Would you marry someone who is infertile?

We often talk here about couples in which one partner is not willing to have children. Sometimes they discuss it before they get married. Other times it comes as a rude surprise to the partner who wants kids. But what about situations where one partner, for whatever reason, physically cannot make babies? What if you knew that going in? Would you sacrifice children for love?
I’ve been doing a little reading about marriages in which a partner is infertile. Many of the listings that come up are religious discussions. As you might expect, the Catholics dominate. The main thought is that for a marriage to be valid, the couple must have a sexual union. That means if a partner is impotent, i.e., can’t have sex, and they know it before the wedding, they can’t have a valid marriage. If it happens later, that’s okay. But if the couple is infertile, that does not invalidate the marriage. If their sexual union does not result in children, they’re still married.
Some folks are using the same arguments in their debate about gay marriage. After all, a same-sex couple cannot  procreate without outside help. But they do have a sexual union. I’m not going to get into whether or not gay marriage is a good thing. I think if people love each other, they should be allowed to be together. Period. But it does underscore the question I am asking today: Would you marry someone who is unable to provide the necessary sperm or egg to conceive a child? Or is that a deal breaker?
In my case, I knew Fred had had a vasectomy, and I knew it had taken 16 years for him and his first wife to get pregnant. But in my usual unrealistic way, I figured we could overcome all that and pop out some babies while I was still in my fertile 30s. What if I had known that there was absolutely no chance? What if instead of saying he didn’t want more children, he’d said, “I can’t.” Would I have married him? I honestly don’t know. I think I would have. I really loved him and didn’t have other prospects. But I’d have been forced to consciously choose a life without the children I always thought I’d have. (Yes, we could have had the adoption talk and I would have learned that no, he didn’t want to do that, so the result would have been the same, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
What if I were the one with the fertility problem? Would I expect a man to give up children for me? Would I be constantly afraid that no man would have me if I couldn’t give him sons and daughters? How and when would I tell the guys I dated? Would I feel guilty about depriving them of kids?
When couples disagree, that’s hard, but infertility is a whole other thing, full of sadness. It’s not a rare thing either. The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site lists statistics for infertility. The percentage of women ages 15-44 with “impaired fecundity” is 10.9 percent or 6.7 million. Stop and think about that. One in 10. On the male side in the same age group, 13.9 percent were surgically sterile (usually vasectomy), 4.2 percent sterile for other reasons and another 5.2 percent considered subfertile, meaning conception was possible but not likely. That’s a lot of guys, nearly a quarter of them.
So how do you feel about that? Would you marry someone you knew was infertile? I would love to hear what you think about this.

47 thoughts on “Would you marry someone who is infertile?

  1. I married an infertile, since early childhood medications ruined his testosterone. He told me after we were engaged. I never thought the man I would love would either never be able to have kids nor would he want them, so it never came up before then. He knew for about 9 years before he met me, and I kinda wish he would have mentioned it before we got serious. But I love him, and he is perfect for me in every other way. Adoption failed but mostly because we refused to do private adoption and he wasn’t as keen for it as I was until it was clear it wasn’t going to happen. GAAHHH!!

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  2. I met my husband when I was 38. He is 5 years younger. Before we married he had to consider the possibility that we wouldn't be able to have children together. At that stage, we had already been trying unsuccessfully for three years. He really wants children, as do I, and it was an issue he really had to work through. But in the end, he still wanted to be with me above all else. I am so very happy for that!!

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  3. I married a man who had had a vasectomy. I was 37 and he was 43. Right before I met my husband, I had just gotten out of a five-year relationship that was very emotionally troublesome–I knew I could never move forward with him but had the most difficult time leaving him. I wasted most of my 30s. Before this, I wasted a big part of my 20s being in another wrong relationship. In between those times, I wouldn't settle for anyone who didn't meet my criteria. I turned down many opportunities with marriage and family potential. More wasted time and all my fault. Back to the man I married, which was six years ago now. Two months after we married, he had a vas reversal that was unsuccessful. I am realizing now that I won't have children and I am having such a difficult time with this. I experience anxiety and depression, thinking I am going to die almost daily because I feel I am worthless and inferior to other women now. I never was like this before. I don't feel like a woman. I don't want to be miserable about it anymore. I want to feel empowered like I once did before it was important for me to have children. I don't think I will ever be okay with this. I have regrets of marrying my husband because I feel I still had time at 37. At the time though, I was looking to escape a life that I couldn't free myself from. My husband is a loyal and dependable spouse though and I don't believe it would be right to leave because I couldn't have children with him. I have much anger toward myself. I have tried to find a counselor without children who is not younger than I; it is difficult to find. All of my friends have kids and they don't understand one bit. I don't know what to do anymore.

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  4. I guess I struck a nerve with this one. Newmum, congrats on your happy marriage. I'm not sure I understand how your name connects with the situation. Are you still trying to conceive? Anyway, I'm happy you are happy with each other. That's a wonderful thing.

    Anonymous Aug. 27, this is just the kind of pickle I was talking about. You love him, he can't father children, you want children, now what do you do? Somehow I think you have to accept the situation and be glad that after a series of bad relationships, you have found this wonderful guy. He had the reversal surgery, which proves he would have kids with you if he could. You're right about the difficulty of finding counselors who understand. Mine has kids, too, and that's an area in which she is absolutely no help. But please hang in there. There is much to be enjoyed in life even without children.

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  5. I read this with great interest as I can't have children. I had to have a hysterectomy and now can't have children obviously. I do fear that I am not good enough for someone who wants children-that I would not be worthy of love over having a child. Who would really love me despite this? I do have a long term friendship with someone but haven't done anything about being more because I know he wants to have children and I can't have them so I just figure that is not in the cards for us or if it is, can I ever let him love me despite this?

    I do see a counselor and it's great but I still do wonder what is out there for me? Someone with kids who lost a wife or is divorced? Maybe, maybe not.

    I struggle a great deal seeing my coworkers doing all the things one thinks they will do-get married and have kids but I am worried I will never let anyone really love me and why would they since I can't have kids. Clearly, this is an issue for me and I do talk with my counselor a great deal about it but it is still a downer most of the time.

    But, I tell myself it's all for some reason and I hope someday soon I know what the reason is and much good comes from it. Some days are easier than others of course, but there are days that I do wonder if I will ever know that reason. I sure hope I know it soon.

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  6. Oh Catherine, tough situation. This is exactly what I was talking about. So hard. I'm glad you're working with a counselor. Don't give up on men. I know we all get tired of hearing it, but there are possibilities, such as adoption or surrogates. I wish you all the best.

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  7. I was a month past my 18 birthday when I married my husband, who was barely 19. His parents fought us tooth and nail through the entire engagement telling us how “young we were.”And yet, after being married for six years, we finally learned the hubs had a zero sperm count. When we mentioned it to his mom, she said, “oh yeah, it’s because of that steroid drug you took for your kidney infection when you were 17.”That was the FIRST time this came up! I've always wondered why they didn't try to use that in their campaign to stall our marriage. Really, it’s probably because their religion believes in no sex before marriage and they didn't want us “fooling around” if we knew we wouldn't have a pregnancy scare.But really, six years after we were married, this finally came up!But even if she had told us when we were young, I still would have married him. I love him that much.

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  8. Savannah,
    You nailed it in your last sentence: “I love him that much.” That's what it takes to overcome the no-kids situation. I can't believe his parents didn't say anything all that time. That's just not right. Thank you for sharing this.

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  9. I am a 32 year old woman, who for medical reasons cannot have children. I have known from a young age and after some of the obvious problems of coming to terms with that, I am fine about it.
    My personal feeling is that in the world there are many children who are born whose parents are not able to care for them and who need adopting. I have always told myself that this is the reason why I was born the way I was, and that is why I have always planned to adopt.
    When I met my partner, I told him early on that I could never have children. He had two children already. But for me, to not adopt would negate all that I had ever hoped for. I told him that I couldn't be with him unless he was prepared to adopt. He was behind the idea, but I would have left him if he wasn't prepared to adopt. It would have been very hard.
    We are now married and looking to start the process.
    Everybody deals with infertility differently. For me, the idea of hiding it from a partner is impossible to consider, but telling a partner is also very hard.

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  10. I feel your pain, Catherine. I did feel this way at some point. But I believe the way you feel will pass. I am infertile and was born this way (with no womb) and yes at first I thought, 'how will anybody want me?' But people will fall in love with you regardless, like my husband did with me. The important thing for me was to become satisfied and happy about who I was. Okay, so I couldn’t become a biological mum, but I could adopt. So this became my way of having kids and I accepted this as my role in parenthood.I hope your work with your counselor is helping you accept that you are a wonderful and whole person in spite of your infertility, and that it helps you realise that there will undoubtedly be somebody you will meet who you will love and who will love you in return, irrespective of infertility.

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  11. Anonymous 1 and 2, Thank you for these comments. They give hope to all of us. I know we wish we had our own biological children, but I admire how you have accepted your situation and made plans to adopt and how you made your partners understand that adoption was part of the deal. I wish you all the best.

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  12. I'm so glad I found your blog. I'm married for about 17 months now (9 years together) and just found out my DH has zero sperm count.I love him so much, can't imagine I would ever leave him. Our only chance of having a biological child is if they find sperm through a micro deletion test. But chances on that are max. 30-50%. Besides that, suffers my DH a disease and I'm so afraid of being alone some day. No kids, no husband. Just a grieving widow in a very silent house. I can't handle that idea. And because of that, I hope he will open up about the donating idea so we can parent some kids. But I realize that's a very hard thing as well, accepting it's not biologically ours.It's the first year ever I'm not looking forward to the holidays and seeing all pregnant family members. Thanks for blogging!Regards from Europe

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  13. Anonymous Oct. 13, I glad you found us. I'm so sorry you and your husband are in this situation. It may take him some time to get used to the idea, but hope you can find a way to have children. As a childless widow, I can tell you the silence is pretty bad sometimes–but most of the time I enjoy my life. I have my dog and my work and lots of great friends. It's not the end of the world. But I know what you mean about the holidays. I dread them. I wish you all the best.

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  14. It's my birthday today :/ I'm 38. My boyfriend of 2 months just told me he's been thinking about how he doesn't want to string me along because he knows I want kids and he is not sure if/when he will. He had a vasectomy 3 years ago but reassured me he could have a reversal and the odds of it being successful are good by his standards.
    I'm at a crossroads and I just need some strength. Thank you for your blog.

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  15. My husband has been diagnosed with Sertoli cell only syndrome [a form of male sterility]. Since his diagnosis six months ago, I have been sad and angry. I am seeing a counselor but don’t know how to get past this. Just tonight, he told me he wanted a divorce because I can't seem to get past this. I love him, but maybe he's right.

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  16. Anonymous Nov. 10, to clarify for everyone, Sertoli cell only syndrome means he can't produce viable sperm. I'm so sorry for you both. Now it comes down to deciding which would be more unbearable, life without your husband or life without children. It's a terrible choice. Dare I suggest adoption? I hope you both can find peace with this situation.

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  17. Hi Anonymous,I am a male, infertile since childhood with zero sprem count and Indian, read your blog. I used to be depressed as I know I will not marry because I used to think that no girl can understand this. ( as I had talked about this matter to my previous girlfriends and after listening to this they dumped me. I never lie to any girl with whom I want to marry). But after reading all the comments, I feel that love does exist, and I will now look for a women who is infertile so that we can adopt kids and will again believe in marriage.

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  18. Hi, my partner has 4 children. I have 0 children. He had a vasectomy reversal and it failed. Not one sperm was found in the sample 😦 anyway, we are planning to get married next year. I love him, but it's hard watching him play happy families with his children when he and I will never share that experience. I think things would be much easier for me if he was childless too, or maybe I'm being selfish? I love him but can't help having sad days when all the questions flood my mind.

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  19. Of course it's hard, Anonymous 4/16. How disappointing that his reversal failed. And it is going to be hard sometimes, but if you really love each other, you can make it work. I wish you all the best.

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  20. Hi Sue, I ran into your blog after asking the almighty Google if men marry infertile women (haha!)I don't usually read blogs let alone comment on them but the subject and the stories folks have been sharing really struck me.I am 23 years old and after three years living with hot flashes and a vacant menstrual cycle I went to see a doctor. After getting the runaround, I was informed that not only do I have a thyroid disease but I also have one to three other diseases that result in infertility (waiting for test results).I adore children and have been struggling. I am currently not in a relationship, but now that is all I think about. When do you tell the guy? How do you say it? Do nice guys marry infertile women? So many questions.All of a sudden my life feels like it is going to be very long and very lonely! Anyway, thank you for opening up the subject on this topic–I am finding out it is vastly overlooked and misunderstood.

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  21. Anon May 8, I'm sorry this has happened to you. I'm suddenly thinking about my own thyroid disease and wondering if I could have gotten pregnant if I'd had the chance. Too late now. As for your question, I think you can see by reading here and at other childless sites that a lot of men don't want children and would be thrilled to find out that wasn't an issue with you. So don't give up. There are ways not to be lonely.

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  22. I am 23 and recently I came to know that I have non-obstructive azoospermia. I am going through a lot of community groups, but all I am seeing is couples in which their partner is having problems and not able to conceive a child. I think at least they have each other to support. I think I will be left alone, and it’s not so easy to find love these days. I am from India and tradition comes first here, so no one will accept me as a husband or as son-in-law and all these thoughts are really killing me every day. I had lot of dreams about my future, but now it seems like I have none. Those who have this blessing can say simply that this is not a problem, this and that, but I only know how I am feeling it, suffering it. I am unlucky or didn't have that blessing and unfortunately I am not married or haven't even fallen in love with anyone yet and now it seems like I won't forever. Hope is the one thing that fuels life to move forward, and dreams are what motivate life. What if we lose both? Sometimes it all seems funny to me, hoping and dreamed something and life taking me to another. Whatever it is, I am a living disaster now and I am good at one thing, always putting smile on my face and making others laugh even though I am breaking inside.

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  23. I am sorry to hear about the pain you are going through. I can understand!!! I married my husband at 39. We met at 38. At that time, the doctor said I had above average AF count. My thyroid and AMH normal. The doctors were surprised by my fertility health. I learned during my engagement that my husband of 42 was diagnosed with Sertoli Cell only. He has a zero sperm count. I have never had the opportunity to even try for one year to have children. It is a sad situation. We tried three times with frozen donor sperm with failure. We rely on my income and I can't miss a lot of work, and every month I miss my chance of having a baby. It is killing me. Both my husband and I work with women all around having babies. Four women at my husband’s office and one at mine are on maternity leave. My husband’s mother asked me if I'm too old to have kids. I have to lie for him and deal with stigmas due to his infertility. I have never had an STD. My tubes aren't blocked. I don't have endometriosis. I have no past or pre-existing medical conditions. I have always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I even floss;) My husband has a past history of STD that he developed while being in the military in his 20's. He dips and had a sauna. He is very handsome. but he is considered overweight. He did so much wrong for his fertility. I am resenting him. He behaves as if we have forever to get pregnant. He is a very educated man, but . . .

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  24. Cont.. Sometimes I'm fine. At work when I'm focused, our problems seem to disappear. When I'm reminded, I want to reach for a gun to kill myself. It is very difficult. No one believes that I am so healthy, besides my mother and the doctors and my husband who know my results. I told my husband I could deal with things easier if they told me that I could not have children, but to know I am above average with my reproductive health and have no one to help me have a child fills me with hopelessness and pain. I will try not to lose my faith. Just hang in there because you are NOT alone.

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  25. Jane, what a bummer. Why doesn't your husband tell his family he's the one who's infertile? Then at least they'd get off your back. Would you consider using sperm from another source?
    I hope you find a way to figure this out.
    And nope, you're not alone.

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  26. I am 25, came to about it one year ago. Now I am taking testiviron 250, but its not showing its result. I still look like a kid of 16 to 18. having less facial hairs. In India. there is a tradition of arranged marriages. For me, life is like hell. Actually I don’t know what is the purpose of my lir3 on this earth I don't have a girlfriend . In India, the age of getting married is 25 – 29. My family also thinking the same. I am very practical person. All I know is one thing, that I will not ruin any girl’s life. I know my whole life will be lonely. You know, I love to smile, I also love kids so much. I am trying to see what God gave me as a gift..

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  27. As a guy, I see no problem marrying an infertile woman who is qualified as my right life partner. To me, it's not obvious that as married couple we have to raise our own biological child or even any child at all. We have a lot of positive things to do together whenever possible in order to fulfill our lives and make them successful. I personally don't feel any obviousness in children or future generations. However, all people don't feel and perceive in the same way.

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  28. Hi, I am an Indian girl (27), and due to some medical problems I cannot have children. It was heartbreaking news. I felt incomplete and whenever I see couples around me happy and enjoying, I become sad because I feel why can’t live a happy life. I want to marry. Very honestly I told this to the person whom I was seeking but he refused. It really feels bad. I want someone who can complete me, who can love me. I am optimistic on this that one day I will get someone.

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  29. As a male in his early twenties, most people don't take me seriously when I say I don't want children ever. It's always, “Oh, one day you will see” or “Oh, you will change your mind.” I won’t, so really for me a girl who is infertile would be just fine. If I were infertile, I would have no issue with it, but I also would not adopt or try artificial insemination or a surrogate because I don’t like kids or want them. So yeah, for sure I would marry someone who was infertile, as long as they understood my position as well (if I believed in marriage) and secondly to those who cannot have children and do want them, I am sorry and I hope that medical science one day holds a better fix for this than they have now.

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  30. Anonymous male, thank you for your comment. I hope you're upfront with women you date about your feelings. There are a lot of women who feel the same way you do, and it would be a relief to someone who is infertile to find a guy like you who doesn't want children. I wish you the best of luck.

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  31. I am 39 and my husband is 45. He has a 14-year-old child from a previous relationship. He got diagnosed with male infertility–low sperm count and low quality–before we got married. We knew that it would be difficult and we only had a chance with ICSI. So far we had 3 failed ICSIs, and I find it harder and harder to see him with his child. Seeing him being happy with his child and not being able to give me a child just breaks my heart every time I hear them talk or laugh. I don't know how to deal with this anymore and how to forgive him for what this is doing to me. I love him and leaving him wouldn't be an option. Adoption or donor sperm neither because it will be like he has his child and I have mine. I don't know how to get out of this. I feel more and more depressed and hate the days his child is here. And that is often. I like his child but nothing more. I really don't know what to do anymore about my broken heart. 😦

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  32. Karla, I'm so sorry this is happening to you. You have the double whammy because of your infertility and having to deal with your stepchild. Is there someone you can talk to about this? It sounds like you need to step away from the situation for a while and get some perspective to figure out how to deal with it. I hope you can find some peace of mind.

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  33. Well yeah, that's wrong. Infertility is not the end. There are many other ways of having kids. Best one is adopting. This way, you give life to an orphan, too.

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  34. Dear all,It is really sad for such a situation to exist. Infertility is just like any other medical problem anyone would have. I'm infertile too, and have been rejected by guys for marriage because of this. I'm 24 and my parents are worried about whether or not marriage destined for me. It is depressing indeed to know why infertile men/women cannot be accepted, as they are capable of leading a normal life too, just cannot produce children, that's all. There are so many children who do not have parents, too. It can be easily balanced. I would request and urge anyone to not see this as an issue, as I would not want anyone to go through the heartbreaks that I have gone through. I have hope and faith that the best is in store for me, and I will wait for that moment to occur, even if it takes a lifetime.

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  35. My situation is a little different than most above. I'm 18 and have known for a year that I'm infertile. I hardly know when and how and if to tell my friends let alone men I'm seeing. It's hard. I have so many questions. Will I be able to find a good man who is willing to accept the fact that we may never start a family? Or someone who will be able to understand and willing to handle my moments of disconnect?I just finished first year university for teaching. I know my career choice will bring hardships, but it's all I've ever wanted to do. I have a bond with children, I see special things in them and them in me. How can I expect to find a man to cherish me when I'm not always up to that same task?

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  36. Anonymous May 14,
    That's a tough situation. I don't think you need to broadcast your infertility, but certainly before a relationship gets serious, the guy needs to know. I guess you'll need to initiate a conversation about children. Maybe someday when you're watching other people's kids, you could say, “I wish I could have one of those,” and then when he responds, explain that you can't. I don't envy you, but at least you won't be indecisive about it. You already know. I wish you all the best.

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  37. Hi guys, it was interesting to find that such a blog existed. I am a 34-year-old woman and after a string of relationships with the wrong guys finally met someone really special. He is all I have ever wanted in a partner, and I was so happy to have finally found him, until the moment he told me that because of a leukaemia treatment in his twenties, he cannot have children of his own. He said that if he cannot have children who are genetically his, he simply doesn't want to have any. He also sometimes suffers from erectile problems, which I know now are also a result of that aggressive chemotherapy he had to undergo back then. For now, I am afraid I put the relationship on hold, but I think I am gonna completely end it.I would appreciate other opinions on this one, but I want to have children and this news absolutely killed me. He is the most adorable man in the world and makes me so happy. He's simply the perfect man for starting a family with, but I think I have to be honest. This happiness is going to disappear very quickly with the time, especially if we try with frozen sperm and so on and it eventually doesn't work. I just cannot imagine life without having a proper family with kids and I think if I stay with him now, I am gonna either hate myself for the wasted years and opportunities later or will hate him for not being able to give me a child. which is obviously not his fault and something he told me about at an early stage of our relationship, which I very much appreciate. but the truth is, as much as I love him and the absolutely amazing and caring man he is, I think with the time the relationship will end in a very ugly way and with a lot of blame on both sides if I stay with him and we don't manage to get children (frozen sperm, for example) in the next two to three years. I cried for two days before making this decision, but I think it is the right one and for the best for both of us. I do not want to get to the stage where my fertile years and chance to have children are gone and hate him and blame it all on him. He simply doesn't deserve such a bad treatment and I do not seem to be able to come to terms with the idea of not being able to have my own children and to have to pump myself with hormones and other crap and some unknown man's sperm just for the sake of having ANY kid… or have to look for sex somewhere else because his erectile problems have become bigger.We are not 50+ years old, where the marriage is less sexual and doesn't have to be about having babies.I am crying while writing this, but I just don't see another way for both of us to be happy in the future…

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  38. Dear Anonymous,
    I am so sorry. It sounds like you have made up your mind on this. That's probably good, although it is possible you won't find anyone else you'll love as much. It's a tragic situation. I pray you both can find your way to happiness somehow, whether separately or together.

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