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.

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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.

If you disagree about children, is your relationship doomed?

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } Is it possible for a relationship to work when one partner wants children and the other doesn’t? This is the question that is still resonating in my head days after I finished reading Kidfree & Lovin’ It (reviewed Jan. 2). The opinion of most of the people author Kaye D. Walters surveyed is that this is a deal-breaker, that compromise is impossible, that the relationship is doomed. They say it is better to break up than to have a child you don’t want—or force a child on someone who doesn’t want to have children. Don’t date, don’t marry, don’t pretend it’s okay; it won’t work.

Walters urges couples to think it through and be sure of what they want. “Don’t just end a perfectly good relationship without first examining your means and motivations on the kid issue.” She offers lists of reasons to procreate and suggests that some of them are pretty shaky and perhaps one might not be a good parent after all. But in the end, like the people she surveyed, she seems to lean toward ending the relationship.
This issue is at the heart of my Childless by Marriage blog and book. It’s an issue that most books about childlessness (see my resource list) pay minimal attention to. But it’s a big one. If my first husband had been willing and ready to have children, I’d be a grandmother now. If my second had been willing to add more children to the three he already had and if he had not had a vasectomy, I’d have grown children and maybe grandchildren now. If I had dumped either one because I wanted to have children and they didn’t, my life would have been completely different.
I am childless because I married these men and stayed with them. The first marriage ended for other reasons, but the second husband was a keeper. We lasted three weeks shy of 26 years. If Fred hadn’t died, we’d still be together. He was the perfect mate for me in every other way. And maybe, if I truthfully answer all of Walters’ soul-searching questions, I would find I was too devoted to my career to add motherhood to the mix. I wanted children, and I wish I’d had them. BUT I loved Fred and knew I would never find a better husband. Should I have left him and hoped to find someone else, maybe someone not as good but who was willing to have babies with me? Am I a fool because I sacrificed motherhood for these men?
That’s the big question that many of the people who comment here are facing: stay with the partner or spouse who doesn’t want kids or try to find someone else? What do you think? Is a relationship doomed if you disagree on this issue? Is it all right to sacrifice something this big for the one you love? There are always compromises in a relationship. People give up their careers, move far away from home, or take care of disabled spouses, but is this too much to ask?
I really want to know what you think.