Thinking of Leaving a Childless Marriage? Read This

Dear readers,

I received this email from Victoria last week. It’s such a great story I asked if I could share it with you. Many of you agonize over whether to leave a partner who doesn’t want to have children. Faced with that situation, here is what Victoria did and how it turned out.

I met the love of my life in 2012. I was 30, and he was 37. We didn’t really discuss children too much, but six months after we met, over lunch with friends in France, he casually mentioned he did not want them. At that point, I was devastated. I knew I wanted children, but I had also not ever felt this way about anyone before. We discussed things at length, and he said he would think about whether he might change his mind. The years rolled by. We were so happy, and I couldn’t countenance leaving him.  It seemed so wrong to give up someone I loved so much for the potential of a child that might never exist. The issue came up a few times, though it was always in the back of my mind.  We ended up having some therapy together to try to get some sense of how to navigate life without resentment and guilt building up. Eventually after four years I decided that I could accept and embrace a childfree life if it meant keeping the man I loved.

I read your blog many times, often seeing the same theme: Should you leave the person you love in the hopes that you’ll find someone you love just as much, who also wants children, and you’re both able to have them? That could be a needle in a haystack. I thought I was quite at ease with my decision.

In 2017, we went on a holiday with a group of friends. One of the couples had a one-year-old baby. Watching them together was quite hard, and seeing how my partner reacted to the baby was equally as difficult. He just did not want to be around the baby at all, and it seemed to ruin his holiday. At this point, I had just turned 35. By now, the thought of being childless forever was in my mind every time I went to sleep. I thought about it all the time. Would I regret it? Did I even have any viable eggs left? I’d read so many forums, talked to friends, talked to my own therapist, and I just didn’t know what the right answer was.

One Sunday morning, after quite an emotional night, I made a snap decision to end the relationship at that moment. My desire to have children and my fear about how I would end up hating the man I loved over time became too much. I decided to leave. He understood. There were a lot of tears. Many days, I almost went back, but I didn’t. I thought I would look into having a baby alone. I had lots of tests, and I was lucky that at 35, I had a good ovarian reserve. I decided to give it a year and see if I met anyone. If not, I would go it alone. To be honest, at 35, wanting to meet a single man who was of a similar age who didn’t already have children but wanted them seemed a long shot.

Six months later, I happened to meet a lovely man. He was 36, single, no children, but he mentioned on our first date how much he regretted not having children. Eight months later, he proposed. Two months after that, we decided that as I was now 36 we should consider stopping birth control. A few months after that, I was pregnant. I honestly could not believe it. I spoke to my previous partner to let him know (he was now in a new relationship with someone who did not want children.) He was so happy for me, and said he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders, which was amazing.

In January of this year, I gave birth to my son. He is nearly six months old, and he is so perfect. I look at him every day and can’t quite believe that after all the years of agonizing, I finally have him. Admittedly, motherhood is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I struggled after a very traumatic labor and then dealing with a young baby and the COVID-19 lockdown has not been easy, but everything I went through was worth it for him.

I wondered if my story might help others who are struggling with the stay or go question.  I am not suggesting go is always the right answer, as I think for many people it isn’t, but for me it was.–Victoria

In a followup email, she added:

You reach a point where all of your friends are having kids, pregnant women or people with babies seem to be everywhere and I could hardly stand to look at them. I used to constantly imagine being pregnant, holding my baby etc. It became too much for me, and honestly I think the guilt became too much for him. We are both happier apart, I think, although I will always love him dearly.

We are undecided about another child at the moment after such a traumatic labor and being on the older side. Certainly not until next year if we do decide to but I won’t feel too bad if we don’t or can’t.

Good story, isn’t it? I welcome your comments.


12 thoughts on “Thinking of Leaving a Childless Marriage? Read This

  1. It is a good story. If I had read it when I was 31 or 32, it would have helped me to have confidence in my decision to leave. But I’m 44, and it’s 12 years since I made my decision but was not able to carry it out. The choice was taken away from me. It’s hard to read this post but not because I’m not happy for Victoria but because I’m sad for me. Congratulations Victoria.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post. I’m happy for her. It’s helpful to me to know that she really, really wanted children to the point that it was hard for her to even look at them. That she gave up a perfectly wonderful life with the faith that her dream would be fulfilled. She’s very brave. Especially the age she was at the time.

    I have my moments of sadness and jealousy but I’ve never had that longing. That utter, utter, longing for a child of my own. Everyone is different, but I have a feeling that I will be able to make peace with any regret that comes up. Others may not be so lucky.


  3. Good for her! She’s definitely braver than I was. I spent ages 28 to 34 agonizing about my decision, but at 35, I had already given up completely. It must feel amazing to really turn your life around like that. The last 13 years of my life is a blur because nothing ever changed and there were no milestones (like giving birth, or the kids first day of school, etc.) to mark the years by. I just wasted all that time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was faced with this decision many years ago (I’m in my 60s now), and it was agonizing. I very much wanted children, and my husband was willing, but not enthusiastic, which nagged at me. Then we found out I had severe infertility issues and went through years of treatment in my mid-thirties. I ended up needing a hysterectomy at 39. We looked into adoption, but my husband’s heart was not in it at all, another factor being that he is a decade older than I am. So at 40, missing my uterus and closing the door on adoption, I made the decision to stay in the marriage. I will always be sad about not having children, but I made a decision to make the best of my life without them with a man I have always loved. All of the pronatalism in our society makes it harder than it should be for those of us who’ve struggled through this, and it’s infuriating that we are so invisible and misunderstood. But nobody said life was fair. I have blessings mothers don’t have and vice versa and that’s how I live my life now.


  5. I asked my partner if he was on the path to marriage and children. He was my partner of 2 years. I was nearly 31.

    He said no and, though I loved him dearly dearly dearly, I ended it instantly. “It’s done” I said. He vomited and cried. He did not ask to have my back though.

    I was one of those women who had an excruciating yearning for a child. At the very innermost place. I cried tens of thousands of tears over the years when friends, sisters and celebrities were pregnant or had small kids. I was green with envy.
    I knew I would rather sperm donor than husband if it came down to it.

    I then threw myself into dating and talked about having children very very early in dating. Cut, cut, cut if they didn’t want kids.

    My now husband ‘sort of’ wanted kids ‘eventually’. I told him there’d be no second DATE if there’d be no kids eventually.

    I’m not going to hurt anyone by mentioning if/how many kids we have. Just to say–speak about it frankly and early. Please don’t waste your time “not talking about it” for several months into dating.

    Make it a non-negotiable EARLY if it’s THAT important to you.

    And really live it. Don’t be swayed into dating ANYONE who says they won’t have kids (if it’s that important to you).

    Hope my post wasn’t offensive. Please please have the guts to call time on a relationship if you have that innermost painful yearning for a child.


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