Nearly every day, my inbox includes comments from people responding to my January 2013 post titled, “If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed?” The details vary, but the basic problem is the same: One person in the relationship is unable or unwilling to have children. Often the problem arises after they have been together for a long time. They may be married, engaged or living together, but now the commenters are torn between the mates they have and the children they always wanted to have. They don’t know what to do. My advice is usually about the same: You have to choose, and you have to talk about it. I say I’m praying for them–and I am, for all of you.
But that doesn’t feel like enough. I know people who have chosen the man or woman over the children and lived happy lives. I have also seen situations where the problem festered and the relationship failed.
Today I share some of these comments because I hope you will read them and respond. If you have made the choice, how did it work out? If not, how are you dealing with it? What advice would you give these readers?
Thank you. I treasure you all.
Hello, I’m 23 and my partner is 27, we are engaged to be married next year and have been in our relationship for nearly seven years (he was my first boyfriend). Just two days ago, he dropped the bombshell that he doesn’t want children now and isn’t sure if he ever will. I have recently found out that I have some issues with fertility and may find it difficult to conceive. So he knows my clock is ticking to start trying.
He is the love of my life, and I cannot stand the thought of losing him. Our relationship is perfect. Everyone loves him. He is great with our young nephews and would make a great dad.
The problem is he wants me to be happy, and he thinks the only way I can be is if I have children. But I’m not confident I can be happy without him. He hasn’t said he doesn’t EVER want them, just he doesn’t know if he will. I have never felt pain like it. I feel as though my whole world has ended.
We have cancelled the wedding until we know we want the same thing, which was very hard for me to do.
I feel guilty because I think to myself if he loved me, truly loved me, would he not give me the one thing that would make my happiness complete? I know I can’t force him into it and he is not ready but how can I end something because he MIGHT never be ready? And how do I risk staying if he never will be?
We are looking at relationship counseling, but I’m not sure what good it will do. I feel drained. I don’t think I can live without him but I don’t want to live the rest of our lives with resentment.
Reading through this thread has helped me feel like I’m not alone in this struggle. I’m a 46-year-old man who’s thinking about becoming a father for the first time. My wife of 20 years has always known she does not want children. Eleven years ago, I had similar thoughts and explored the options but chose to stay with her instead. Perhaps this is a mid-life thing where I’m looking back over the first half of my life and wondering if I’m missing out? I’ve always known I would be a good father. I’m patient, kind, and generous. People have always told me I’m like a old wise soul. I rarely give advice, instead choosing to be a good listener and help people make their own decisions.
Lately, I’m worried that I’m going to regret not having raised a child. I have no romantic ideas about it. I’ve seen friends and family struggle, so I know it’s not all fun and games. But I’m still drawn to the possibilities in the richness of the experience, and with passing on my values and way of life to another person. I feel drawn to the idea of choosing to raise a child with someone who shares my values not because it’s “the next thing to do” like I see so many people doing, but because I want the experience. To learn. To love. To know.
Bringing this up again after being together for 20 years has caused a tremendous amount of pain. I absolutely know this will end our life together and it hurts so much. We are seeking some counseling both individually and together and we’ll see where I’m at with this in six months. No need to make rash decisions, you know? But for me at least, I know if I decide to do this, my relationship with a wonderful woman is certainly doomed.
I’m 32 and my boyfriend is 33. We’ve been dating for a year. When we met, he seemed like he shared my goal to have kids one day. Three months ago, he said he’s not sure, that his feelings for me made him think it’s possible, but he’s never wanted them before. He assured me he thought it was an age/timing thing. Then this week, he said he’s been lying to himself out of desire to keep me. But he never wants them, because of his past (tough childhood).
Of course I was angry. Things would be different if we met from the get-go. I’ve always thought I’d have kids, and I do like kids. But the past year has been the happiest of my life. I feel he’s the right person and I would not find someone better for me.
I am contemplating giving up on kids and continuing with him. We are on a one-week break to think about this. He feels terrible for having put me in the situation, and believes that if we continue, I will change my mind and he will only hurt me more. He wants me to make sure I can be okay with this forever. The problem is I can guarantee that’s okay now but not if I will ever feel different.
So my question to people who gave up on kids for the sake of the man they met: did you have a fulfilling marriage? Is it possible to be happy and change your vision of the future? Or did some of you regret, resent, or change your mind later?
What do you say, my friends?