Stay or Go? No Easy Answers

 

Dear readers,

My life recently has been blessedly free of childless drama, so I’m going to let some of you talk today. Whenever I post about deciding whether or not to stay in a childless relationship, readers comment at length. (See Stay in a Relationship Without Kids or Go?)That’s the key question for so many. Do I stay or go? Do I accept a childless marriage with the person I love or take a chance on finding someone else? And sometimes the question comes from the other direction. The person writing is the one who doesn’t want to have children and worries about ruining the other person’s life. All the while, the biological clock is ticking. Listen here to Amanda, Kathy with a K and Cathy with a C. Their comments have been shortened a bit.

Amanda:

Dear Sue, I need help with my thought process and how I actually REALLY feel about the potential of being a parent. I’m very confused and quite honestly I could go either way with it but the fact that I won’t have forever to decide leaves me feeling a little anxious and maybe even feeling some sadness for what reason I have no idea why! I have been with my husband for six years and we just got married last year. He is quite literally my best friend, soulmate and partner in life. We have an amazing connection on so many levels in our relationship but I will say we have a lot of ups and downs. The passion and love is intense at times and I can’t imagine my life without him even when we are in the midst of a heated argument I know it will blow over and we will soon be back on the right page together in each other’s arms smiling and laughing once again.

When I first met my husband, I told him the idea of getting married and/or having kids was not appealing to me. Obviously when he proposed, two years later, I said yes, and we planned a beautiful dream-come-true wedding in Hawaii. My husband is 53, and I am approaching 30 (aka: biological clock-ticking age). I say this only because at 53 my husband is in no place with his age to want or need to be a new father. He has a son who is currently 20 and at the state university to become a pharmacist. Lee and his son are very close, he is a loving, caring and nurturing father, and his son is such a great “kid”.

Recently I noticed a sudden curiosity around motherhood. I think it began when I was 10 days late with my last period and a couple of the months prior it had been very light. I wondered if I was pregnant and I procrastinated taking a test because I was too afraid to find out. During that time of waiting I found myself thinking about what it might be like or could be like to have a mini-me/Lee running around, making us smile and laugh and bringing such joy and blessing to our lives. How my stepson would potentially love having a little brother/sister.

I cannot believe my thoughts have headed in this direction. One thing that recently hit me was the fact that my husband will likely be a grandfather someday very soon-maybe in the next 10 years. My stepson is with an amazing, beautiful, smart, energetic and good girl and I could see them getting married and having a beautiful family. I guess it freaks me out in a way because how would that feel being a step-grandma without ever having had any little ones of my own?

I still cannot fathom having kids of my own AT THIS POINT…. BUT WHAT IF in 3-5 years when I’m in my mid-30’s that urge kicks into full force?! What then? Start over? On my own. Single. Divorced. For what? The POSSIBILITY of meeting a great guy, who wants marriage and kids… And maybe doesn’t already have an ex, and kids already?! Shit. Seems like a lot to leave my husband- the loving, kind, devoted, beautiful soul of a man- to give him up for something that might not even happen, like you said, “the gamble”, not to mention AM I EVEN FERTILE? I know he will not change his mind. Even though he laughs and giggles when I tease him with “let’s make a baby” or “put a bun in my oven”, he laughs because he knows I am kidding about wanting to make love.

My husband is much older and could literally die first and leave me all alone with nothing and nobody! I feel so torn. I do NOT know what to do. The only thing I can do at this point is rely on the small tiny chance that somewhere down the road my husband will not pull out in time, and as a result we will be pregnant. He has already told me he clearly does NOT want more children (understandably so) and that he would understand if I did, and he would allow me to go on and pursue that dream. Of course he understands that if I got pregnant he would not leave me, he would stay by my side as husband and be the good father he already is, but he will not willingly give up his sperm to purposefully make a mother out of me.

It seems unfair that if the day ever came that I was truly willing, ready and able to procreate, that I would suddenly ditch and divorce such a loyal, faithful, devoted man, (especially because he wouldn’t divorce me if I got pregnant) but what I can’t wrap my head around is why he would be OK with me leaving him to go off and make a baby?! He told me that he knew that was a risk falling in love with & marrying a younger woman- that I might want to leave him for babies someday. I know I’ll never change his mind. So what the eff is my problem? Why am I worried about this now? Maybe I should not worry until IF the time actually ever does come THEN stress about this… Just worried it will be too late by then. I’ve always been the last to show up to the party, the chronic procrastinator, this is something you can’t really wait around on, right? HELP!

Kathy:

Amanda, I’m in a similar situation as you, only I’m 10 years older than you. My husband is 15 years older than I am. He has a 20-year-old from a previous marriage. We’ve been together for 14 years. We are the best of friends and still passionately in love. And I’m quite close to his daughter.

BUT… Before we got married, he always said he wanted more kids and then got cold feet after we got married. So slightly different situation than yours, but I was ambivalent about having kids just like you are, so I just kind of shrugged it off. But I will always regret letting someone else make a life-altering decision for me.

Now that I’m 43, I’m broken-hearted, and I feel like I wasted my life. And I keep thinking about the fact that my husband had a child with someone who was awful to him and then denied me the right to have children. Even though I’ve been nothing but good to him. This is a tough pill to swallow. This is the same pill you will eventually have to swallow. Take a second to make sure you can emotionally handle that.

My advice to you is to “talk” to future you. Look around and ask yourself if you’re completely OK with being alone as you age. Will you be able to find meaning in your life if you don’t have children? Only you can answer that.

In my situation, I just kept kind of living day to day – having a good time with my husband, but not planning for my emotional future. I had a real wake-up call a few months ago when I started skipping periods and realized it’s the start of menopause – even though I’m an athlete who is still in top shape, my fertile years are over just like that.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see someone who wasted her life needlessly. I didn’t examine whether I really wanted children because I wanted to be with my husband. Now I look back at the person I was and want to scream “RUN” to her. Even though I love my husband. Even though my life is perfect in every other way. I still feel like I am not a whole person. And being a step parent or step grandparent is not the same – even in the best of scenarios, like mine.

My advice is that only you know yourself, but if you have even the slightest fear that you’ll end up like I feel, RUN. You can learn to love someone else, but you can’t go back in time to have children when you’re older. My cousin found himself in a marriage with someone who realized she didn’t want kids, and he left. That was 25 years ago. He now has a wonderful family with three happy, successful kids. So it can happen for you if that’s what you want.

I can’t tell you if you’ll be filled with regret. Some people aren’t. You might be perfectly fine with not having kids, and that’s a very valid choice. I’m not you. But I desperately hope you’ll make a decision that sits well with future you. Because once it’s over, it’s over.

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not what 29-year-old me would have wanted to hear. But nobody took the time to tell me this might be a possible outcome, so I’m taking the time to tell you.

Cathy:

Wow. I’m on the opposite side of the coin. I had my son at 20, I’m now 36. I met my husband at 21 and have been with him ever since. He has wanted kids since we got married in 2008. I don’t want any more kids.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was able to go to school, work and raise a baby. At 36 I can barely stay awake past 10. My son is going to graduate high school next year (a year ahead) and we’ll be free to travel and enjoy life- no diapers, formula, sleepless nights, teething, crankiness, etc. etc. We can spend money on luxury items whereas most of our friends spend all they earn on daycare and the baby.

I’m one of the lucky ones- no stretch marks, veins, weight gain, no gray hairs (my sis had gray hair right after birth at 28) etc., I bounced right back within 4 months ( I didn’t breast feed though so I calorie restricted). I feel like if I had a baby at 36 I would never be that lucky, it would destroy my body.

My husband doesn’t agree, having his own kid means everything to him. I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to lose him but I don’t want to resent the baby or my husband either. It’s not easy on either side.

*****************

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to join the conversation.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Stay or Go? No Easy Answers

  1. Amanda,
    I was also in a very similar situation to you. My husband is 15 years my senior with two children to a previous marriage. I was also in my 30s when I met him and he was adamant he didn’t want anymore children. Like yourself this put me in a dilemma. I was always very maternal and would have liked children however I chose the relationship and thought I would be ok with not having children. For many years I honestly was. The problems began when my husband’s children started having children of their own. My husband also became very clucky over his Grandchildren something I had never seen in him before. Not only that he felt somehow his Grandchildren should replace the children I didn’t have! I had a grief response to it all. Something my GP tells me is hormonal as I’m now premenopausal. In order to cope I’ve had to reduce my contact with his children and Grandchildren. All this is something I didn’t anticipate happening. Emotionally it is just awful. I’d say to you having gone through what I have that if you have any doubts at all about whether or not you want to have children that these feelings could get worse as you get older and you may have some regrets. For me I have a real sadness now that children weren’t part of my life…

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    • Hi Karen

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is almost identical to mine, same age difference, etc. although my husband not wanting children with me came as something as a shock to me, shall we say, to put it mildly. I’m not sure about the idea of your grief response to your husband having grandchildren being hormonal, I would say it was just entirely normal; I feel exactly the same way. It is yet another grief and one that my husband does not understand or sympathize with in any shape or form; in fact, he is quite angry with me about it. I absolutely agree that if you have any doubts, take note of them. I wish I had.

      M2L

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    • Karen,
      I thank you for sharing. I originally posted this on January of this year, it’s now 10 months later & Im back to mulling over this topic again. It’s sucks for us women that we have an expiration date on our eggs. It’s really a hard thing because I really love my husband, we’ve been together for 7 years, & it’s literally heart wrenching thinking about life without him, but I really don’t want to have endure resentment towards people I love due to my own disappointment about the choice I’m making to stay with him. My husband is sooo good with kids, my 3 year old nephew adores him, he plays, makes jokes, has fun, and it makes me feel like he would be such a great Dad. It’s understandable he doesn’t want to endure parenthood all over again. We did however have a discussion this evening about the POSTIVES of having a baby/child from his perspective, because So far every time we’ve talked about it, he only mentions the negatives/cons. It gave me the idea that he never regretted having his son, even if he did feel cheated because his ex was a vicious, lying, cheating woman, he said he’d do it all over again if he had to go back in time. I really think it’s time I move on and eventually persue life on my own again, as a single woman, in the persuit of a loving husband who most definitely wants a baby. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through leaving him is so awful, but honestly after reading your comment & Kathy’s comment it is so evident that I will certainly regret not doing this now! I feel like such a selfish piece of shit wife. What kind of woman marries a man she knows will refuse to give her kids down the road, and then years later changes her own mind, & leaves her husband. It’s not like he promised before we were married to give me a child. He was upfront & completely honest. So I’m the damn fool. But this is something I need to decide. I’m so scared & terrified to be without him in life, he’s my family, & no one would ever compare. I’m also terrified of actually being a parent, but what scares me more is NOT being able to ever be a parent. I think my decision is made thanks to help from you ladies. I just have to take action. I’m so sad. But maybe I can be happy again later in life. Thank you for your honesty and support!

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  2. I am so happy to have found this blog today and to know I am not alone struggling with my emotions.

    Having children is not something I have put a lot of thought into because I never needed to, I just always knew it was something I wanted. When I first met my boyfriend (who is 14 years my senior) there was an instant connection between us, it just came naturall. We live in different countries but have been making it work because the thought of being apart forever is far scarier than a long distance relationship. Things just worked between us and not giving this a try was never an option; however, after only a a month into dating I was already thinking where would our future lead. He was 39 at the time and had been married previously for 12 years with no children. So I asked him straight out if it was something he wanted and if it was, why hadn’t he had them with his ex-wife? He said growing up it was something he wanted but had gotten married young, before discussing having kids and after he was married found out it was something his wife at the time did not want. He came to terms with it and continued on his marriage. Everyone in his life, friends, siblings, etc… are having kids now and he said he could totally see himself having kids in the future.

    A few months down the road the topic came up again and once more he assured me it was something he wanted and even more than that, something he wanted with me.

    We are getting to the stage of our relationship where marriage is the next step. While this should be a happy time in our lives he recently informed me the only thing holding him back is he is now unsure if he wants children. He said if he was 5 – 10 years younger this wouldn’t be a discussion but the thought of starting a family in his 40s terrified him. He’s works hard, has a great job with a good salary and has worked to a place where he can buy whatever luxuries he wants and travels when and where he feels like it.

    When he first told me this I was angry. How could he do this to me when I had asked him at the start of our relationship? I asked him early on before I fell too deep. But here I am, head over heels in love and happier than I ever have been. He gets me. He gets me better than I ever though possible. He knows when to crack a joke to make me smile or when to just hold me and say nothing at all. We can go for drives and chat for hours or sit in silence, but either way I feel more comfortable than I ever have.

    So what now? Do I sacrifice having a family to be with him? If I do this I am so terrified I will resent him in the future. We are sill living long distance so if/when we get married it will involve me uprooting my life to be with him as that is what makes most sense. I am ok with moving but partially because I thought we would be creating a new life, in a new place for our family, together. What if it is just the two of us?

    Another option, do we put off marriage until he makes a decision? He seems so genuinely on the fence when it comes to kids. Some days he says there is nothing he wants more than to be a father and other days he’s unsure and to be honest, seems petrified, When discussing this option his response was “well, how long to I have?” It’s not a job offer, this sort of decision doesn’t have a timeline so I’m not sure but this leads me to my next question….

    If kids of 100% off the table, do we end what we have? I’ve never been more in love. Writing this now just thinking about moving on from him has me in tears. How does one even move on from a relationship that was completely perfect in almost every way? Would I ever get over him? Would I live my life thinking what if I had stayed?

    I’m so torn.

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    • Katie, I’m sorry you’re in this fix. It sounds like your guy has not made up his mind. This is your chance to tell him you’re counting on kids and that it’s a deal breaker. Let us know what happens.

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    • My situation is similar to yours, Katie, with the same age gap and I also uprooted my life and moved across the world to be with my partner. I would be cautious if I had my time again. Our life together is nothing like I imagined it would be when I decided to move here and I miss the things I loved about my ‘previous’ life, including time with family and friends that I will never get back. If there is any way you can spend time with your partner in the place where he lives, to really try and find out what it might be like to actually live there, before you uproot yourself, I would strongly advise doing so before making any life changes. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have moved. I gave up so much to live with my partner and it is so difficult. And our relationship is fundamentally fractured by the fact that he did not want children with me.

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      • It’s definitely nice to hear someones opinion that has actually experienced this situation. That is such a fear of mine – that everything that is so perfect about our relationship now will change if I move to where he is. I am from a small town and have lived away from home for several years before. Living with him I would be in the situation where I would be able to travel home several times a year and my family and friends would be able to come visit me (I would only be moving from Canada to the USA) but it is still a lot to give up.

        Do you mind me asking if you were together long before you moved? Did you have to get married to make the move? Had you talked about having kids before moving to be with him or is that something that came about after you moved? How are you handling the situation – is it work staying childless to be with him or would you rather move home and start over?

        I know those questions are personal so you don’t have to answer, but would welcome your answers!

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  3. Hello again Katie, apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I am cautious about going into detail about my own experience, as everyone is different.

    On re-reading your original post, what stands out to me is that your boyfriend is obviously fearful about the idea of having children, which many would say is completely understandable. I do think that the older we get, the more set in our ways we become and it gets harder to imagine changing our lives so much by introducing children. Certainly, it’s not something we can change our minds about at a later date after they have arrived! This fear may be something he can resolve, perhaps by talking to friends who already have children. We often fear the unknown.

    Secondly, I would say to anyone who is in a long-distance relationship to be cautious – you need to know what the humdrum, day-to-day life with this person will be like, not the emotionally-charged experience of aching to be with them when you physically can’t be (i.e. because you live in different parts of the world). Like I said before, if there is any way that you can ‘live together’, even for a short period before you uproot yourself, I would highly recommend it. Even if you spend vacation time with him at his home and he carries on with his normal life (going to work, etc.) – it will give you a chance to at least have some idea of you are both like in ‘regular’ life. I did this once with an ex who lived only a couple of hours away from me and found out that he had little time for me (worked long hours, spent a lot of time at the gym/with friends) and it was the start of me realising that we were not perhaps a great match after all, which our usually passionate weekends together hadn’t shown up before.

    Thirdly, I would reiterate what Karen says in her reply (above) as it really resonates with me and I would urge you to be aware of the possibility that you may feel the same way one day if you do decide to go ahead:

    “All this is something I didn’t anticipate happening. Emotionally it is just awful. I’d say to you having gone through what I have that if you have any doubts at all about whether or not you want to have children that these feelings could get worse as you get older and you may have some regrets. For me I have a real sadness now that children weren’t part of my life…”

    Like

  4. I’m in a slightly different fix- bear with this, I promise it is relevant to the discussion!
    7 years ago I had an STI that was treated promptly and gave me similar symptoms to a bad UTI. I was young, and somewhat irresponsible- I accept that I should have conducted myself differently (but hindsight isn’t always such a wonderful thing). The doctor didn’t seem alarmed by my situation, he prescribed the necessary meds after a full examination and checks for other STIs etc. I wasn’t warned of the possible implications on my fertility in the future. At 22, single and completing my final qualification for my career, I really didn’t think to quiz or question. “Doctor knows best” has always been my motto- I have always presumed that a doctor would tell you anything you would need to know.
    Years later, I find myself desperately in love with my partner of 4 years. He is truly a wonderful man, and has forgiven so many of my foibles,of which there are many: a past abortion, hpv, and my character flaws. I haven’t told him about my chlamydia history. Mostly, because I never thought it had a bearing whatsoever on my present, but also because I truly felt it would be one foible too many. Now I want to try for a baby, I learn that my past may not be limited to my past…
    I recently was diagnosed with ‘possible’ endometriosis. I looked this up because ‘possible’ was simply to vague for me to think “Doctor knows best”, as I am prone to do. On my internet journey, I found myself side-tracked by one of Endo’s ‘possible’ (again, that word) side effects: infertility. Reading obsessively leads me to discover how much a past STI- particularly Chlamydia- can impact on tubal health and fertility.
    Admittedly, we haven’t started trying. I am aware that I may well be absolutely fine- no less fertile than the next person. BUT, what if I’m not?
    He is so brilliant with children, and has said multiple times that he would love to have children with me. Previously this statement made me feel brilliant, warm, complete. Now I feel immense pressure, guilt, disgust with myself. If it turns out that I can’t provide him with children, and it’s my ‘fault’ (I use the F word, because I worry that’s what the situation will be called), will I be enough? Will his love for me overcome yet another flaw in my profile? Or will he walk away- I certainly wouldn’t blame him if he did.
    I have always wanted to adopt- he knows this and agreed that it would be something he would be on board with. I put the feelers out and asked the “what if” questions, and he said he wouldn’t be “so shallow” as to leave me, and that we could always try IVF… He has said all of the right things. But one element is missing really- the idea of blame, of fault. When it’s hypothetical, it’s so much easier to be forgiving.
    So far, the posts are by people in the reverse scenario.
    Would you leave me?

    Like

    • AllyB, I would not leave you. You were young, you didn’t know. I think the fault lies more with the doctor who didn’t tell you about this possibility. Anyway, it sounds like your husband will be with fine with whatever happens. And maybe there won’t be a problem. Start trying and find out.

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      • Thank you.
        I did pluck up the courage to tell him my final secret last night. He didn’t seem fazed- but again, mostly because he doesn’t think the possibilities will be our reality.
        I know he is a good man, he is not judgemental, I hope that he can also be adaptable.
        There is an element of not being to miss what you never had- I think that rule somehow doesn’t always apply when it comes to parenting…
        We will try, and I will pray to God that we have our chance to be parents together.
        I’m grateful to you for your site here.

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  5. I’m in a situation where I always took my potential motherhood for granted. I am now 34 – we tried to get pregnant for about 2 years before we started investigations. We were devastated to learn my husband had a low sperm count in July 2014 and yet we had hope because IVF (ICSI) was on the table.

    About 6 months later my husband lost his father to suicide. He found his father’s body and to say the wheels came off would be an understatement. He started drinking heavily & had to enter treatment for alcoholism in 2015. His relationship with sobriety has been tentative ever since & our marriage is in bad shape.

    Recently we discovered that our window has closed. He has had “testicular failure” and is no longer in a position to father children and I am devastated.

    When I think about the future and try to consider what it would be like childless I get short of breath and start to panic. When I think of ending the marriage I am full of worry, guilt and regret.

    I am 34…and I am childless by marriage…and it devastates me, fills me with fear and anxiety.
    I am so conflicted. Should I stay in a marriage that will leave me childless on the chance that maybe he will find recovery and we could have a happy life together or should I count my losses and end it all in the hope that I might meet someone else who I can love and will love me with whom I could have a family even though there is a 50:50 chance that I could still end up completely alone.

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