Should you gamble on a partner who says he or she doesn’t want children?

Back in my grandmother’s day, things were pretty simple. You grew up, got married and had babies. Period. No birth control. No legal abortions. No vasectomies or tube-tieing. The only people who didn’t have children, aside from priests and nuns, were the ones who were physically unable. And everyone pitied them. “Oh poor Aunt Martha, she couldn’t have children.”

There was no choice, no changing of minds, no “do you want to have children?” “Let’s wait until we have more money” or “I don’t think I want to have children.” People just had babies, and if it made their lives more difficult, if taking care of the kids meant sacrificing something else you would have liked to do, tough.

Sometimes I wish we were still back in those days. With all the sex my first husband and I had, I’d have at least three children now, maybe more because we might not have gotten divorced. I’d still be attached to a husband who drank too much and didn’t believe in monogamy. Instead, we split up, and I married Fred, who was the best husband ever, except for not wanting to have children with me. Did it turn out for the best? I think so.

Every day I receive comments from readers struggling with the baby question. In many cases, they and their partners completely agreed when they got together about having or not having children. Then either one of them changed their minds or one of them proved to be unable to make babies. And now they don’t know what to do. They’re broken-hearted. They’re talking about breaking up, but they’re still in love and don’t know if they’ll ever find a better mate. I don’t know what to tell them. Things happen. People turn out to be infertile. People who said they didn’t care about having children suddenly realize that they can’t bear living their entire lives without experiencing motherhood or fatherhood. People who thought they wanted children discover they really don’t.

What it comes down to, I think, is making a commitment to another person and sticking to it, no matter what. Relationships are a gamble. Marriage is a gamble. He/she might die, might get sick, might get fired, might not be able to get pregnant, might decide he’d rather have a puppy. People change their minds. If you truly love that person, you don’t leave when things get tough. You talk it through and find the best solution for both of you. When it comes to having children, if one wants them and one doesn’t, somebody’s going to get hurt. So the question it always comes down to is: Is this person worth taking a chance?

What do you think? Please post your comments. I’m running out of answers. 

12 thoughts on “Should you gamble on a partner who says he or she doesn’t want children?

  1. Hello Sue,I am in this situation now, except I have a little girl from a previous marriage. For me, I have found that I will need to let go of the fact I may never fulfill my expectation of having one girl and one boy. In addition, from a recent visit to my doctor, she told me in a very blunt way my chances are getting slimmer every day that passes so I better figure that out now. You can definitely set a plan out for a life you think is best suited for you but, as you know, things happen.As it stands now, having another one is a luxury, NOT a necessity. I already love spending time with my 7-year-old daughter, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life, even though it didn't work out with her father. I am currently in a very loving and supportive relationship, but he thinks, for the most part, he is done as he has two grown children of his own.I am definitely going through a mourning process with that.This issue is a big one and is often a deal-breaker for some people. I think people have to do some soul searching in feeling out if this is a value of theirs they want to create in this life. IF IT IS than perhaps it is time to let go and trust that you will find another partner with the values you want. Doing anything otherwise is telling yourself unconsciously you don't deserve what you want, which is being unloving to yourself. I have found that when people operate outside of their values, relationships either fail or become like two ships passing in the night. Life is far too short; make the most of it.I think the real question people need to ask themselves is “Am I worth the chance?”And I say with all my heart and soul, YES!!!


  2. I can't answer the question if the mate changed their minds from wanting children to not wanting children, but I can say once we found out we were infertile and it was mainly hubby and once we exhausted treatment options, I never considered leaving him because we might not have children together. As it turned out, like you know, we adopted, but even if that avenue didn't open up, I still wouldn't have left him.



  3. Thank you for posting this; it is so timely for me. When we married, my husband wanted children, as did I. Years later, after delaying due to finances and such, we even became pregnant (by “accident”), but the pregnancy didn't work out & after that, I found out my husband was actually relieved because he didn't want children, after all. Now I am heartbroken, but still love my husband. I really don't know what to do. Again, thanks for sharing this topic. It's comforting just to know I'm not alone


  4. Anon May 24,You are definitely not alone. If you read the comments on this site, you'll see you have lots of company. I hope that's some comfort. Now all you can do is decide to stay with him and hope he changes his mind or leave. Painful either way. I wish you the best.


  5. My husband and I talked about kids before we got married. He said he was 70/30 against. I said I was more 60/40; and I couldn't guarantee I wouldn't change my mind. He said if the time came that I wanted one, he'd agree. We got married. Turns out over the years I'd think “well maybe,” but it was never the right time for me, which to me means it was never that big of a need in the first place.


  6. Go back to no birth control 'good ole days'? No thanks. Women and infants frequently died in childbirth and stayed in abusive homes because they lacked job skills. A woman seeking divorce was more frowned upon than for a man. I would rather be my childless not by choice self right now. I am lucky to have a man who left it up to me on the baby thing.


  7. I'm 41 years old and childless, as my partner does not want any more children. He has got two stepchildren from a previous marriage and a 12-year-old birth son. We have been together just over two years now, and I brought the baby talk up again recently, which has seemed to make things worse. He has his son every other weekend and some holidays, and I also spend most of my time with them. I am struggling with this recently as I feel I sacrificed some things to spend time with them, but he won't try for a baby with me. We haven't been getting on very well recently and are actually deciding whether to split up or not. One part of me wants to stay with him, and the other doesn't. I think the main reason is to do with him not wanting any more and I'm having to spend time with his son. I think this may be affecting the relationship I have with both my partner and his son. I'm also at the crunch age of whether I can actually conceive. Really need to decide what to do. Any comments would be helpful.


  8. Anonymous June 17,
    You're not going to like my advice. But honestly it sounds like you and this guy barely get along, so first you need to figure out whether he is worth staying with. Then, you need to face the fact that conception after 40 is iffy at best, so you can't count on having a baby.
    Sometimes a stepchild can go a long way toward filling the gap. Sometimes not.
    Time for some hard thinking. I wish you all the best.


  9. Thank you for this post. I wonder – could you honestly say you don’t regret even a bit not leaving Fred back in the day and trying to find someone who could love you equally and give you children? I am in a situation in which it has been more or less clearly said to me that he doesn’t want children, repetitively, for almost 3 years now, since we started dating. I was 26 and he 42 and I thought he might change his mind for me and I also wondered myself if I wanted children. At the moment, I am busy building a career so I don’t feel the need to have them, but I am afraid I might soon want them. I feel resentful of him because the reason he doesn’t want children is because statistics say people end up unhappy after children and most marriages fail. He wants a calm stress-free life in which we can travel around the world. I want the same at the moment, but I don’t accept his reason for not wanting kids, I feel resentful that for him statistics produced in questionable research are more important than emotions. He loves children and would be a great dedicated father, sometimes he says he can imagine what great love it would be, but still says he has never met anyone who is with children yet happy. Also, he is almost fully infertile, so for us, having children would mean going through therapies. If he was infertile but still wanted children, I would have no dilemma in staying with him because for me a good relationship is more important than non-existent children, but knowing he is so stuck in his opinion leaves me wondering if I am sacrificing too much. Again, I don’t have the biological need to have children now, but I do think it is something beautiful and bigger than life. I am sure if my partner wanted to, I’d want to, maybe not now but in 3, 4 years. I believe I can be equally happy without children as with, but only if I really feel I don’t want them. So I am very confused and don’t know what to do. He broke up with his ex over the same issue and told me he wouldn’t make a problem if I wanted to split, even though he would be devastated because he understands the desire to have babies cannot be compromised. So, yes, I am really confused. Thanks for reading.


    • Wow, Cafe A, I don’t envy you. I really did not consider leaving Fred over the baby issue. Partly, I kept fantasizing that things would change, even though Fred had had a vasectomy. Partly, I was a little older and believed I would never find anyone who loved me as much as Fred did. I still believe I was right to stay with him. What I should have done in our case is be more open and assertive about my desire to have children. In your case, it comes down to deciding which you want more, this man or children? It sounds like you’re on the fence about kids, but keep the conversation going. You don’t have to decide right this minute.


      • Thanks for your reply Sue. I know I don’t have to decide now, but our love is growing so it can be much more hurtful one day if it becomes a big issue :(. Anyways, thanks for this place of support; it’s much needed!


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