They stayed in a childless marriage

Last week I asked the question “Did They Go or Stay?” Several readers responded. In general, they stayed. The one who left her marriage indicated that the marriage was not good in other ways.

Are they happy?

Kat: “Stayed in a very happy relationship. Found out last year that I couldn’t have had kids anyway, and needed surgery. Phew, glad I stayed.”

Tamara: “I knew that he was special and that I would never find someone that I loved as much as I love him. I still wish we had a child, but in the end I know that an unknown child could not give me the feeling of love nor could it complete me as much as my marriage does.”

M2L: “I have stayed, for now, and have watched my ‘childbearing years’ disappear. It is hard not to be resentful of a man who is now enjoying a grandchild. We shall see how it all works out!”

Jay: “I stayed, believing that God wouldn’t bless my leaving.
“We’d both wanted children before we got married. A few years in he changed his mind.
“My yearning has been powerful.
“I’ve forgiven him — over and over, as I continue to grieve unchosen childlessness.
“Now it’s too late for me to have children. I struggle with anger toward myself for staying. Anger towards his unkindness in expressing enthusiasm for other women’s pregnancies, his being baffled at why this could be troubling for me.
“His lack of concern for my lost dream compounds the pain.
“I often wish I had left, as the refusal to have children was only one part of the unhealthiness in our marriage. Still continuing to evaluate whether to stay in this marriage.”

Please keep the responses coming. We’d really like to know what happened, especially if you decided to leave.

I think most of us will not leave a marriage that is otherwise good. When I divorced my first husband, it was not because of his refusal to have children. I still believed we could work that out eventually. No, I had found out he was cheating on me and had been for most of the six years we were married. That’s what I found intolerable.

The men I dated between marriages were all willing to father my children, but none of them would have been good husbands. In fact, they would have been terrible. Then I met Fred, and he was so wonderful I was willing to spend my life with him, no matter what. I wanted children but not at the sacrifice of a good relationship. And I did get a sort of “motherhood lite” with the stepchildren and step-grandchildren.

Which is more important, finding the right partner or having children? That seems to be the essential question. We shouldn’t have to choose, but if we do, which way would you go? I look forward to your comments.


Update: Two weeks ago, I wrote about rushing to California to help my father, who broke his leg. His leg is still unusable, and he spends most of his time in bed. It was a bad break, above the knee, and he will be 95 on May 1. Except for the leg, he’s in surprisingly good shape, but we don’t know when the care home where he’s staying will decide to discharge him and force us to find another facility or full-time care for him at home (could be this week!) or if he will ever be able to walk normally again. So keep him in your prayers, and thank you for the kind words so many have sent.

6 thoughts on “They stayed in a childless marriage

  1. I was in a marriage for 10 years and could not see myself having a child with him. I was unhappy and left. Now I’m 38 and in a beautiful relationship, I would love to have a child – he already has 3. I am choosing to stay – he is someone who understands and loves me. But I am still saddened that my window is slipping away….
    I just wish he would want 1 more.


  2. Cautiously posting for the first time as a long-time reader, for many reasons… Sorry for the long comment.
    It may be unpopular, but I would choose the path of pursuing children over staying with a man who didn’t want them or changed his mind. (If he couldn’t have them, that might be different and depend on the circumstances.)
    Of course it’s a personal choice, but my view is that you can meet a man anytime, but having children has a window. The right man for me would understand and accept my desire for children. Ideally he would want them just as much; otherwise, I’m not sure how the relationship would thrive without resentment and sadness. I just wouldn’t be able to stay in love if I felt like he was withholding something like that from me, regardless of his reasons – my yearning would overcome any feelings of love/attachment to him. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us. It breaks my heart when I read that a woman wanted children and didn’t have them for someone else, and years later feels regret and pain. If she feels she can truly be happy without them, no problem. I don’t think children are for everyone, or life without them can’t be awesome, or they should be your whole life purpose (I love my job, too). I will also NEVER agree with the ‘don’t know what love is without kids’ BS. Though I am not the type who fawns over babies and didn’t rush to have them, I just knew I wouldn’t be happy in life without children.
    I had a brief marriage in my mid-20’s, no children – thank goodness. When my second marriage was ending, my mid-30’s, I raised the idea of having another child (we had a daughter about eight months old). He was nice, but having our child had shown me that he wasn’t ever going to grow up. I knew I would be a single mom, with little to no support from him, and my feelings for him were gone, but I wanted more children and worried that I might never get another chance. At least this way, my daughter would have a sibling. Given circumstances, we didn’t pursue it, mostly his call, but I didn’t fight it. I was sad about not having more children, but I loved being a mom and always held hope that I might have more or meet someone with children even if I never had more of my own. I thought I might try to adopt on my own someday if life went that way (not underestimating what it might entail).
    Years later, friendship with a colleague turned to love. He was older, had an almost grown son, and had raised a few stepchildren over the years. I knew he was perfect for me, but I told him that I wanted more children, so it would be a deal-breaker if he didn’t. I was fortunate he was fine with that. For various reasons, mostly my age (menopause is early in my family), it didn’t happen naturally for us. Even though we were so happy together, years of trying and hoping for more children wore us down, and, at our lowest point, almost broke us up. He thought I was being negative because I wanted to do something aggressive and not just ‘think positive’ or ‘be happy with what we had’ me for the opposite reason. Finally, I said it’s now or never if we want more kids, and we pursued fertility treatment. If he had refused, I don’t think we could have made it. It was that important to me. If it worked, great, if not, at least I would never feel like we didn’t try everything we could. We were blessed with boy/girl twins.
    I share this because yes, we’re older and carrying debt from treatment, but for me, it was the right decision. I knew I had to choose a path toward children, whatever that meant, and I don’t regret it. If anyone is on the fence about staying or going, and time is on your side, for what it’s worth, my advice would be to please follow your heart if you want kids. Don’t give in easily. You deserve to be heard, and your heart knows what you want. Maybe your partner will change their mind, or maybe they simply aren’t your future. Not having them is fine too. Just make certain you’re sure that your heart is at peace once the decision is made.


  3. I see most replies are from people who chose to stay in a marriage. I am not married yet, but I love my boyfriend dearly. I know sometimes you’re biased by love, but I genuinely think he’s perfect for me in every other aspect. He makes me feel happy, safe, understood, loved. He’s a very caring person and I have never felt like this about anyone. I feel it is very unlikely that I will find someone with as high a compatibility as I have with him. He says he’s unsure about having children because he feels he’s too old (38) and that it would be too great of a lifestyle change. Ultimately the financial burden that comes with children is also something he is concerned about, even though he’s more than stable financially. He just wants to retire very comfortably and without much worries at an early age. He even told me that if he won the lottery, he would agree to have children. I am 31, and for most of my adult life, I have known that I wanted children, so it breaks my heart to have found a wonderful man and for us not to agree on the one issue for which there is no compromise.

    Is there anyone out there who wasn’t married but chose to stay with their significant other that can share their story?


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