue that it’s pretty selfish of me. My decision to walk away, however, was driven in large part by an underlying element of the ultimatum that guys don’t always consider: children.

While the conversation on The View about ultimatums was lively and good-natured, it belies what can be a very serious subject matter, particularly for women of a certain age. Of course, some women don’t want kids. For many others who do, a husband isn’t necessary or desired to reach that goal. We have seen a huge cultural shift in this country in attitudes about marriage and children, and today, kids are being born to unwed mothers at historic rates. But there still exists a population of women out there for whom marriage is preferred or of paramount importance before having kids.

For those women, waiting a little longer to find the right mate seems to be an option. Women are having kids at later ages. The birthrate for women between the ages of 40 and 44 is the highest it’s been since 1967. For women in their late 30s, the birthrate has seen slight increases over the past few years.

Even though women who get pregnant in their late 30s and early 40s overwhelmingly have healthy babies, that biological clock is real! And here is why, more than ever, I plead to my fellas not to string a woman along if kids are important to her.

Without a doubt, the scariest moment of my wife’s entire pregnancy was when we went in for the first ultrasound. The ultrasound was fine, but the excitement of seeing our child for the first time was tempered when the doctor recommended that we have advanced testing because, at my wife’s age of 35, the pregnancy was considered high risk.

Yes, the doctor tried to explain that the chances of complications were extremely low, but at the time, the only words you hear are “birth defects,” “miscarriage,” “Down syndrome.” It’s terrifying.  And the older a woman gets, the more her chances of complications go up.

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We all know couples or the stories of couples who have been together two, three, four, five or more years, and the woman wants to get married but the guy won’t propose. Every woman has her reasons for staying, and ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own decisions. But women sometimes base their decisions on bad information—e.g., false hope that men give:

* “I want to find the right ring.”

* “Let’s wait until next month/year/summer/spring.”

* “I have a lot going on in my career now.”

Yes, these can be legitimate reasons for not proposing yet, even if the man genuinely wants to marry the woman. And Lord knows, given the economy over the past several years, there are plenty of good reasons for delaying marriage. Plus, marriage today is becoming viewed as something you do after you get your ducks in a row.

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But the reasons a guy gives for delaying a proposal can also be total BS meant to buy time. Often, the guy doesn’t want to lose the woman, but he also doesn’t want to have to walk down the aisle to keep her, either. (See “Buy cow, milk free.”)

While we get caught up in debating whether the man or the woman is the sympathetic figure in an ultimatum, I think we can agree that it’s not the way anyone wants to start a marriage. Jason Statham’s 26-year-old model girlfriend may or may not be thinking about kids and probably has her own reasons for wanting him to make a move. But they’re facing what many have faced at some point. How we choose to handle it can greatly impact lives forever—because there’s always more at stake than our bachelorhood.

T.J. Holmes is a journalist and TV personality. Formerly of CNN, he can currently be found at MSNBC, and his commentary can be found online. Follow him on Twitter.