I have a female co-worker (she's technically my superior but in another department).

We've worked together for about 4.5 years and have been become pretty good friends, we'll always chat in the kitchen at work and occasionally see each other outside of work for drinks or whatnot.

Recently she confided in me that her husband was sterile and asked if I would be willing to make a sperm donation so that she can have a child as she "really values my intelligence" (her words not mine).

I think I'm simply not comfortable having a child out there whose life I have no part in (especially one being raised by someone so close by). I asked for some time to think about it but I'm sure she is expecting an answer soon.

How can I turn her down in a way that won't hurt our friendship?

  • 9
    Please don't answer in comments. If you have an answer, write it as an answer; use comments for requests for clarification. If you can't answer because the question is protected, try to earn 10 reputation points somewhere else on the site, then answer.
    – HDE 226868
    Jan 11, 2018 at 18:23
  • I recommend quotation mark for direct quote instead of her words not mine.
    – user1653
    Jan 16, 2018 at 4:05
  • 4
    How to get child support without divorce, 101
    – user20
    Feb 5, 2018 at 0:49

7 Answers 7


Tell her exactly what you've written above. That you're "not comfortable having a child out there whose life I have no part in".

If she tries to engage in a debate, remember that you don't owe her an explanation beyond that. I would absolutely not engage in a debate along the lines of "what if you could visit" or anything of the sort. When it comes to these sort of very private decisions you need not feel any pressure to elaborate.

Be as polite as possible, but if she pushes the issue don't be afraid to cut her off:

I can see that this was not the answer you were hoping for, but my decision is final, and I do not wish to engage in a debate. Thank you for understanding.

You can then put the whole episode behind you if you wish to preserve the relationship.

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    This approach is my favorite. The only thing I would add is to consider telling her something like "I was flattered that you considered me" before saying "but I thought about it and I wouldn't be comfortable..." etc. etc.
    – Jess K.
    Jan 10, 2018 at 21:54
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    I couldn't agree with this answer more, upvoted it. Also, the (possible) line "you could visit" imo is as disastrously insensitive as a human being could be. A child is not a toy or a car. Nothing you can be content with only visiting from time to time. Separated parents FIGHT to be able to see their children as much as they can, and should this colleague boil it all down to a simplistic "you could visit" would be miserable of her. Bah! I'd recommend sticking to this answer and not giving further explanation to this colleague.
    – Markino
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:31
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    The problem is that "... whose life I have no part in" is 100% exactly saying that some amount of visitation would possibly make it acceptable. Saying that and then refusing to engage in discussion about having some part in the child's life seems a bit contradictory and likely to lead to frustration.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:22
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    @notthatguy - yes and no. Yes, because technically seeing the kid once a year on his or her b-day qualifies as "being involved" in some sense of the phrase. No, because the OP is clearly referring to being involved more than just peripherally - he wants to parent on his own terms. This is clearly off the table, and nothing less would be acceptable to him, so no, there's no conversation to be had.
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:50
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    @AndreiROM "OP is clearly referring to being involved more than just peripherally" - it is clear to you, but it might not be clear to OP's friend.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 11, 2018 at 15:01

You just say, "I'm honored you thought of this. I'm sorry, that's not possible" and don't offer any further explanation or reason. Generally people want reasons to try to work around them; if you just don't want to do it then there's no need to offer a reason.

Keep this in mind: in one recent case, the donor had to pay child support. Are you willing to take that risk? Even though most law absolves you of responsibility if done under a physician's supervision, if you aren't emotionally prepared for a relationship for the rest of your life with this person, it's not worth it.

Co-workers come and go. Even if hurts your relationship, neither of the two of you will work there forever. Consider it an honor but don't let her guilt you into this if you're not ready. It's your life, too.

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    Keep in mind that the ruling has now changed in favour of the donor (iirc).
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 10, 2018 at 22:28
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    @wizzwizz4 changing the ruling after you've gone through the loops and hoops of a lawsuit is not much relief. If the society wants people to donate genetic material freely, then society has to protect them. Jan 10, 2018 at 23:44
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    @wizzwizz4 They are protected, but you need to donate to a sperm bank anonymously, not to a friend in the open. There lies the big difference.
    – user11175
    Jan 11, 2018 at 2:08
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    Downvoted. Not giving any explanation at all is hurtful to the friend because it can be interpreted as not caring at all. She obviously asked him because they are friends and not just random colleagues. Being honest as AndreiROM suggested is much better because it acknowledges the severity of the request and the woman's desire to have children. Jan 11, 2018 at 5:37
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    @problemofficer You say being honest is better, as though this answer suggests dishonesty. It doesn't, all it suggests is a respectful and polite shut-down. The colleague has asked a huge thing, but that doesn't give her any right to have Steve justify his refusal. 'Not possible' is a bit of a masterstroke, managing to hint at possible reasons while giving nothing away.baldPrussian is right, you give people reasons, they try and talk you out of them. Upvoted.
    – user9837
    Jan 11, 2018 at 12:24

If it's just about not having any part in the child's life, that would imply if you're allowed to have a part in the child's life, there wouldn't be a problem. Not intending to argue, just pointing out that this is something she might bring up if you mention "no part", which could lead to frustration on both sides (unless the above possibility is something you might be okay with).

I'd suggest bringing how big a part you want to have instead, e.g.:

I am honoured to have been asked, but unfortunately I wouldn't feel comfortable having a child out there without being the one raising them.

This is much harder to argue against, because no matter how big a part you're given in their life, you still wouldn't be the one raising them.

She could bring up the possibility of you having some part in the child's life in response to this, to which this simple reply should be all that's needed:

It's just not the same, I still wouldn't be the one raising them.


There really is no such thing as "a child whose life you have no part in".

I'm no expert on family law but even if you could sign away your rights and someone else 'adopt' that child, everybody should have the right to their true family history for sound, medical reasons if nothing else.

Simply say something like:

I've thought it over, and I'm sorry, I can't help.

You shouldn't feel bad about stating your personal stance on this issue. You are not denying her a child; there are lots of other ways she could have a child (adoption, fostering, possibly even with her husband via other medical routes). If anything you would be the one denied of seeing your child grow up.

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    Or of course another sperm donation.
    – PStag
    Jan 11, 2018 at 10:24
  • @PStag Well, yes. But the OP feels "uncomfortable" about it for whatever personal reasons he doesn't go into in depth. I don't presume to know his reasons, but if he disagrees with or objects to the process then he may well not want to promote it for someone else to do either. Also, he may face responses like "you're the only person I trust to do this", "this is the only way", or "if you don't do it, someone else will". The alternatives are a response to such pressure.
    – Astralbee
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:28
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    @Astralbee this is an excellent point. The colleague can not sign away the rights of the child.
    – emory
    Jan 14, 2018 at 18:09

As an observer, I'm curious to know why you would be concerned about this matter affecting the relationship. Is there a possibility that simply saying "no" to her will ruin the dynamic you currently have?

The present responses should answer your question adequately about how to broach the topic. On the other hand, I don't agree that you should give her a decision without reason because it could potentially result in a discord in your communication and relationship. She's asking a yes or no question, there's only one way it can go. It's not the "no" that will upset her, it's the "why."

To further simplify, be sincere and genuine.

Voice your concerns about it, and don't worry too much about letting her down easy - she's already married, after all. If you prefer to be tactful, perhaps invite her and her husband to dinner with the purpose of discussing their reasoning behind asking you to be the donor. Hear them out first, give them your decision, then let them hear you out. Be straightforward about it and bring up your continued friendship as one of your concerns.

After hearing them out:

I want to let you know, I've made a decision. The answer is: no. While I'm flattered, I've thoroughly considered all the short and long term effects of a decision such as this, and I'm afraid the risk is just far too great for me.

Cite your future plans and that the knowledge of having fathered a child as a donor would affect your emotional well being ten, and even twenty, years from today.

She's not a stranger, she's a friend, and with friends it's important they truly know where you're coming from.

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    I bet that she did not make the decision to ask OP to be a donor without a care in the world. She might be very nervous about the answer and OP's reaction. But if she pushes further in such a delicate matter, then it is the friendship that must come under the light, not the decision (to not be a donor). Jan 11, 2018 at 0:47
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    "the risk is just far too great for me" has the disadvantages of opening a path for debate where she can argue that there are no risks.
    – vsz
    Jan 11, 2018 at 7:16
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    I think that inviting her husband to the dinner may not be a great idea. What if the truth is, she made such a decision without his knowledge (to make a surprise or God knows)... Im not suggesting anything, just saying...
    – mpasko256
    Jan 11, 2018 at 9:35
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    @mpasko256 If she was making a decision without her husbands knowledge, then that's definitely a point to add to the reasoning about why OP shouldn't donate. I agree that inviting her husband to the dinner may need to be approached delicately, but if he has no clue as to what's going on then Steve you need to steer clear of this person! She could potentially be sociopathic (and trust me, they are not somebody you want to have around).
    – Chris K
    Jan 11, 2018 at 14:14

A different tack would be the damage to your working relationship / friendship that it could cause...

While I'm flattered you asked, I've thought about it, and just thinking about it makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm worried that if I did acquiesce it would make our relationship equally uncomfortable.

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    Hey there! Although this may be a good idea for OP to try what you're suggesting to solve their issue, you're not saying much about why you think doing so would help them. Could you please edit your answer to explain a bit why saying this would help them, and how? Thanks :)
    – avazula
    Nov 20, 2018 at 11:52

Simply telling her that you are not comfortable with it for the reason that you stated should be sufficient.

If you would like to elaborate to talk her out of this, there are more reasons for why this is a bad idea, for you, and her and her husband. If you get in to a relationship in the future, how will your girlfriend feel about you having a child out there with another woman? I don't know what the religious views of those involved are, but have they been considered? Unfortunately, in current Western culture the definition of sex is based on pleasure instead of contact or such. But not withstanding that definition, would you feel that it's all right to have sex with someone else's wife since her husband can't have child?

If you agree with any of these reasons, maybe you could encourage them to adopt a child instead. So your response could be something along the lines of "I'm concerned that this would a bad thing for your relationship. Maybe it would be better for you to adopt a child."

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