Childless journey begins: the revelation

In your search for a mate, you think you have found THE ONE. After years of bad dates, maybe even bad marriages, this man or woman is a keeper. And then, one day, after you’ve given him or her your heart, they drop the bomb. They can’t or don’t want to have children with you. He tells you he’s had a vasectomy. She tells you of problems that will keep her from getting pregnant. He keeps telling you he’s not ready for children. She shares that she never felt the urge to be a mother. He says the kids from his first marriage are more than enough. Gradually–or suddenly–you realize that if you stay with this person, you will never have children. Now what do you do?

This week I want to talk about that revelation. How do we find out that our partner isn’t going to have kids with us?

I was married twice to men who didn’t give me children. My first husband, Jim, seemed like he would be a great father. I watched him play with other people’s kids and assumed that he would welcome our own. In our Catholic marriage prep, we both signed a paper saying we would welcome children and raise them in the faith. But once we were married, he kept wanting to put off pregnancy. Not till we get good jobs, he said. Not till we get a house. The years were passing by. My friends and relatives were having babies, and I wanted one, too.

When I started taking care of the neighbors’ baby, I saw a different side of Jim. He couldn’t stand its crying, its smells, its needs. And then, when I thought, despite rigorous use of birth control, that I might be pregnant, he dropped the bomb. If  I was pregnant, he was leaving.

Would he really have done that? I’ll never know. It turned out I wasn’t pregnant. Soon after that, our marriage fell apart for other reasons. I do know that he did not have kids with his next wife either.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the revelation in my second marriage. But today, I’m asking you. How did you find out children might not be in your future? Did they tell you straight out, did something happen, did you guess? Did you believe them?  Let’s talk about it.

13 thoughts on “Childless journey begins: the revelation

  1. In a moment of marital bliss I confided to my husband that I was ready to start a family. He sputtered and stalled and finally told me that we had to work on our marriage. He listed three (false) negative issues that he had with me.

    That was difficult and confusing and kicked off a seriously rough year. Happily, through a series of events, it put us on a path that has drawn us closer together and in a more healthy place.

    I'm 37 so I “have time” and we may very well still have children. But I'm not banking on it.


  2. My fiance and I didn't meet until I was nearly 40. At the point we met, I was seriously considering adoption since Mr. Right had not come along. Then we fell in love and discussed whether or not children were in our future. Due to my advanced age and health issues, he felt like the risks were too javascript:void(0)great. He adopted 2 children with his first wife and has no desire to adopt again. As our wedding day quickly approaches, I can't help but feel a sense of sadness. I'm not only committing a lifetime of love to him but also a lifetime with no children.


  3. I am at this very point right now. When we first met five years ago, he said he’d like to have kids with the right woman. Since we married, I thought oh, I was that right woman. My current circumstance is much like Anonymous above. I’m almost 37 and when we had the lets-have-kids conversation, twice he said we weren’t ready or he was not happy or several other excuses. I don't know what to do, stay and miss out on motherhood or what. Therapy has been great to work through it all. I feel far from coming-to-terms. It is in God’s hands, but I am learning how to suffer what few women understand. Thanks for your blog, Sue.


  4. We were married for seven years when it came to a point of knowing my husband didn't want any more children. I was 38 years old at the time. He had a daughter who was 15 then. She was very much into drugs and was very difficult. He told me he couldn't go thru the pain of another child. He was 45 and didn't want to start all over again. He had promised me children when we married, till his daughter turned into an addict.


  5. Oh Doubleme, so now what do you do? That's the hard question, isn't it, especially when he promised you children. My second husband's kids were having a lot of trouble when we got together, and I'm sure that's part of why he didn't want any more. But he never promised me we'd have them. I hope you can work this out.


  6. Before my husband and I got married, there was a pretty clear sense that he'd be open to talking about having children together someday, but as he still had four kids under 8 y/o from a previous marriage, that wouldn't happen any time soon. We were married two-or-so years after we began dating, and about a month into the marriage I asked him if we could start talking about babies now that we'd tied the knot. We were walking the running track at a Bally's gym at the time, and he nearly fell flat on his face with a panic attack. I squashed the convo. Three years later, while we were lying in bed in our new farm home, I asked him about it again. The same panic attack had him shaking and sweating in violent opposition to the idea. I'll never forget his words to me that night: “I just don't want to get pressured into this!” I realized then that I didn't want him to be pressured into it either. I wanted him to want it. I pray every night that his heart will change, but I know that it is very likely that it won't. I'm only 29 years old. I have lots of years of hoping left. But he's 44, and the love of my life. I truly don't believe that his reaction to my hopes will ever change.


  7. Wow, Professor, thanks for sharing this. What a tough situation. I can understand why your husband would panic at the thought of having more children, but you need your chance, too. I hope you can work it out.


  8. My husband and I talked about having children prior to marriage. After a year or so we started to try, knowing that there could be problems due to his treatment for cancer several years before.
    When he got tested and learned he definitively couldn't have his own children, the door to having them at all was shut.
    He has since “come around” to some extent, saying he is no longer opposed, but that he isn't excited about the idea either. I'm now struggling with the idea of having a child with an uninterested partner.


  9. My boyfriend and I have been together for 12 years. We began dating when I was 20, he was 21. He told me then that he never wanted children. He had a very rough childhood and I was sympathetic to this and still am. I guess I thought he would eventually change his mind. I realized when I turned 28 that his feelings would never change and started to work on coming to terms with being childfree. I have grown to be resentful of him. Many people ask, “Why don't you just leave?” If there was anything else wrong in this relationship, I would. But, as far as relationships go, it's pretty perfect. At 32, I'm still coming to terms with choosing an amazing, loving relationship over the idea of children.


  10. Anonymous July 2, thanks for sharing this. It's a hard choice no matter how you look at it, but not everybody finds a partner who is otherwise perfect. I wish you all the best.


  11. My story is similar to yours, Sue. I am 31 and my boyfriend is 46. He has three kids from a previous marriage (15, 13, and 11) who I adore. When my boyfriend and I first met I refused to go out with him multiple times. I had been divorced for a little over a year and knew exactly what I wanted. I finally told him the reason I did not want to go on a date with him was because I believed we were in very different places in life. I told him I wanted to remarry and have children. He said he absolutely would get married again if the right one came along and had no problem having more kids. My assumptions were wrong, it seemed, and I agreed on a date. Which turned into the most wonderful relationship I have ever experienced. Shortly after we started dating his vasectomy came up. I was upset that he hadn't told me as I was upfront about wanting children. He told me it could be reversed and that there were other procedures involving ivf. I was reassured. We've had multiple conversations in which he has said he wasn't sure if he wanted anymore kids but that it didn't mean no and if it were a deal breaker for me he would be happy to have a child with me. We recently have been talking more about getting married. He's even had conversations with the kids to make sure they approve. They love me and can't wait for us to get married. I kept telling him we need to have “the kid” conversation. I felt that, at this point, even if he said no, I would be ok with giving that up because I am so in love with him and his children. I just needed an answer either way. He finally did give me an answer. He does not want more children. I thought I would be ok. I thought his answer, either way, would change nothing. I was wrong. The moment he said the word “no”, it felt so absolute. My heart broke. That moment felt like someone had died. Or that we had just broken up. These emotions I didn't realize I had are taking over. When he isn't around I cry. I try to get my head around it. “No”. I feel sick. Every single thing I've read has said to leave the relationship. I'm not sure which would hurt more. Staying with no kids of my own or being without him. He went on to say he's thought of letting me go so I can be happy but when he thought of it he decided that if his choice was to either have me in his life and have another child or not have me in his life, he would choose me every time. I know that if I tell him that is what I need to be happy he will do it. I don't want that for either of us. I would never feel good about making him choose to have a baby knowing he does not want one but I'm also so afraid that if I stay, it will be something I am never able to get over. I feel lost. Although I am only 31, I do not have long to have children because of existing fertility issues. I have thought of everything. Leaving, staying with no kids of my own, forcing him to have one that I know he will love but may resent, freezing my eggs and seeing how it goes. I just don't know. What I know is I think I would be devastated to not be able to be a mother, but just as devastated to lose him. 😦


  12. Oh Lost in Love, I'm sorry this is happening to you. You and your boyfriend are exactly the same ages as Fred and I were when we met. And he had three kids, too. My honest reaction is that you should stay with him and take him up on his offer to have another child. I think it's the only way you both will be happy.
    I hope you can work it out.


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