What Happened? Did They Go or Stay?

Dear readers,
I received this email last week. The writer raises an excellent question. We gets lots of comments from people struggling over whether to stay in a childless marriage or leave and hope to find someone else, but we rarely find out what they decided to do. Read what she says.

 

Dear Sue,
I found your blog a while back and have been reading over posts and comments for days. People talk about leaving or staying, but you never hear if they left and what happened next! I am 35 and have a good marriage with a pretty great man. We have some kinks, but who doesn’t.  He has a son (now 21) that is out of the house and we have a fine relationship. Around the time I turned 35, the urge to have a child overwhelmed me! I am so sad it is hard to get out of the bed on some days. I have seen a counselor and talked to a few friends, but ultimately the decision is mine to stay or go. Everyone says you are almost to the age of no return. You would be hard pressed to find another man you love and to have children. I don’t want to be alone and be the crazy cat lady. I would love to hear from some of your readers that left and if they are happy now or if they regret leaving. Did they find love again and have a family? I feel like I want to leave and have a family, but I am terrified to say those words to my husband and end up alone. Can you help?
 
Thanks,
Completely Sad

So, readers who have been in this situation, what did you decide and how did it turn out? What advice do you have for “Completely Sad”? Please let us know in the comments.

I wish you all a blessed and happy Easter. If this means hanging out with the family, dealing with all those questions and everybody else’s kids, I hope it won’t be too painful for you. It does get easier. At this point, I’m enjoying the little babies and little kids in the family. I’m also glad I don’t have to take care of them. I wish I had adult children to be with, to love, and to help me when I need it, but that’s a whole other post. I took the childless path.

But you, readers, especially those who were struggling with the stay-or-go decision. What have you decided?

You might want to look back at these previous posts and comments on the subject:

“He already has his kids, but I don’t”

“If they don’t want kids, do you have to break up?”

He already has his kids, but I don’t

Ooh, those stepchildren. I was all set to write about something else this week, but then I got this comment on a previous post. I’m dying to share it with you and get your opinions.

The original post, “Stepparents caught between two worlds,” is still drawing comments. For so many of us, our childless lives include dealing with our partners’ kids from previous relationships. Sometimes they feel like our own kids. Note the second book I talked about last week where the author fell completely into the mom role with her two stepsons. More often, we have mixed feelings. We want to love them and make them our own, but they already have two biological parents. They may accept you or treat you like dirt. You may have a good relationship with your partner’s ex or be constantly at war. And when it comes to your partner choosing between his or her children and you, well, guess who loses that contest? Blood trumps love most of the time.

So often, accepting this partner with kids means you will not get kids of your own because that partner has already been there and done that.

That said, let me share what “Honest” wrote:

I’m very thankful I have stumbled upon this blog. I’ve been searching for someone, anyone really, who I can relate to and to see that I am not alone in this whirlwind of step-parenting.

Last year I met a man that I was completely not ready for. He was the most incredible man I have ever met, Kind, nurturing, persistent, caring, understanding, supportive and above all he was completely and utterly in love with me. He had been in a relationship for 10 years and had two kids 9 & 5. His ex had left him a year and a half before we met. He was the bigger man and moved out of the house they had just recently built and moved into a rental, while still paying for the house and all her bills, (which I think is completely and utterly insane. I know if that was me I would not be funding her) But his excuse was he was doing it for the kids as she would not be able to afford the house and bills as she did not work. I have come from a hard upbringing. My father was abusive and my mother worked three jobs to support our family, so you can see why I would have a bad taste in my mouth to begin with from his ex not wanting to work even though both children are at school when my mother raised us all and worked three jobs, but that’s just my view. I guess.

My partner won my heart after months of my hesitation to commit to him. I knew deep in my heart I would be in for a whirlwind of a ride once I committed. He was still going through the sale of his house, she was still living in it, he works away so he was gone for a full week and the week he was home he had the kids for the whole 7 days. So from the very beginning, I knew if I stepped into this I was becoming a half-time stepmom. That when I saw him, I knew I would be seeing the children too, never a moment alone to have our own relationship. But, love won me over.

Three months into our relationship, we moved in together. Not only was he pushing for it, as at the time he was coming home and staying at their ‘old home’ which she still lived in, and would go to her friends the week he was home, but my current rental was about to run out of lease. So we made the plunge and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. As his ex had run him dry of money, I ended up paying and furnishing the entire apartment (which included a room for his two kids, with whom I had only spent a handful of time) and accepting the fact that I was now involved.

The two kids are beautiful. I have grown to love them very much. I take them to school, I pack their lunches, I cook them dinner and put them to bed, do all the things a mother would do. But, at the same time, all I can see when I look into their eyes is her [the ex]. She would call and abuse my partner at ridiculous hours, she would start messaging me abuse, he would try and be reasonable with her and she just would not have it, and that absolutely kills me inside.
My partner from the start told me I was the love of his life and he wants to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me and have children of our own. Up until recently. Now he has decided that he does not want any more children.

When those words came out of his mouth, it absolutely ripped my heart out. I’ve wanted children my whole life. I have had three abortions with exes, because they did not want to be fathers, or the time was not right, and they would not be around if I was to have the child. So I did the right thing ( so I thought) and went through the traumatic experience of having an abortion, because I want my children to grow up in a family with both a loving mum and a dad, and not a dad who does not want them. I know firsthand how many times I wished when I was a child my mum did not have me because of my abusive father. So now I’m 28 and the man who I thought I was going to marry and start a family with has changed his mind on having any more children. Do I leave and attempt to find someone else I will fall in love with and we both want a family, or stay in hopes he will change his mind? It’s not like he cannot see the mother I will be. I’m more of a mother to his children then their actual mother. It breaks my heart to know that I’m 28 and I’m still completely and utterly unsure of what I’m doing in life. I don’t think I could live the next 20 years with his children and none of our own, I feel like that’s taking something special away from me, away from us, that he does not want us to have that connection, and it leaves an awfully bad taste in my mouth.

HERE’S WHAT I SAID: Honest, you’re not going to like my response, but I’m going to say it anyway. Looking at it from the outside, I think your guy is taking advantage of you. You have provided him a place to live and free child-care while he’s preventing you from having your own children and still supporting his ex. Maybe he does love you, but the whole situation sounds messed up to me. I wish you all the best.

What do you all think? Respond here or on the original post, where you can read some other step-situations.

When hormones outtalk common sense

I’ve been thinking about Monday’s “Bachelorette” TV show. Did you see it? Kaitlyn, the bachelorette, and Nick, one of her suitors, made out all over Dublin, even in a church. It was embarrassing to watch. I kept yelling at the screen, “Nick get your hands out of her dress!” but he didn’t hear me. Then they went back to her hotel suite and had sex. We didn’t see it, but we heard the sound effects, and it was all over the news on Tuesday. Shooting in Charleston, Kaitlyn does Nick. It could all have been staged, but clearly those two were in that zone where common sense goes out the window. I’ve been there. Have you?

In her voiceovers, Kaitlin kept saying that when she gets together with Nick, she forgets the cameras, the other guys and everything else. I know the feeling. Maybe you do, too. You have just discovered this person. Your hormones are going crazy. Suddenly nothing else matters. You will do or say anything to keep the relationship going. You’ll move, you’ll quit your job, you’ll shut out the advice of everyone in your world, and you’ll ignore that little voice in your head that says, “Hey, wait a minute.”

Then the initial fire cools. You look around and think, wait, I don’t want to change my whole life. I like my job. I like my home. He’s not as cute as I thought he was. Suddenly he or she says, “About those babies . . . I’m not so sure.” Now you’re committed and in a jam.

That’s where most of the folks here, including me, end up. I hear it over and over. Yesterday, an anonymous writer sent a four-part comment about her situation. She’s 38, he’s 40. She’s sure he’s the love of her life. She moved in with him a while ago. He was okay with baby thing before, but now he’s saying he doesn’t want to have a baby. She’s freaking out, she’s starting counseling, she’s not sure if they can stay together. What do I think she should do?

I never know what to tell people in this situation. The old lady in me misses the days when people didn’t jump into bed or move in together so quickly, when you had to commit to marriage before doing the horizontal polka. Or maybe people were just sneakier about it. We all do it. I slept with Fred early on and moved in with him before we got married. Luckily, I got a good man and I have no regrets, except for not having children, but it doesn’t always work out that well. I could have skipped my whole first marriage if I had listened to the wiser woman in my head.

Don’t ignore that little voice. It’s like when I quit my excellent job and gave up my apartment in 1983 to sing with a band that had a contract to tour the U.S. All I ever wanted was to sing in a band, and here was my chance. We were going to be rich and famous. Our sponsors went bankrupt in two months. There I was with no home and no job. I moved back in with my parents and started over. Wiser members of the band had kept their jobs and had something to go back to, but me, I jumped headfirst.

It’s the same with relationships. I know how it feels to be crazy in love. The rest of the world just disappears, but don’t let it. Do whatever you can to get a clear head, whether it’s prayer, a hiking trip, or a long talk with a friend. Listen to your loved ones, listen to that voice in your head. Don’t burn any bridges until you’re sure it’s going to work because sometimes it’s perfect, and sometimes it turns into a disaster.

Have you been in similar situations? Have you dumped everything for a man or woman and then regretted it? I would love to hear your comments.

Are you fooling yourself about the baby thing?


In Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, the book I reviewed here last week, Tim Kreider, one of the few male authors in the book, says that he makes a point of telling the women he dates early on that he does not intend to have children and that he will not change his mind. “In my experience,” he writes, “people have a bottomless capacity to delude themselves that their partners will eventually change.”
I think this statement is so important to our Childless by Marriage discussion. We do delude ourselves. I know I did. With my first husband, I told myself we would have babies eventually. Maybe we would have if our marriage hadn’t died. My ex didn’t want kids, but he often buckled to pressure from his parents on other subjects and his mother couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. So, maybe. But the evidence doesn’t support that. Now 66 years old, he has been married three times, and he never had any children. Surely at least one of those other wives wanted them, too. But no babies. Dogs yes, children no.
My second husband, Fred, told me he didn’t want any more children. He already had three kids, the oldest already in their late teens. He’d had a vasectomy after his youngest son was born. And yet for years, I did exactly what Tim Kreider said. I deluded myself that somehow something would change and at least one of his sperm would hook up with at least one of my eggs and we’d make babies. Hello, there’s only one Virgin Mary. It did not happen. I menopaused, he died, game over. I’m living alone with a dog.
If you read back through the comments for past posts, there are hundreds, mostly from women, that talk about partners who say they don’t want children. What should I do, they ask. Will he change his mind? He says he might be ready in a few years. He said we’d do it right after X, and now he says no. He won’t talk about it. Etc.
You can’t blame people for hoping. Sometimes their partners are not clear about what they want. Maybe they don’t even know. Sometimes things happen and people change their minds. But when a person says flat out that he or she does not want to have babies with you and they’re not going to change their minds, I think we have to believe that they mean it and that being with them means you will not have children. If that is not acceptable, don’t delude yourself into thinking things will change. Either accept it or move on.
It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. What do you think about this? I welcome your comments.

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.

How do you begin to heal from childless grief?

Grief. My 2007 post about childless grief has been the most clicked and commented on over the last seven years. Readers continue to pour out heartbreaking stories about being denied the chance to have children and finding the loss unbearable. They write, “I don’t know what to do.” “I can’t go on.” “My heart is breaking.” I tell them I’m sorry. I tell them I’m praying for them. I urge them to find someone to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist. I tell them to keep talking with their spouse; don’t hurt in silence.

The pain is real. The loss is real. You are trying to figure out how to live without the family and the life you thought you would have. It’s not just the children. It’s not just grandchildren and descendants through the ages. It’s also a way of life, an identity as a mother or father, an experience that most people have and you never will.

How do you begin to heal? What do you do with this pain? A reader recently suggested that I write about this. In the next few posts, we will look at ways to heal. Even if you do eventually have children, you won’t forget the years when you thought you never would, so healing is needed.

The stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can be applied here: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial: He’ll change his mind. We’ll do IVF. I’ll get pregnant by accident. She’s 43, but it’s not too late. We all do this. We think a miracle will happen, and we will have a baby. While we’re waiting for that miracle, our lives are passing us by.

Anger: It’s his/her/God’s fault, and I am so pissed. He cheated me out of my chance to be a mother. She’s too selfish to give me the children I always wanted. I never should have married this @#$%. I’m an idiot. And God, you suck.

Bargaining: I’ll let him get his degree/sports car/trip to Europe, and then we’ll get pregnant. If I get a second job, she’ll change her mind. If we move to Cleveland, which I hate, he’ll let us have a baby.

Depression: I am so sad I can’t go on. I want to have babies. I want them so bad I die every time I hear about somebody else having a baby. My friends and my sisters are all having kids, and I feel so left out. They just don’t understand. Nobody understands. I’m never going to have children, and my life is ruined.

Acceptance: They say you have to hit bottom before you can start working your way out of your troubles. One day, you will begin to see that although you don’t have children, life has many other good things to offer: a partner who loves you., great food, blue skies and green trees, work you enjoy, a house you love, hobbies. friends, God. You realize lots of other people do not have children and live happy, successful lives, and you can, too. You still wish you had children, but life goes on whether you’re a parent or not.

As anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows, we don’t progress through the stages of grief in a straight line. One day you’re feeling acceptance; the next day you’re back at depression or anger or denial. I still feel sad sometimes, and sometimes I cry and punch things because I’m furious at how my life worked out. But the acceptance grows with time until it becomes your usual mood.

In coming posts, we will look at alternate life plans,  ceremonies and rituals to let go of grief, and more steps to take toward healing.

Please forgive me if my posts are not quite on time this month. I’ve been in California taking care of my father, who broke his hip, and there is no Wi-Fi at his house. But I will not desert you. You are all in my thoughts and prayers as we heal together.

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick

What do the men say about being childless by marriage?


Is Childless by Marriage just for women? No, definitely not. Sometimes it seems as if this is an all-girls site, but I welcome men as well as women. Both men and women struggle with the same issues about children. One wants them and the other doesn’t. One can’t have them, and the other can’t imagine life without them. The relationship, the engagement, or the marriage is in danger. Should they go? Should they stay? Sometimes I wish we were back in the olden days when everybody who got married had kids, and if they didn’t want children, they didn’t get married.
Of course men are not the ones who get pregnant, and they are not the ones whose fertility ends in their 40s, so that part is different, but their comments sound pretty similar to the ones I get from women.
Let me share a few of the men’s comments I have received lately. I encourage you readers to respond to each other. I don’t have all the words of wisdom. You can find all of these comments under the post, If You Disagree About Children, is Your Relationship Doomed? 
Anonymous said…
Hello, I don’t know if this post is strictly for women but I’m a 37 year old male with 45 year old gf. We’ve been friends since I was 27 but began dating at 30. I’ve never been married and I have no kids, she has been married and has 2 kids which both are now married. She has 2 grandkids, a 2 year old and a newborn. I didn’t begin to think about kids until her first grandson was born but she was 42 at the time. Now at 45 it would be a high risk. Friends and co workers around us are having kids left and right and I can’t deny that it is eating me inside. She said that it’s written all over my face when we see a baby and or her grandkids. She wants me to be happy and is willing to sacrifice by losing me, I just don’t know if I’m willing to lose her for the chance of having a child. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Anonymous:
Hi, My wife is leaving me because I don’t want a second child and it’s killing me. I feel I am being punished for that decision. She says she always wanted two but she never talked to me about it, so now I face becoming a part time dad and I don’t know what to do .
Anonymous said…
Hello everyone, I am going through a terrible situation with my girlfriend. We have been together for 7 years now. We are both immigrants (she is from Russia and I am from Brazil) who live in Los Angeles. I am 32 and she is 35. Her mother passed away in 2010 due to a brain tumor. Since then she has become addicted to the idea of having a child. At the moment I do not feel that crazy desire to be a father. I moved to the U.S. kind of late in life at 25 and I am just now transferring to a four-year university to get a degree in business. I have a degree in Physical Education from Brazil, but the hassle to get it validated here was so time consuming that I decided to do something else. I am also not happy with my career because my work is unstable and the pay is very low. On the other hand, she moved here when she was 13 and had her whole education in the U.S. She is very successful in her career and she is stable financially. Four years ago I asked her to help me to pay for school so I could finish faster but she said she was not interested to spend her money like that.
It made me concerned because if she wants a family with me, how is going to be when the kid arrives? I have no financial means to provide for a kid. Not even half of the bills for a child. It really scares me that I may find myself in a situation where I won’t be able to support my son/daughter. I am feeling terrible because I cannot make her happy. I can see that she resents me because she picks up fights all the time for silly reasons. The other night she said that is better for us to go apart. I just cried for the whole day and I am feeling lonely and worthless. It kills me that I am not enough for her and that I cannot make her happy. She said that she wants me to be a stay in dad, but I am very independent and I believe that I must have a career. It would be better for both of us if I have one. I fear that once the baby arrives she will just break up with me and leave in a difficult situation. I would not be able to abandon a child.
I moved here on my own and I have no family in the states. Our relationship was one of the main reasons that made me stay in the country. I also understand that she is coming close to 40 and that it might become harder to become pregnant, but she does not want to wait any longer. Am I being a jerk or too selfish? It is just killing me that the whole focus of my adult life is coming to an end. I just want her to be happy and she deserves all the best. It just hurts that I am not good enough. I believe that the best should be to leave her alone and not interfere on her life. I want her dreams to come true. I wish I could have a normal job so I could help and give her what she wants. I struggled financially since I got here. It took me 7 years to get a green card and now (after 9 years) things are getting better. I just don’t want to struggle right now and I want to get my college degree before a kid. What should I do? 
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Well, dear readers, what do you think? I welcome your comments.