If you disagree about children, is your relationship doomed?

Is it possible for a relationship to work when one partner wants children and the other doesn’t? This is the question that is still resonating in my head days after I finished reading Kidfree & Lovin’ It (reviewed Jan. 2). The opinion of most of the people author Kaye D. Walters surveyed is that this is a deal-breaker, that compromise is impossible, that the relationship is doomed. They say it is better to break up than to have a child you don’t want—or force a child on someone who doesn’t want to have children. Don’t date, don’t marry, don’t pretend it’s okay; it won’t work.

Walters urges couples to think it through and be sure of what they want. “Don’t just end a perfectly good relationship without first examining your means and motivations on the kid issue.” She offers lists of reasons to procreate and suggests that some of them are pretty shaky and perhaps one might not be a good parent after all. But in the end, like the people she surveyed, she seems to lean toward ending the relationship.
This issue is at the heart of my Childless by Marriage blog and book. It’s an issue that most books about childlessness (see my resource list) pay minimal attention to. But it’s a big one. If my first husband had been willing and ready to have children, I’d be a grandmother now. If my second had been willing to add more children to the three he already had and if he had not had a vasectomy, I’d have grown children and maybe grandchildren now. If I had dumped either one because I wanted to have children and they didn’t, my life would have been completely different.
I am childless because I married these men and stayed with them. The first marriage ended for other reasons, but the second husband was a keeper. We lasted three weeks shy of 26 years. If Fred hadn’t died, we’d still be together. He was the perfect mate for me in every other way. And maybe, if I truthfully answer all of Walters’ soul-searching questions, I would find I was too devoted to my career to add motherhood to the mix. I wanted children, and I wish I’d had them. BUT I loved Fred and knew I would never find a better husband. Should I have left him and hoped to find someone else, maybe someone not as good but who was willing to have babies with me? Am I a fool because I sacrificed motherhood for these men?
That’s the big question that many of the people who comment here are facing: stay with the partner or spouse who doesn’t want kids or try to find someone else? What do you think? Is a relationship doomed if you disagree on this issue? Is it all right to sacrifice something this big for the one you love? There are always compromises in a relationship. People give up their careers, move far away from home, or take care of disabled spouses, but is this too much to ask?
I really want to know what you think.

244 thoughts on “If you disagree about children, is your relationship doomed?

  1. Are there any stories of men trying to reconcile the relationship after it ended and they change their mind about having children? Sorry if this is a naive question, but I can't help but hope that maybe love can prevail over deal-breakers sometimes at least. Has it happened? Has he come back and said yes to a family because he so wants you in his life?


  2. Anonymous 4/28, I haven't seen or heard any stories like that, but there must be some. I can tell you about the friend who remarried when his first daughter was entering college. His second wife suffered three miscarriages before successfully carrying their daughter to term. At an age when most people are starting to think about retirement, he was a dad all over again and delighted. Readers, can you share any stories of hope?


  3. I am with you. I'm hoping that love will prevail, as I am in the same situation as everyone that has responded. I have to believe that if it’s meant to be, it will be. It's the only way I feel better .


  4. I was looking for some guidance as to how to address my current situation. I am a 44-year-old female, divorced with 2 beautiful adult children. I have had a full hysterectomy at 23 due to medical reasons. I am now in an 8-year relationship with a 36-year-old man who has now started thinking of having children. Even if I could have children, I don't think would want one at my age now. We have a very strong bond and love for one another, but I don't want the regrets 10 years down the line for him not having the joy of parenthood, which I have had. Whilst he’s still able to start a family of his own, is the sacrifice of leaving one another now not worth the happiness?


  5. Boy, Anonymous, I wish I had the answer to that question. It's such a gamble. Do you give up the love you know you have for the possibility he will find someone else and have the children he wants? He's the only one who can make this decision, and I guess you have to let him figure it out. I hope you both find a good solution.


  6. I have read this blog a few times, maybe trying to convince myself that all I need in life is my boyfriend. He is 35 and I'm 31. From the start I knew he wasn't sure on kids. His previous girlfriend left him as she was ready for it all and he wasn't. That was two years ago and we have had a few conversations about kids that haven't ended well. He says he is mostly sure he doesn't want kids but not 100% sure and might change his mind in the future. I am mostly sure I want them, but due to anxiety issues am not sure I would be a very good mother without a good support system. I just wish he could be excited about having a family. I get that he comes from divorced parents, but he has a loving family and a brother that he mostly gets on with and a good job and great morals and life values. He would be a fantastic family man.Our conversations about kids leave me with the feeling that he is scared of having kids and the changes it would bring. This then makes me think that if he just makes that leap he will see having a kid is hard but brings with it wonderful things. I love him and after years of being single I have found my man. My love. I don't want to leave, but I think this would be the time to get out before I invest any more time in this. I just wish he could tell me 100% that he positively doesn't want kids. I don't want them right now, but want them before I'm 35. If I stay in the hope he changes his mind then reach 35 and he hasn't, then I'll be very very angry with myself.


  7. Anon May 23, I'm sorry for your situation. To be honest, I doubt that your man will ever change his mind. It sounds like he's pretty sure, so you need to be sure what you want and what you're willing to sacrifice and be very clear about it with him. If it comes down to the man of your dreams or possible children, which will you choose? Nobody should to make this choice, but that's where it's at. I hope you can figure it out. Know that you're not alone. Lots of people are going through the same thing.


  8. I don't even know where to start. Thank you for this blog. It's nice to know I'm not alone. A little bit about me and my situation. I am 24. My boyfriend is 25, and we've been together for 3+ years. We've also lived together for a year and a half and have two dogs together. I know that in comparison we are much younger and still have so much time to figure things out, but I'm literally at the point that I don't know what to do. Even before we got together, we had always agreed on life and our future, which had always included 3 kids somewhere down the road. Fast forward to two months ago. I had just recently started my new job, we moved into our new place together, and I thought that everything was going according to plan until he dropped the bomb on me that he no longer thinks he wants kids because “he doesn't see the benefit that they could bring to his life”. Ultimately I'm faced with the decision to decide of whether I do or do not want kids because he does not know how this can work if we disagree on such a fundamental issue. I don't know what to do. I love him and could not picture my life without him, but I still want to hang on to the hope that kids are in our future somewhere down the road. Could this just be a phase and could he change his mind and possibly realize he does want kids later on? Or do I accept the reality that the plans that we had together are no longer in the cards? I just feel so lost. Any advice would be helpful. ❤


  9. Anonymous May 30, shoot, everything was going well and then . . . It may be just a phase. You are both so young. But it is worrisome. I think you should stick to what you wanted. If you stay with him, you might not get those three kids, but there's no reason you have to change how you feel just because he has. Don't nag, but do keep the lines of communication open and give it a little while. If you decide not having kids is a deal-breaker, you have to make that clear to him. I sure hope it works out.


  10. Hello Everyone,I stumbled upon this page due to a argument my partner and I have been having since the beginning of our relationship: to have children? Today, the topic arose and I feel so lost and miserable and tired. In the beginning, I was very hopeful of the idea that one day we (my partner and I) would have 2 children. As the days became months, I soon began to realize, well assume that maybe she wanted the right guy who would be there for her and not only for the children.And so I showed my partner the loving, caring, funny, outgoing person I am and more. Months became years and now my assumption is that she doesn't want to have kids at all and it makes me sad.The argument reached new heights on the topic on hand. In the end, I began to realize that she didn't want me to end the relationship, but she didn't want to feel guilty of having me give up what I wanted ever since I can remember. Even though my partner tried her best to give me a way out, I refused to end it because I do love her so freaking much, but at the same time, I don't want to be with someone who is going to feel guilty for not giving me what I want.Which leads me to the question that I would like Sue and others here to please, please provide any input to help me reach the conclusion of my relationship with my lovely partner: Should I be with her or should I end my amazing relationship?I love my partner so much, but how can I be with someone who will feel guilty throughout the course of my relationship.Thank You


  11. Dear Sadness, I wish I had an answer for you. My shrink would say you are not responsible for your partner's feelings. If she feels guilty, she feels guilty. But the bottom line is: Do you want to stay together? If so, you need to deal with this issue and reach a decision you both can live with. And yes, one of you will feel guilt and resentment. It's inevitable. I hope you can find peace with this.


  12. I was seeing a girl for about 6 months until recently. She's 35 and I'm 30. When we first started seeing each other, I told her that I liked that she was a mom and that I wanted a child and it was a deal-breaker for me. She was honest with me from the beginning and said she didn't want any more/ She has a 13-year-old son from a previous relationship, has raised him by herself since he was a baby and has gotten very little support (financial & otherwise) from the father. Despite this, we went with the flow as we both really liked each other. We fell in love and things seemed to be great up until last week, when she broke up with me. She said she loves me, but she knows she'll never want children again and it's not fair for her to expect me to sacrifice that as she'll never change her mind.I tried to talk to her about this and said it's not an issue for me right now, but she keeps referring back to the start of the relationship when I said it was a deal-breaker.The thing is I felt that way before I met her and fell in love with her. I've never been in a relationship with anyone before where we just clicked like this and she meets so many of my needs and I hers. We were best friends too… I felt like I could take on the world with her and like anything was possible. I also shared her ideas of travelling once her son turned 18. I've started to waver on the child idea, but I'd like it to at least be an option rather than being told a flat out no. It does bring up so many emotions and I too have felt that if she loved me enough she'd want to have children with me… I guess it's never that simple though.I really feel if she didn't make such a big deal out of things at such an early stage then there's a strong chance I would've decided she was enough for me, but I guess we'll never know. After reading so many stories here, I can't help but observe that many of those who have children from previous relationships often tend to let their past experiences cloud their judgment. Some of these people had negative experiences or struggled in some way whilst raising their kids for a variety of reasons. I don't think it's fair for people to let their past experiences dictate their future options/decisions. It's very different having a child with someone you love, who loves you back, who will stick around and be a willing and loving parent to the child alongside you. My advice to those who still have age on their side is this: people do change, stranger things have happened. So if you'll excuse the pun, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Nobody knows what tomorrow has in store and you are potentially denying yourself happiness right now by being reactive and making rash decisions over something that isn't yet an issue and may in fact never be. For those of you who are lucky enough to still have your partners, try to put your issues aside temporarily and be grateful for each other, even just for one night, and enjoy the love you share.


  13. Thank you Sue for replying back to me. I am grateful you did and I have taken your advice into consideration and I am still with her because will I truly love her. Thank you.


  14. I'm taking comfort that I'm not alone. I'm 43 and my husband (35) (my best friend, soulmate, love of my life) left me 3 weeks ago after 11 years of marriage. I have 19 yo & 17 yo from previous marriage, and he's been the most amazing stepdad ever. He has always known from day 1 that I didn't want any more kids and has always said the three of us were enough for him. . . until now. He now can't bear never having his own child and therefore has walked away. He says he still loves me and may realize a few years down the line that leaving me was a big mistake, but the yearning for a baby is just too strong. I'm absolutely broken. We had an amazing life.


  15. Anonymous June 20, I'm so sorry this happened to you. We read a lot about women leaving men who don't want more children, but here we are on the other side. I don't know what to say except I'm sorry and I hope you can find a way to ease your pain.


  16. My story isn't much different from the rest I've read here. I'm 38 and bf is 40. I have been searching and searching for the last ten years for a man like him. After a horrible break up with a horrible man, I put myself out there and met Mr. Wonderful. He is kind and supportive and encouraging and loves me just the way I am. I was clear from the beginning of the relationship that I wanted the option of having a child. At my age, I am not delusional about my ability to to conceive a child. All of my close friends my age are having or had problems conceiving or having miscarriages. Anyhow, he said a kid would be an option. Sometime last year (we've been together about 18 months), I became really upset and said that I wanted a baby. He replied with, “Not now!!!” I said of course not now–I was finishing my education program and didn't have a job. Obviously we would have waited until I graduated and had a job. Let me add, too, that he has a 6 yo son from his previous marriage, which ended very badly and, from what I can gather, his ex was emotionally abusive. And I know for sure that he pretty much was the primary caregiver when his son was younger. In fact, he still is the better parent. He's an awesome dad. I love his son and he and I have a great relationship, but at the end of the day, I'm not “mom.” My bf and I have had several emotional and less emotional discussions. He keeps throwing out all these reasons why we shouldn't have a kid. My age: what if we had a special needs child? Well, I did my research and we have a 97-99% chance of having a healthy child. He's concerned about my mental health, which I don't blame him, as I suffer from a mood disorder and had a small bout of depression earlier this year ( which I can't help but think pushed him to no instead of not now). I talked to my doctor and he said he doesn't see why I can't have a healthy a baby and a safe pregnancy. Moreover, don't many women have issues when they are pregnant, women who don't have any problems? I even told him that if, when I get off my meds and it is just unbearable for us, I will gladly go back on them and close that chapter of our lives. I know he gets anxious and he keeps referring to how difficult having a baby is. And I agree, but this time around, he wouldn't be doing it all. He'd have a real partner, heck, I even suggested that I not work the first year, which I think we could handle. Money would be tight, but not undoable. Furthermore, he's had a hemorrhoid which has affected his ability to be physically active, which also might be the reason why he is tired all the time. The other day, he FINALLY came out and said he just has no desire to have a kid. I asked him what if I did change his mind and we did have a kid, would he hate his life and resent me and the child? He said of course not. So WTF gives? I am a problem-solver, and I can't solve this one. He keeps going back to being tired and being unable to be as active as he would like. So I made him an appointment to have his thyroid checked, as both of his parents and both of his sisters have a thyroid problem. Taking care of his bum is next. I just can't believe that he is the douche bag he is presenting himself to be right now. I gave up my independence for him. Last fall money was tight and I was having trouble with financial aid. He asked me to move in since I was there all the time anyway. I told him don't move me in just to be the good guy. I can figure this out. I told him this was a big step and that it needed to be for the right reasons. I finally gave in after two weeks of him asking me. So here I am, no money, and I am completely dependent on him, a situation I have never been in for my entire adult life.


  17. Dear Anonymous June 24,
    It sounds like the baby thing is not your only issue, but it is one of the most pressing because of your ages. If you're already regretting moving in with him, how would you feel if you got pregnant with him? I totally get that you want a baby, but maybe you need to give it a few months to sort out your relationship first. If he's truly Mr. Wonderful, he ought to get over himself and say yes if you don't push too hard right now. I wish you luck.


  18. I'm having to write this in two parts, and I don't remember where I left off, so sorry if I repeat myself. I think I left off about him finally saying no. I've been at my mom's for five days. I saw him yesterday for a bit and I suggested counseling and he didn't really give me an answer, so I told him in that case I would be sleeping in the spare room until I find a job and can move. Well, he started breathing really heavy the way he does when he gets anxious and crying. I really did not expect that response from him. He's thinking about counseling. I think we need it regardless of this situation. I think he has unresolved issues from his marriage. I hope we can work through this bc he is the most loving, kind, generous, supportive man I have ever met. I feel so at home with him, except for recently. I hope he wasn't lying to me in the beginning. I hope that because of different factors, problems that we can solve, he will reconsider. He is a great dad, but he thinks he's failing as a dad. He's not! I wouldn't want to have a kid with him if he wasn't a good dad! I hope that all of his reasons are just bs. But I might have to accept that he just doesn't have the desire to do this all over again, which would be a real shame because I am 100% not like his ex wife. Things would be so different. She's an alcoholic, so that comes with its own set of problems. I almost think he might be suffering from depression. He lacks energy, wants to sleep all the time, and everything stresses him out. I'm going home in a few days. Hopefully we can see a counselor. I'd hate to let him go, but at the same time I don't know if I could not resent him for toying with my life.


  19. I only regret moving in with him because I made myself perfectly clear what I wanted, so either he lied (which I just can't believe he would do) or something happened to make him change his mind.


  20. Thank you, Sue. I hadn't even planned on trying to get pregnant until early next year. He has asked what do I hope to get out of counseling? Maybe we could figure out how to make me feel like I am a part of his family–him and his son. It's like the two of them against the world. He said he doesn't want a new family, and I said, wouldn't it be more like adding to your family? Maybe he misspoke. I also think talking to someone about his marriage would be helpful for him. I do not plan on making any hasty decisions. I think he will talk to someone with me. At least I hope.


  21. I feel so used. My boyfriend of 4 years left me because I don't have the desire or the dream of becoming a mother. I'm still in my early 20's. I feel betrayed and honestly I don't think he loved me, otherwise he would understand. He just saw me as a potential machine babymaker. That hurt like crazy! I feel insecure, low self-esteem, not worth it. I know it will be really difficult to find someone that doesn't want kids, so I feel doomed. I'm a pretty and smart girl, but I gave up on love. People see love and relationships as something to fill needs. I don't think I will find someone that sees me beside the potential of becoming pregnant. I don't want to date or find a boyfriend anymore, I'm just hopeless about love. I’m not condemning your perspective, just giving you the other way around and how I personally feel.


  22. M, I feel for you. That woman-as-babymaker view has been going on since Adam and Eve. We are much more than that, of course. But don't give up on love. There's somebody out there for you. Someday you'll find each other.


  23. I am in the same boat, but struggling even more because it's a situation of my own making.This is the second marriage for both my husband and I and we've been together five years. I am 36 and he is 40. Neither of us have kids from our first marriages. For pretty much my entire life, I've never wanted children, and when my current husband and I discussed it before we were married, we both agreed that we didn't want kids.About six months or so ago, something changed for me, and I started to feel like a child was something I wanted. In the recent discussions my husband and I have had about it, he still feels like he doesn't want one. His reasons are all very logical and understandable – he likes our life now, likes to be able to travel and do whatever we want, feels he's too old, doesn't want the financial responsibility or to deal with all the work a child entails.I feel like a horrible person because I've changed my mind and put him in a position he never should have been in, since he's been honest with me from the beginning. I don't know if I just have some sort of “baby fever”, and I've been trying to talk myself out of it for a few months now, but I just can't stop thinking about how I really do want a child and how wonderful of a father he would be. We both have good jobs and make very good money so it's hard for me to find logical reasons not to have one. My husband doesn't seem to understand that it's more of an emotional decision for me and keeps asking me for reasons why – something that is hard for me to provide a bullet-pointed answer to.I'm scared to death that if I don't have one, I will really regret it, and if he does relent and have one, it won't be a good experience for him, and he will resent both me and the child. I love him dearly and couldn't imagine life without him…but this is really starting to weigh on me. Because of our ages I don't feel that there's a whole lot of time to wait and see.Any insights would help a ton – obviously there's no compromise on this issue. :O(


  24. Oh Anonymous July 2, 2015,
    You're human. We all change our minds about stuff. Maybe it is baby fever or a realization that the fertility doors are closing, but don't feel guilty. You can't help it. Sometimes I wish we didn't have so many choices. You sound very sure you want to stay with your guy and keep the relationship going. Hang on to that. You might have to stick with your original choice. Or maybe he'll change his mind, too. Either way, it will be okay.


  25. So glad I stumbled on this blog.
    I met my boyfriend when I was 35 (in the process of freezing my eggs) and he was 39 and had full custody of his 10 year old son. He knew I was freezing my eggs and we had several candid talks in the early days. Fast forward and I’ll be 39 in December and he’s about to turn 43. When we first started dating, he said he could go either way on kids since he’d always planned on having more, but he also could be content with his one son. He also said he knew the worst thing he could do is waste my time. During the intervening 3 years, he’s been through a horrible custody fight and lost custody, which I think combined with his horrible ex has given him PTSD. Toward the end of their marriage, among SO many other things, she had a second young son and let my boyfriend believe (for a time) that it was his child, as opposed to the product of an affair. They split up when that child was about a year old, but still . . . When I met him, he really came across as having put the past behind him and being able to move on, but I think everything in the intervening years has poured salt on the wounds. He feels as if he had 2 children taken away.

    When I ask him about having children, he seems to hedge his answers and say things like “HOW would we do it? We both have stressful lives? I’m struggling financially.” I’ve asked him to focus on whether or not he wants to have kids (I’m fairly financially comfortable, and an only child, so my parents would also help out — although I hesitate to go into too much detail about my finances given the disparity in our situations and the fact that he hasn’t proposed). I’ve let him know I could afford it, but he says he’s uncomfortable with not being a financial contributor. I was very much an “accident” and I had a pretty terrible childhood, although I’ve made peace with my parents now. I always swore if I had a child, my child would be wanted, so I don’t know what to do when people tell me (and I quote) that I should just “bully,” “nag” or “hog-tie” him into it. That’s not the way I would want to bring a life into this world, and after seeing some of my friends struggle, I don’t feel like I could go through pregnancy on my own. I feel selfish but I’d like my own biological child.

    Other times I think “maybe I could learn to accept this.” I’ve had a few health challenges in the last year and 38 suddenly feels a LOT older than 35. A recent spate of depression sort of feels like a sign from God that maybe I’m not meant to have children. There are some health conditions in the family which I worry about passing along (and no good genetic tests to predict). Statistically, my odds are low, but although not as low as I’d like, and it’s scary. I have a lot of worries about whether I’d make a good mother or be up to the demands (I’m prone to depression). I only strongly started craving children around 30 (my mother had me at 33). I was dumped by my serious boyfriend (the one who told my friends he was going to propose) at 31, and spent 4 years dating like my life depended on it. I wish I’d believed older women when they told me 30-year old women are lepers in the dating scene. I’m attractive and successful, but no, it was lonely. My boyfriend is a wonderful man, and I don’t think I’ll meet anyone better (and I don’t want to go out there again). I love his now-13-year-old son, and we have a pretty good relationship, but I have worries about the way he’s being raised by his mother (she just doesn’t seem to show a lot of concern for her child) and frankly, what happens if his father and I split up? I doubt I’d get to visit the kid if something were to happen. Plus, I don’t know that my boyfriend’s son loves me back, or if he ever will. He’s in that “silent” boy mode where I worry he just bottles everything up.

    I wish my boyfriend could decide or state what he wants, because then it would be easier for me to figure out what I want. Not sure if that makes sense, but it’s the “hope” that’s killing me. Hope that’ll he’ll get excited about the idea. He’s a wonderful father, and I think the horror he went through with his first wife has just scarred him a lot (he was primary care giver, and he tells stories about how his son didn’t sleep through the night until 1 year old, or going on military runs at 5 am after being up with a colic-y baby). I come from a family of babies that sleep through the night, and people who can afford to hire a night nurse if things get overly stressful. If he would just say he doesn’t want kids, then I could work more on deciding whether or not I can live with that. Our relationship isn’t perfect and I worry about that, but he’s still the best man I’ve ever been with. I don’t want to pressure him (he’s expressed upset about this before), but I feel like I need to know.

    At this point it’s the undecided nature of the thing that’s killing me. Even if we tried for 6 months and had no luck, I think I could feel better about it than this.

    One friend told me “if you’d really wanted children, you would have taken care of it by now.” I feel very naïve, but hey at 30 I thought I was with a man whom I’d marry and have children with (he was the one who asked me about kids). I try to remind myself I can’t constantly reexamine every choice I make.

    Virtually every day I think about children, my indecision on having children (although I think I do want them, just I’ve never been child-obsessed like my friends who were “natural mothers”), and my boyfriend’s indecision on the whole thing. I can’t live this way. I want to pick something and get on with my life. Maybe this will be the thing that makes me leave him, I don’t know. But with, at best, 2.5 years before I turn 40, I doubt I would meet anyone new and I wouldn’t want to have children with someone I knew for less than 1 year. And if we’re not going to have kids, and I don’t intend to leave him, then I think I need to start (continue?) the grieving process so I can find a measure of acceptance.

    Alzheimer’s and other dementias run in my family. I’ve seen abuse in elder care; if it hadn’t been for my aunt, my extremely difficult grandmother would have been taken advantage of and possibly abused (my aunt nipped a dangerous situation in the bud). I worry about who would take care of me, as I’m an only child and not close to any cousins or other relatives.

    While web-surfing, I saw an ad for a course to help women decide. I’m sitting here wondering if spending nearly $700 for a course will help me or just fuel my worries/sadness/ insecurity.


    • Oh Confused, I’m sorry it’s such a muddle. You seem to be worrying about a lot of things that may never happen, such as having dementia. Your boyfriend has not proposed, so you don’t have a firm commitment yet. He has really gotten burned by his ex and suffered over her kids, but you’re still waiting for your chance. Try not to obsess over the child thing. First figure out if the relationship is right for you long-term. I wish you all the best.


  26. Hi Sue. I’ve been married for 5 years and together for 9. He is a wonderful man, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner. We both had rough childhoods, and when we went through premarriage counseling, we were both unsure of, more close to not wanting, kids. However, when I turned 30, a switch turned on and all I wanted was a baby. A child to love, a child that symbolizes the love between my husband and I, a child that in essence is the best of him and I. We have had issues getting pregnant, and we are currently undergoing IVF. He was pretty supportive up to this point.
    My husband recently told me he doesn’t want kids. That he never wanted kids. That he was compromising to make me happy. That it makes him happy to make me happy. When I ask how could he let it go this far, he says he did it for me. Now he is making me choose- him or a baby?
    I would choose him, but the idea of not being a mom breaks my heart. To the point that when I think of not having a little girl or boy of my dreams, I break into sobs.
    I’m 33 and he is 38. I’m scared that by staying with him, I’ll be heartbroken for the rest of my life and the marriage will fail anyway. I keep wondering if he is just scared. And how I could encourage him.


    • Hi Annie. What happened to if it makes him happy to make you happy? Having kids would make you happy, so . . . Is he literally saying it’s either him or a baby? I think you still have some more talking to do. You still have some time, but ultimately you’re going to have to decide which is most important. I’m sorry you have to go through this.


    • I read “Do I want to be be a mom” recently — a book I’d owned for years but only just sat down and actually read. It was really helpful. I’d posted earlier and since then have pretty much made peace with being childless. A couple of things helped:
      1) the book asked if I thought about being a mother as much when I’m happy as when I’m sad — and honestly no, I don’t. I think about it a lot when fearful or worried etc. but when I’m really enjoying everything in my life, I don’t think about being a parent much, which probably says something
      2) it also said that whichever way you go, you may sometimes have regrets but that doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice, just that life is complicated. This was very freeing.
      And finally, I recently came to the conclusion that even though my boyfriend drives me up the wall sometimes, if I were 10 years younger, I still wouldn’t chuck him to find someone new. There are a lot of things that could be better, but something deep inside has said ‘this is the one I want’. So, I’m starting to accept that if he doesn’t want kids, we’re not going to have kids, and that’s probably going to be ok. I can find way to be connected to children in other ways. Would I like it if we had children? I think so. But I don’t want to trade him for someone else just for the sake of having children.

      Hope any of that is useful


      • Dear less confused, I think it is useful, especially people who are struggling with the thought that they are going to have to break up with their partners in order to go have kids with someone else they haven’t met yet. Good for you.


  27. Hi Sue, everyone. Thanks for this blog and everyone’s comments. It’s been nice hearing I’m not completely alone. I’m not really sure since the last post has been for so long anyone will see this but I guess it may make me feel better to share my story regardless.If anyone is about to chime in then thank you!

    So I’m 30/m and my partner is 26/f. We have been dating for a year and compared to many on here with years of marriage behind them that’s nothing, but this woman is extraordinary. The love of my life and I am on the verge of proposing to her.

    Apart from a few ups and downs we have a perfect relationship, we can talk without getting bored non stop, we share so many similar interests and I could never have imagined a woman like her existed.

    So you probably can guess where I’m going with this. She is already a mother of 1, a 2 year old boy from a previous relationship.

    I always knew this and always assumed that since she had such a horrid time during her pregnancy and ex relationship that she wouldn’t want kids again. This never really dawned on me until a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t think that I would ever have children and my personal circumstances don’t permit me to be a good father anyway so I somewhat assumed given I wasn’t getting any younger that I probably would end up childless.

    So obviously this wasn’t a big deal to me. In fact, for such a long time, I wished that she wasn’t already a mother simply through selfish reasons of wanting more time together.

    As time turned from months to years I had to accept that I would have to be a step-dad one day and that there was nothing I could do to change the past.

    We talk well like every good couple should and we both have said that we wish I was his father, that we had met sooner. She wishes she would have left him(her ex) or even that she should have run away without telling him she was pregnant.

    She never wanted to have kids before they did and he managed to convince her to conceive. She had always said that she didn’t want kids and that if she did, circumstances would be different (she would be married, post career etc). You could almost say she was deceived by him. He had no love for her, he simply wanted someone to give him a child after he lost his previous to a previous partner.

    I’m trying not to let this drag on too much, but she had a terrible time. Once she conceived he completely changed. He used to talk about how he would help, how he would care, but the minute she was pregnant he lost interest. As time went on things got worse. She has health problems and had a pregnancy from hell. Sickness for 9 months and isolation at home with no friends or life outside. She fell depressed and after she had her child suffered from postpartum depression too. Her ex didn’t give her a break, she had no support. On top of this, her son was a difficult baby, screaming constantly with reflux and a milk formula allergy. What she thought may have been a happy time turned out to be turmoil.

    So months go by, and after accepting that we two would often be three, I grew to love her more, not just her alone but her with her son. I knew I needed to. I knew I needed to love him like my own and I grew to love not so much him, but the idea that we would be with him lots.

    My gf is an incredible mum, even more so when she coped so well raising him under the most difficult circumstances! She’s sweet around him and I found that part of her more and more attractive. I started to think to myself hey if we ever do decide I know she’ll be a great mum.” At this point, I didn’t really think about kids, but I thought that it was possible that we may end up having one someday.

    Then something happened around two weeks ago. She was looking after him (he spent 2 weeks with his mum and 2 with his dad) and he got sick with the stomach flu. He was often sick when he visits her, we think because of the childcare he goes to, and my gf would often get sick herself as a result. Something she can’t afford to do with her job. She also has Emetophobia and doesn’t do well when he is vomiting. This always prompts her mum to visit to help look after him and clear the mess.
    This isn’t anything new, but this time this event, coupled with her current form of sickness and also a decision having to be made in the future about where he should stay for pre-school (they live in different towns) she decided that she just wasn’t made up to be a mum and that she should give her ex custody and see her son only every other weekend.

    This was a complete shock to me and I just assumed it was an overreaction. I did my best to tell her how much of a great mum she is and that having a phobia doesn’t mean she can’t be a great mum. It didn’t work, and after talking with her mother (who has always told her she has never been suited to kids) she decided quickly to sign the papers and seal the deal.

    This was a complete shock for me. She hates her ex, she hated how he had him at all. She didn’t trust him and wanted full custody. Many a time before now, I reassured her that I would support her and do anything it takes to make sure she gets him but now suddenly in one night that all turned on its head.
    My gf has made her mind up that she just doesn’t want kids, that she never did, that she always knew she didn’t and that she’s sure she made the right decision.

    This weekend was the first she had him visit in over 3 weeks and she was looking forward to him visiting. Today she felt sad and wanted to talk and I felt I knew deep down what she was going to say, I thought she would be full of regret, that she would be questioning her decision. But no, she was depressed and blaming it on being around him. She said she feels terrible for feeling like it but she just doesn’t enjoy having him. She loves him, will spend time with him but she said she just hasn’t got the patience and doesn’t enjoy playing with him. She said he was really sweet and behaved well and wanted to be close to her to hug and everything but she said she just gets depressed around him and that it reinforces everything she believed, that she is just not meant to have kids.

    This past couple of weeks have gotten me down because of this and I don’t even understand why. I don’t fall under the same category as most seem to. I don’t definitely want children but after getting so used to the idea of him being around, falling in love with the way she acts around him and for the first time in my life actually thinking I’ve found someone I know would make a great mum I’m having to accept that it almost definitely isn’t going to happen. I don’t understand why it makes me sad. I still think that kids are probably not for me regardless but yet I still find it makes me sad.

    Of course we talked about her feelings and her decision and a lot of unrest came of it. Her mother’s superstitions about how I would take the whole thing along with her and her husband assuming she is just not made out to be a mum and now convincing her made her notice I was sad. I explained to her that I got used to the idea of having him around, I spent time with him, I gave him gifts. He’s a sweet toddler and that her sudden change of heart is a shock to me.

    More selfishly, I explained I wasn’t sure about us having our own one day but I think that I may want kids, if not now that there’s a good chance I will in the future.

    She said before when we talked that she was close to sure she didn’t want kids but she was open to the prospect of changing her mind. I accepted this because I knew no matter what I would still love her. I said I still wasn’t sure, I said that I feel like I either do or will do. Thing is she hasn’t dismissed the prospect completely but has started to make even more comments at different moments about how awful having children/pregnancy is.

    Of course I respect her decision. I have to. I don’t want to have a child with her if she doesn’t, but I feel like she would prefer me not to want kids and I would prefer her to want to.

    I said to her whether we do or not I will still love her and want to be with her but I don’t know if I’ll definitely want one or not, if I do I said it will likely make me sad. At which point she became scared of losing me. Scared she wouldn’t be able to give me what I may potentially want.

    She does have health problems and there’s no way either of us are ready for a child. She got upset and asked me why I would want her to be sick and unhappy, why I would want her to have to visit hospital again. She then proceeded to talk to her mother about it which has even further strengthened (along with his latest visit) that she is just not mum material and I feel like that small chance that she will ever change her mind has sunk from 1 percent to next to nothing.

    I just don’t know how to feel. I can’t leave her and I know I’ll be happy with her without our own, but her changing her mind about her own son has made me see things differently. I still don’t know if I will ever want kids but the woman who I love, who I always saw was such a great mum is now convinced motherhood is just not for her. She has told me she doesn’t want me holding it against her and she doesn’t want me trying to change her mind. Equally she told me she doesn’t want to make me unhappy if she can’t give me what I want.

    I desperately want her to just notice how great of a dad I would be and to crave a child of our own, but the stupid thing about that it is I don’t even know if I do want children. I feel as if I’ve always expected to be the one in a relationship who probably sides more with not having kids but suddenly I find myself wanting kids more than her (even though I’m not sure yet) and her lack of desire vs mine puts me off.

    My heart tells me I’m going to marry this woman and deep down I hope spending more time together she will change her mind.

    My head tells me I need to get used to the idea of not having children as most likely it isn’t going to happen.

    It’s almost like her wanting it less than me has made me feel unloved, I want her to be able to give me what she gave her ex and I want to prove to her that it will be different, that we will enjoy it. Whilst she is the opposite trying to convince me it’s a bad idea.

    The passing comments are starting to hurt me even more.

    “Every time I see a pregnant lady I feel so sorry for them, it make me sick.”

    “One of the nice things about being with one of my exes is we both didn’t want kids.”

    “Do you want to be up every half hour in the night?”

    And then there is also her fear that like her ex I would change after she beca e pregnant. She now believes every man does and she doesn’t want anything to jeopardize me loving her or finding her attractive.

    The thing is, these comments come from nowhere. I’m neutral. I don’t see kids and say to her “look how happy they are.” I don’t point out my friends who are great dads and happily married.

    Yes, if we’re talking about it I’ll try my best to tell her that it is possible to be happy, that not every pregnancy, father, child is the same. That we stand a chance of it being different. Sometimes she’ll even talk about a moment when she sees a happy family or child.

    But the comments are starting to get to me. I can’t stand that this bastard of her ex got to her before I did. Got her pregnant before we met and contributed to the worst time of her life.

    I know if it was with me it would be different. I know she wouldn’t think so badly of it, but I can’t help but feel a little hurt that she doesn’t think of doing the same for me even when she’s told me I would make a good dad.

    So confused!


    • Rollcage, clearly this is driving you crazy. You have to decide whether you want to be with this woman, kids or no kids, and then decide whether it will truly be okay if you see her son rarely and never have kids of your own. Decide and then move on.


      • Thanks kindly, Sue. I know I want to be with this woman dearly, but I still found myself feeling confused and feeling bad about the situation and I don’t know why. I don’t know why it’s been getting to me when I didn’t really want children in the first place.

        We talked about it some more, and she said that she definitely won’t want to have another, but I guess there will always be a small part of me that hopes maybe she will change her mind in the future. It’s hard for me not to hope that, when before, she’s even mentioned once or twice about having our own.

        I need to learn to not let it get to me though, accept it for what it is, and if she does decide to change, so be it. Although I doubt falling in love with me and seeing how much of a good person she thinks I am will ever be enough to detract from the horrible experience she had in the past.

        As for her son, I guess anything could change, but one thing’s for sure. Now that she sees him less we will have more time to be just us.

        As it stands, I told her that I don’t picture us with children of our own and I don’t want any, which is true. I feel a little better but something still upsets me about it all. Perhaps I’m in denial?

        I wanted to thank you for this blog and your reply. I’ve done lots of reading on here and it’s definitely helped me and others.

        It’s nice to hear that you loved your husband as much as you did and he loved you. I think about my life without this woman and it scares me. It gives me an enormous sense of hope, but I also hold you in high regard for having been through so much and pulling through. Well done. I lost my grandad last November who I was very close to, but one thing I’m certain of is these people live on in us in different ways and I’m sure he would be happy to see you write so much to selflessly help others. Thank you so much!


    • It sounds like your gf would benefit from counselling to help her explore her belief that she would never make a good mother, and also to help her heal from the trauma she went through in her relationship with her son’s father, including what sounds like a difficult pregnancy and post-natal depression. It may not change her mind about having more children, of course, but it may help her feel better about herself and therefore more able to have the best relationship possible with you. After she has had her own counselling, it might be a good idea to have counselling together to help figure out what you want your relationship to look like and whether or not it will include children. Just a thought. Best of luck!


      • Thank you! I agree that that may be a possibility. She actually suggested we have counseling together and for a while she was seeing a psychologist, but she doesn’t any more. Perhaps now that she’s not amidst the things that brought her down she’s better placed to feel better about them. Time itself helps heal and I hope in the future she won’t be so traumatized by the whole situation.
        I know I need to accept not having children because if I don’t then it will only make matters worse. There will always be some hope, I guess, especially if I do ever get to a definitive stage where I want one, but right now I feel if anything is going to ever make her feel differently (counseling aside) then it’s going to be my unconditional love for her.


  28. Hi Sue. I was happy to have found this blog! I read your book awhile ago, and at the time it did give me some comfort.
    My husband and I married a little less than two years ago. Before getting married we agreed to have children. About eight months into our marriage he told me he didn’t want to have children anymore. We were once in babies-R-Us, and he was thinking of buying baby furniture even though we weren’t even trying! So I was shocked to say the least. This was over a year ago, and he still says he does not want children but that he wants to be with me still. I’m almost 32 and very aware of my most fertile years ticking away. I work with pregnant women every day, many of whom have unplanned pregnancies. I love what I do, but that on top of always being asked by well-meaning family and friends, ‘when are you going to have kids?’ is so incredibly painful. I feel like I spend so much time and effort trying to keep myself together that I can’t help but fall apart sometimes. All my husband can do is hold me but that makes me wonder “How can you love someone and put them through that much pain?” I also still have no idea what changed his mind about wanting children in the first place.

    Thank you for creating a safe place of love and support.


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