If You’re Not Sure, Don’t Get Married

Last night I received a comment on an old post titled “Should You Stay with the Guy Who Doesn’t Want Kids?” that details six years of a couple repeatedly breaking up and getting back together. The guy had decided he didn’t want kids. He even scheduled a vasectomy. But she was still hoping he’d change his mind. Now she’s thinking she’ll give up on kids–she’s 39, so maybe it’s too late anyway–but he’s having doubts because he thinks she’ll resent him for not giving her children . . .

As advice columnist Ann Landers used to say, wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not going to work.

I get comments like this all the time from people who can’t decide whether to stay together or break up with their boyfriends/girlfriends, fiances, or spouses. In their comments, they usually focus on the baby issue. Their mate can’t have them, doesn’t want them, isn’t sure, keeps changing his/her mind. But usually that is not the only problem with the relationship. The writer is jealous of the loved one’s children from previous relationships, the couple can’t seem to communicate, there are issues with family, money or jobs, they’re already in counseling and they’re thinking about splitting up.

I admit to being grouchy this morning, but if you’re already thinking about leaving, go! I can tell you from experience that if the relationship is troubled before the marriage, it is not going to magically improve after you say “I do.” If you’re having doubts, walk away.

When I married my first husband, I was a very young 22. I knew things weren’t right. We didn’t actually talk about having children. I just assumed we would. But there were other things, problems I ignored because I thought we had gone too far to break up. I felt like we had to get married, like he was the only one for me. Turns out I was not the only one for him, but my point is that in a good relationship, you don’t doubt that you want to be together.

Finding a solution when you don’t agree about having children is hard. It takes a lot of love to sacrifice the life you had expected to have. If you start out unable to work together, it’s not going to get better. I don’t know you and your situations, but I do know that if you’re already considering looking for someone else, this is not going to work. Your partner is not going to change, and neither are you. If your love is real, you won’t be considering other options. You’ll face life’s problems, including the issue of having children, together as a unit.

Do you agree? Do you want to yell at me? I’d love to read your comments.

When You Can’t Bear the Childless Grief Alone

This is a touchy subject, one that may make you reach for the mouse to close this blog, but please don’t do it yet. Stay with me for a few paragraphs.
At least once a week, I get a comment to this blog that leads me to cautiously, timidly suggest that maybe the writer might benefit from seeking counseling. I am not implying that they are crazy, but I am saying it might help to talk to a professional psychologist, psychiatrist or family counselor. People are very sensitive about this, so I hesitate to say it, but sometimes I feel I have to. These commenters say things like “I see no reason for living” or “I just can’t go on” or “I can’t remember the last time I felt happy.” These are red flags that a person may be suffering from depression.
There’s no shame in struggling to deal with grief or confusion over facing the possibility–or the certainty–of being childless. It hurts. It’s a loss, just as much as if someone had died. If you didn’t feel sad, that would be unusual. If it’s weighing you down to the point where you can’t get up in the morning day after day, not just once in a while, maybe you could benefit from finding an impartial professional to talk to.
I’ve been in counseling off and on over the years. The first time, I was coming out of an abusive relationship and found myself too depressed to function. I had given my heart and soul to this man, and he trampled all over it. Having no money, I called the county mental health department and got an appointment with a counselor. That first session, this kind woman made me feel so much better simply by listening to what I’d been through and letting me know it was not my fault. She took the burden off my shoulders. Many years later, a wise counselor helped me work through my husband’s illness and death. Believe me when I say it’s okay to get help.
Many readers here are struggling to figure out what to do. They are often in a situation where their partners are refusing to have children or there’s a medical problem, and they don’t know whether to leave that person or stay and accept that they’ll never have kids. This is a horrible choice in which no one will come out happy. You could talk to your parents, your siblings, your friends, or your co-workers, but they’re all biased. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who can see all sides of the problem, who will let you say anything you want in complete confidentiality, and help you work through your decisions.
There are various kinds of counselors. Psychiatrists are doctors who are licensed to dispense medication. Psychologists are PhDs trained in mental health and counseling. Licensed clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists have master’s degrees and clinical training in counseling. I see a psychiatric nurse practitioner who not only can prescribe meds but also does hypnosis, biofeedback, art therapy and many other techniques. She also gives good hugs. Most insurances cover psychiatric care to some extent. I have never paid more than a minimal co-pay. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral. There are also government agencies and groups such as Catholic Charities that can help if money is a problem. It’s a hard phone call to make, but you can do it.
This is a huge subject for which I have barely touched the surface. Here are links to more information. “Finding a Therapist Who Can Help You Heal”  provides solid information about what therapy is and the types available. “Symptoms of Depression” from WebMD will help you understand the difference between ordinary sadness and depression.
What do you think about all this? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.