The Big Gamble: Should You End the Relationship to Have Babies?

Should I leave my otherwise good relationship in the hope of finding someone else I can make babies with? That’s the question people ask the most in the comments at this blog. I can’t answer that question. There are so many other questions to be answered first. How bad do you want to have children? Are you 100 percent sure it will never happen in your current relationship? Are you otherwise happy with your partner or would it end between you anyway? What if you never find someone and you end up alone?

I can’t answer any of these questions either. I know what happened with me. The first marriage without children was doomed from the start because my husband cheated on me and the only place we got along was in bed. By the time I got to the second marriage, after a couple more failed relationships, I was sure I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I wouldn’t even have cats because I was allergic. So when Fred came along, we were such a good match, I accepted that we wouldn’t have children together and was glad to be a pseudo mom with his kids. A close friend has a similar story except that her first husband was abusive. Her second husband, Roy, had three kids, and my friend was content not to have any of her own. But our first marriages were bad to begin with, and not everybody finds a Fred or a Roy.

What if the relationship you’re in now is good, really good, except for this one issue of having children? Let’s look at it from the view of my mother’s generation. If one’s partner turned out to be infertile, one did not leave. If one of the people was infertile, then the couple was infertile. They adopted or accepted their childless status together. They didn’t dump the first spouse as a defective model and find a new one. As for someone declaring he or she didn’t want to have children? We didn’t hear much about that? If they were having sex, they were probably going to have kids because birth control was not nearly as easy to get.

Being older than most of you, I was sort of on the cusp of the old way. A certain family member urged me to get pregnant “by accident” and then everything would fall into place. Not likely, but life seemed so much less complicated then. Marriage, babies, the house with the picket fence . . . okay, I know it was probably not that simple, but I’m trying to make a point. Are we too ready to bail on our relationships now? Or should we get out quickly, before it’s too late to have babies? Which bring us back to our original question, to which I do not have the answers.

Here are some articles to read that might offer some answers or raise more questions.

“The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages,” Psychology Today. Sobering facts to ponder before you dump your partner.

“8 Tough Truths to Consider When Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids,” Huffington Post. This writer really does give you some answers or at least a path to finding them. Read this and do some soul-searching.

“I left the husband I loved because he refused to have children (and had IVF twins alone)” There’s another way to go, as this Daily Mail piece describes. Would you be willing to have children on your own if you don’t find the ideal partner?

This subject is too big for one post. I know many of you are in pain over this issue and agonizing over what to do. Please read and comment and we’ll come back to this next time. Thank you all for being here.

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12 thoughts on “The Big Gamble: Should You End the Relationship to Have Babies?

  1. I surly thought a lot about leaving and I mean a lot. I couldn’t imagine not having children, but when I really thought hard about it, I didn’t want to walk away from my marriage vows, I really meant them when I said them and to walk away just because I didn’t get what I wanted just didn’t seam right. No one gets everything they want in life and I didn’t want to be so selfish and self centered to just up and leave. And besides, not everyone has perfectly healthy children. Autism is on the rise as well as a million other things that could go possibly wrong. Why walk away from a man that truly loved me…. and also loved himself enough to be true to his own life. Oddly, I did have to admire him for being true to himself. Pretty bizarre to admire something in a man that I hated the most. 🙂 I also looked at the life my sisters are living… my oldest niece is blind in one eye, my second niece was born with Torticolis (spelling??) and spent the first two years of her life in rehab and my youngest niece now has Type 1 Diabetes and with that, my sisters life will never be the same. Our mother had an autoimmune disease and that gets passed down. So even if I did leave a man that loved me to go off and have this happily ever after with a perfect child… chances are it wouldn’t be so perfect after all. I personally know women that are my age, never married and never had children, so in my thinking… I’ve got a pretty great life with a husband that loves me still after 31 years of marriage. I’m glad I didn’t leave. I will always have a hole in my heart for not having children and living a different life than all the other women in my world… but even my friends with children, they truly don’t have it all. When ever I get feeling sorry for myself for not having children, I think of a friend of mine Janna. She had it all in her early 20s. College degree, married to a great guy, just got her first big job after she graduated… and then died in a car accident. She never made it to 25. Anytime I feel sorry for myself, I think if Janna who I have no doubt would be trilled to live my life.

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      • As my father often says, “And that’s the way it is.” I think you really hit when you ask yourself whether you’d be better off out of the relationship regardless of the having children issue. If you can’t say yes, you shouldn’t leave. At least in my opinion. As for having twins alone, “crazy” is the first word that comes to my mind, but she probably didn’t start out expecting to have twins.

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  2. I struggles with this throughout my late 20s and 30s and I think it came down to this..If I was going to leave I had to be ready to be alone. I had to feel like, even if I didn’t meet someone else to have children with I was still going to be in a better situation out of the relationship than in it. It never seemed like I could really confidently say that, so I stayed. It’s not a perfect relationship (even outside of the not wanting kids thing) by any means, but somehow it seems to work for us right now. Of course, if I could go back to being an 18 year old college freshman today and had my life to live over again, I would not have talked to him that day we met. I wouldn’t have even looked at him. I know that for sure. But there’s no way to change that now and all the feelings and everything that came after kept us together. I don’t see much benefit to ending things now. It’s weird to regret something so much yet not do anything to change it. I wonder sometimes if that is really crazy, but that’s where things are.

    As for the woman who had the twins on her own, I honestly don’t know if I feel like she’s brave and admirable or just incredibly self centered. Here I am, writing all this and feeling sorry for myself but doing nothing to change my situation, so maybe in that way she is a better woman than me. On the other hand though, as someone who grew up the only child of two parents who never loved each other and a pretty distant father who wasn’t really interested in being a parent, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty about bringing a child into the world with no real family and no father. I just know from experience that it’s a tough way to grow up when you are lacking that example of how to be in a relationship and how to have a family. I wouldn’t want to purposely subject them to that. Sometimes I think I never got a family of my own because I just didn’t know what it was like to be a part of one, so how could I know how to make my own?

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    • I have to say that I enjoyed what you wrote Erica. I actually read it a few times. Like you, I can’t figure out why I didn’t leave and then figured, I guess I didn’t want a baby bad enough to walk out on some one who loved me. Like you, our marriage is far from perfect, but it works. i also had a dad that had no desire to be a father and we grew up knowing we were just a duty to him. There was a very short period of time that my husband gave in and said we could have a baby…. But as time went by I could see his heart truly wasn’t into it and I had to ask myself if I really wanted to give my child the same kind of father I had (as well as the therapy bill that went along with it) and the answer was no. I saw it as loving my baby enough not to give him/her the same kind of father I had… I know that must sound strange, but it works in my brain.

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  3. Hi all,

    Reading this blog has been a big relief to see that so many people have been in the same position, and worked it out one way or another. I am 30 and have just broken up with my partner of 5 years, we love each other completely, we are really close, best of friends, and have been having a great time together. But the one big deal breaker has been kids. He doesn’t want them now, and cannot tell me if or when he will ever want them. We already went through this a year and a half ago, and finally he told me that he would have kids with me. But when it came to it, he was just fooling himself and me. He didn’t want to lose me, and didn’t want to feel the way that he feels, but there was just no way getting around it. We broke up just a few weeks after I moved to join him in another country. We had been living together 4 years and the last few months apart as he had a job abroad. I finally moved too looking forward to starting a family with him and our new life together and now this happens. I am very regretful, but I know this is the right decision. Having kids is a dealbreaker for me and we would not have been able to be happy together if one of us had given in to the other. We are scared of missing one another terribly, of being alone, of missing out on all those lovely times we were otherwise having together. I’m scared I might not find someone else who makes me as happy as he has done. But I stand by this decision, because the alternative would have also have been too hard to bear.

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    • Wow… I admire you. I never could bring myself to make that decision. Best wishes to you in your new life. May all your dreams come true.

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    • This is hard to read as it is so similar to my situation and the exact reality I am currently facing.

      We met while on vacation and have continued a long distance relationship in different countries since. Unfortunately, in order to live in the same country we will have to get married. The topic of marriage has inevitable brought up other conversations such as children.

      I want nothing more than to have children and a family but my boyfriend, despite earlier on in the relationship telling me he wanted kids, is now unsure. I told him if it was off the table I would have to leave out of fear of resenting him down the road but he keeps telling me he’s unsure. I don’t know if he is genuinely torn on the topic or just afraid to tell me the truth out of fear of me leaving. Like you, outside of this issue our relationship is perfect. I’ve never been happier or more in love with someone.

      Despite my desire to have a family, I’m not sure if/when he tells me he doesn’t want kids if I will have the strength to give up everything we have together. I know these are tough questions, but are you afraid you won’t find someone who you love as much or are as happy with? Are you afraid you won’t ever find someone who does want all the same things you want?

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      • Hi Katie,

        I’m really sorry that you are facing this situation too. All too similar. My partner also had given me a strong impression earlier on in our relationship that he wanted kids, before changing it to “I’m not sure”, and finally “I’m definitely don’t want them now, have no idea if I will ever”. He went to a psychologist to discuss these issues, because he didn’t want to feel that way and thought it could be issues from childhood. But despite incredible amounts of soul searching he could not change his mind.

        It’s been a few weeks down the line now since we split up and it has been incredibly hard. But I still feel entirely sure that my decision was the right one. Part of me is optimistic, I believe that when I have healed from this experience I will find someone else, and it will be just as fantastic as before, but with a family. All of my friends reassure me of it. I’ve spent a lot of time with family and friends recently and not one person has questioned my decision, they all agree that this was the only thing that I could have done, even though it took a lot of bravery.

        Part of me is scared, as you say, that I will never find someone again with whom I will have such a connection, or that I will have to compromise on something else in order to find someone that wants children. But relationships are always a compromise and some things are fundamentally important to a person. On those things I don’t believe you can compromise. I cannot imagine not having a family in the future. It’s a future that I do not want to contemplate. I think of having children, and grandchildren, and having a family around, just as I have had growing up. It would be impossible for me to have stayed happily together with my partner whilst wanting these things so badly and facing the possibility that it would never happen. I am 30 years old and many of my friends have had children or are pregnant. Every time I heard of someone else expecting, my joy was tinged with terrible feelings of jealousy, frustration and emptiness.

        I didn’t want to make a decision to compromise based on fear that I would not find someone else. I tried to make it based on a positive decision to do something that would make me happy in the long run, even if it was terrible in the short run. It has been terrible. We felt like we were taking a decision neither of us wanted to take. We had been living together for 4 years, just moved abroad, had been setting up our new home, invested in new furniture, basically setting up our futures together, and I thought – our future family together. I was physically ill with stress when we made the decision. But now the initial shock is over I try to hope that soon I will heal and can get on with my life, and hopefully find someone with whom I can be just as happy, to share my life and build a family with. Even though many of my friends are married, I have quite a few who, for whatever reason, are also single and still hoping to find someone. That helps me feel less alone.

        As a side note – something similar happened to the sister of one of my friends. After 7 years together with her partner, they got married in a big ceremony, and got divorced a few months later after he decided that he didn’t want to have kids. They were both highly educated people in their early 30s, and had talked about it before but somehow they had been burying their heads in the sand and hoping the other would change. Within a year she had found someone else and now she is incredibly happy and has a little daughter. Her story has been giving me hope.

        I wish you the fortitude to take a decision that you can ultimately feel satisfied with.

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  4. Hi Katie,

    I’m really sorry that you are facing this situation too. All too similar. My partner also had given me a strong impression earlier on in our relationship that he wanted kids, before changing it to “I’m not sure”, and finally “I’m definitely don’t want them now, have no idea if I will ever”. He went to a psychologist to discuss these issues, because he didn’t want to feel that way and thought it could be issues from childhood. But despite incredible amounts of soul searching he could not change his mind.

    It’s been a few weeks down the line now since we split up and it has been incredibly hard. But I still feel entirely sure that my decision was the right one. Part of me is optimistic, I believe that when I have healed from this experience I will find someone else, and it will be just as fantastic as before, but with a family. All of my friends reassure me of it. I’ve spent a lot of time with family and friends recently and not one person has questioned my decision, they all agree that this was the only thing that I could have done, even though it took a lot of bravery.

    Part of me is scared, as you say, that I will never find someone again with whom I will have such a connection, or that I will have to compromise on something else in order to find someone that wants children. But relationships are always a compromise and some things are fundamentally important to a person. On those things I don’t believe you can compromise. I cannot imagine not having a family in the future. It’s a future that I do not want to contemplate. I think of having children, and grandchildren, and having a family around, just as I have had growing up. It would be impossible for me to have stayed happily together with my partner whilst wanting these things so badly and facing the possibility that it would never happen. I am 30 years old and many of my friends have had children or are pregnant. Every time I heard of someone else expecting, my joy was tinged with terrible feelings of jealousy, frustration and emptiness.

    I didn’t want to make a decision to compromise based on fear that I would not find someone else. I tried to make it based on a positive decision to do something that would make me happy in the long run, even if it was terrible in the short run. It has been terrible. We felt like we were taking a decision neither of us wanted to take. We had been living together for 4 years, just moved abroad, had been setting up our new home, invested in new furniture, basically setting up our futures together, and I thought – our future family together. I was physically ill with stress when we made the decision. But now the initial shock is over I try to hope that soon I will heal and can get on with my life, and hopefully find someone with whom I can be just as happy, to share my life and build a family with. Even though many of my friends are married, I have quite a few who, for whatever reason, are also single and still hoping to find someone. That helps me feel less alone.

    As a side note – something similar happened to the sister of one of my friends. After 7 years together with her partner, they got married in a big ceremony, and got divorced a few months later after he decided that he didn’t want to have kids. They were both highly educated people in their early 30s, and had talked about it before but somehow they had been burying their heads in the sand and hoping the other would change. Within a year she had found someone else and now she is incredibly happy and has a little daughter. Her story has been giving me hope.

    I wish you the fortitude to take a decision that you can ultimately feel satisfied with.

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    • Thank you for sharing. I have been struggling with this a lot lately. No one around me has faced a similar situation and therefore do not understand how I am feeling or the decision ahead of me.

      My partner doesn’t seem to understand why it is having such an impact on me. Yes, women tend to be more emotional than men but I feel like a situation with this sort of impact and consequence that it should resonate more with him than it does. The first time he told me he was unsure if he wanted children was about a month ago. We talked about it then, while on vacation, but after a rough few hours we moved on from the topic to enjoy our holiday and time together. About a week ago I brought it up again and he admitted to me he hadn’t thought about it once since. Meanwhile, it’s consuming my life.

      I think if I am being true to myself, I know if he tells me he does not want children that I will have to end our relationship. I have been really struggling with this but spending time this past weekend with young children and reading your story today I just do not see how I could give up on something I have wanted my whole life, a family of my own. I grew up in a very loving, close-knit family environment and I want nothing more than to raise my children the same way. As hard as it would be to walk away from the amazing relationship I am in, I don’t think I would ever be truly happy without kids.

      I think the hardest part in all this is that he is unsure. I don’t know if he is genuinely unsure or if he is just afraid to tell me the truth out of fear of me walking away from everything we have. I don’t want to give him a timeline to make a decision but I am such an emotional wreck over this that is starting to effect our relationship. I feel like I can’t give myself to him emotionally the way I used to because in the back of my mind I fear we will be over soon. I understand this is a huge decision, probably the biggest decision one could ever make in their lifetime, so I do not want to pressure him into making a choice but I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.

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