Should she stand by her man who doesn’t want kids?

 What is this, 1914?

 A reader asked me that the other day after I advised a childless woman to stick with the man she had rather than get divorced in her 40s in the hope of finding another guy with whom she could have children. I tried to explain that at her age, the odds of finding another Mr. Right and getting pregnant were lousy. She was not happy with my advice. 
I flip-flopped with the next commenter, who was in her early 30s. I told her to go for it.
 Today, I received a comment from a woman whose fiance of 13 years just told her he has decided he doesn’t want kids. I told her to keep talking.
Nearly every day, I receive comments from people, mostly women, who don’t know what to do. Their mate is unable or unwilling to have children with them. They may have said they would be happy to have babies before, but now they don’t want to. Often there are stepchildren who make things more complicated. The couple either fights about it all the time or they can’t talk about it. What should they do?
Dear God, I wish I knew.
My friends, I am not the goddess of all wisdom. I wish I could solve your problems, but I’m human. My views are necessarily tainted by my own experiences and by the fact that I’m Catholic, white and was raised in California by traditional parents of western European heritage in the 1950s and ‘60s. I’m also very practical. I don’t believe in diving out of a boat where you might be unhappy but at least you won’t drown in the hope that another, more beautiful boat will happen along. I also believe that most of us are lucky to meet one perfect life partner in a lifetime. If this is old-fashioned, so be it.
When I was a kid, back in the pre-birth control days, couples who were unable to have children stuck together. Often they adopted, but not always. People who simply didn’t want children either didn’t get married or they sucked it up and had them anyway because if you were having sex it was a lot harder to avoid. It was also more difficult to get a divorce. Things seemed simpler. You fell in love, you got married, and you had babies. Were some people brutally unhappy, feeling totally trapped? I’m sure they were.
But it is not 1914 or even 1954. It’s a new century in which nearly anything is possible. With so many choices, it’s hard to know what to do. I need your help. Feel free to respond to comments at any of the posts here with your own advice and experiences. Together we’ll figure it out.
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4 thoughts on “Should she stand by her man who doesn’t want kids?

  1. I think it's just a situation where every woman needs to look deep inside herself and decide what is more important to her (a great partner or children) — and what risks is she willing to take to achieve that ultimate goal? There is no single correct, simple answer for every woman, every relationship.

    I do believe you were correct in cautioning a woman over 40 to think twice before giving up a relationship if it was otherwise fine, except for the “kids” issue. It IS hard for a woman 40+ to find a great match when so many men only want to date younger women (or are now in their 40s and 50s themselves and past wanting more/any kids.) I saw so very much of this when I was actively involved in the Gateway Women community online. And it is a hard truth that fertility issues rise dramatically and infertility treatments decrease rapidly in effectiveness past 40 — something the IVF industry hates to admit, but it's a fact I had to accept once I was 42 and realized my chances of success with assisted reproduction were at best in the 5-10% range (and that's using donor eggs). Am I seriously going to through that much money away on a dream with those odds? I don't think so.

    A younger woman does have more time, more options, more chances. And perhaps professional therapy/couples counseling would be advisable to any serious couple who is struggling with this issue, before making the final decision to stay together or break apart.

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  2. Hi Sue, I feel a mild frustration in your words…like you want so much to be able to help the ladies who write with this question because of your great empathy; yet at the same time an inability to provide a loving and decisive answer leaves you feeling somewhat frustrated. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. This is just my take when I read your post.

    In your shoes, my heart would break with every e-mail with that question. I'd have to stop and pray for God's wisdom for her, and His compassion in my words to her. Such a painful predicament to be in.

    When a woman cries to you for a yes/no answer on a 'should I stay or should I go' situation there is no way that you would be able to answer that question. This is because it is a highly personal decision. It's almost like she's asking 'should I get a divorce?' or 'should I start my life over again?' Every bit of advice I've ever read from you is well-balanced, sensitive and aware of the bigger picture. Please be confident in your words for they lack nothing in communicating empathy and wisdom.

    I have learned that some folks who need counseling are quite reluctant to go because it stirs up long-suppressed pain and anger in their hearts. However when it comes to a life- and destiny-altering decision as what you are posed with, only an honest dissection of one's heart and goals can lead the seeker / asker / writer to the answer they seek. That is where counseling comes in and why I tend to say 'why don't you ask a counselor for their advice?' when people turn to me on a subject like this one (ie heavy, life-changing). I mean, I offer what I feel like I should in terms of support, prayer and my own personal story, but again, they have to find the answer on their own.

    I think sometimes, Sue, when you are posed this question, it might be a quick, easy in-lieu-of-a-professional-counselor fix that places you in the position of counselor/therapist. Having had a few therapists, I can guarantee you they will only ask questions that cause a person to examine their heart and heart motives to find the answer they seek. (In other words, they won't make it easy for the client by saying 'by all means, you should definitely do this thing and your problems will cease.')

    Then there are people who ask for advice, then defensively reject any advice given as if the fact they are only human and it's ok to need wisdom and insight is a slap in their face.

    I am in no way discrediting your experience because I hold it in high regard. Your wisdom and insight are to be honored; still, even as much as you have been through on your own journey, you are wisely hesitant to say to a near stranger 'dump your husband and go pursue this other path.'

    All that to say, as noted by the prior post, the answer to the 'should I stay or should I go' question is a decision only that woman can make for herself. The contributing factors are too wide, too varied, too intimate and too many for you to be able to say 'go' or 'stay.'

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  3. Hi Ruthie,
    You are right. It can be painful to read about these problems from people who really hope I can tell them what to do. I don't have the answers, and I do pray for them. I pray for all of us here. I have been in therapy quite a bit myself, so I know what you mean. The good therapist will always lead you to find your own answers.
    I hope I can help in some way. At least here we can get the questions out in the open and try to tackle them together.
    I welcome everyone's comments, even if I struggle to know how to respond.

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