If You’re Not Sure, Don’t Get Married

Last night I received a comment on an old post titled “Should You Stay with the Guy Who Doesn’t Want Kids?” that details six years of a couple repeatedly breaking up and getting back together. The guy had decided he didn’t want kids. He even scheduled a vasectomy. But she was still hoping he’d change his mind. Now she’s thinking she’ll give up on kids–she’s 39, so maybe it’s too late anyway–but he’s having doubts because he thinks she’ll resent him for not giving her children . . .

As advice columnist Ann Landers used to say, wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not going to work.
I get comments like this all the time from people who can’t decide whether to stay together or break up with their boyfriends/girlfriends, fiances, or spouses. In their comments, they usually focus on the baby issue. Their mate can’t have them, doesn’t want them, isn’t sure, keeps changing his/her mind. But usually that is not the only problem with the relationship. The writer is jealous of the loved one’s children from previous relationships, the couple can’t seem to communicate, there are issues with family, money or jobs, they’re already in counseling  and they’re thinking about splitting up.

I admit to being grouchy this morning, but if you’re already thinking about leaving, go! I can tell you from experience that if the relationship is troubled before the marriage, it is not going to magically improve after you say “I do.” If you’re having doubts, walk away.

When I married my first husband, I was a very young 22. I knew things weren’t right. We didn’t actually talk about having children. I just assumed we would. But there were other things, problems I ignored because I thought we had gone too far to break up. I felt like we had to get married, like he was the only one for me. Turns out I was not the only one for him, but my point is that in a good relationship, you don’t doubt that you want to be together.

Finding a solution when you don’t agree about having children is hard. It takes a lot of love to sacrifice the life you had expected to have. If you start out unable to work together, it’s not going to get better. I don’t know you and your situations, but I do know that if you’re already considering looking for someone else, this is not going to work. Your partner is not going to change, and neither are you. If your love is real, you won’t be considering other options. You’ll face life’s problems, including the issue of having children, together as a unit.

Do you agree? Do you want to yell at me. I’d love to read your comments.

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9 thoughts on “If You’re Not Sure, Don’t Get Married

  1. I was 39 and stayed. There are days I wished I had left. Chances of finding another man, getting married and pregnant in the next few years was a very slim chance. I felt that boat had left the dock and it's too far out to swim after it.

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  2. My husband never said anything about having children, never encouraged it. I have always wanted children, and sometimes get so upset that I became a doormat and hoped that someday it would change. I have cried buckets and have so many times thought why didn't I just leave. I was told once by a medical professional if my husband didn't want them then I should leave….. Sometimes I think they said it to be cruiel to be kind. I am so thankful for your blog Sue and for your book Childless by marriage. You are helping so many individuals out there and I truly appreciate the time you spend writing to us all!

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  3. I think your blog is helpful. I fit into this category and you are absolutely right. My friends will also respond with similar things. It helps that you childless and in our shoes.

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  4. Thank you for this blog. At a time when I am feeling absolutely distraught it has brought comfort to know I am not alone and equally, more sadness, that so many of us have to face such painful decisions.

    I was/ still hope to be again in a same sex relationship, with a beautiful woman I had been friends with and whom 18 mths ago shortly after she left a marriage of 20 yrs to a man (they are still best friends) out relationship developed.
    She is absolutely my soul mate and I want to spend my life with her. She ticked every box and more except for the one issue, she already has teenage boys, (two of them) and could not face it all again, let alone with additional challenges of same sex relationship raising children.
    Yet, I always dreamt I would have a family of my own, and this has been the sole underpinning issue of our troubles which recently led her to end things, although she did not want to do so, she was not willing to tolerate my resentment for her having children.
    However, now she is no longer here (we are still talking etc and no nastiness, taking some space now until new yr) in my life I am unbelievably pained and think I have been a fool to chase more and want for more, when I actually had a loving and wonderful partner and 2 amazing potential step kids with whom I have a great rapport.
    I still cant see how I will make my peace with either option, but I must work out which pain is the worse. I feel so alone and confused and scared of getting this wrong.
    Any advice will be so appreciated.

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  5. Anonymous,
    I think you already know what you want to do, which is get back together with your soul mate. Keep talking. You will have to convince her that you will not resent her; that won't be easy. I hope you can work it out, and I hope other readers will offer you advice.

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  6. My husband and I have been together since high school. Before we were married, and during the early years of our marriage, if I brought up kids he would say he wanted them “some day.”

    As I approached 35 (and all our friends had their children already), I pretty much put my foot down and “we started trying.” Never happened. Fertility treatments (included everything except IV) didn't work. One day I woke up and I was 41 and that was that. Had it been up to me, I would have started trying around age 27. So yes, I blame him for our being childless.

    My point is that, sometimes, spouses do change their minds, but in the wrong direction. If your mate doesn't want children from Day 1, and you really do, then you better be prepared to choose one or the other–him (or her), or kids.

    The good news is, now that my (former) friends' children have all grown up and left home, their lives have pretty much returned to the same state as my own. So it's 20 years of kids, and then you have a few more people in your life once in a while, plus grandkids occasionally, if they live close by. While being childless was devastating in my 30s and 40s, it is far less of a problem in my 50s, and I am grateful to have what I have.

    If you decide to stick with the no-kids mate, and accept that you won't have children, I can't stress enough how important it is to cultivate friendships with other childless individuals/couples.

    This will sound awful but, the worst time of my life was spending time with friends and their young children. It was like having my loss made manifest in front of me.

    The more you surround yourself with others just like you, the less you feel like an aberration.

    That's why, to this day, whenever I'm in a social situation I avoid chatting with young women because they always ask The Question. (Do you have kids?) “No” is pretty much a conversation-ender. Men rarely ask it.

    I also want to tell the same-sex poster that I have some very close friends who are lesbians in long-term same-sex relationships, and none of them have children. I honestly think that is part of why we are such good friends–we have lots of other things to talk about.

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