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.

What would you tell these childless readers?


Dear readers,

            Nearly every day, my inbox includes comments from people responding to my January 2013 post titled, “If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed?” The details vary, but the basic problem is the same: One person in the relationship is unable or unwilling to have children. Often the problem arises after they have been together for a long time. They may be married, engaged or living together, but now the commenters are torn between the mates they have and the children they always wanted to have. They don’t know what to do. My advice is usually about the same: You have to choose, and you have to talk about it. I say I’m praying for them–and I am, for all of you.

But that doesn’t feel like enough. I know people who have chosen the man or woman over the children and lived happy lives. I have also seen situations where the problem festered and the relationship failed.

Today I share some of these comments because I hope you will read them and respond. If you have made the choice, how did it work out? If not, how are you dealing with it? What advice would you give these readers?

 Thank you. I treasure you all.

Anonymous said…

Hello, I’m 23 and my partner is 27, we are engaged to be married next year and have been in our relationship for nearly seven years (he was my first boyfriend). Just two days ago, he dropped the bombshell that he doesn’t want children now and isn’t sure if he ever will. I have recently found out that I have some issues with fertility and may find it difficult to conceive. So he knows my clock is ticking to start trying.

He is the love of my life, and I cannot stand the thought of losing him. Our relationship is perfect. Everyone loves him. He is great with our young nephews and would make a great dad.

The problem is he wants me to be happy, and he thinks the only way I can be is if I have children. But I’m not confident I can be happy without him. He hasn’t said he doesn’t EVER want them, just he doesn’t know if he will. I have never felt pain like it. I feel as though my whole world has ended.

We have cancelled the wedding until we know we want the same thing, which was very hard for me to do.

I feel guilty because I think to myself if he loved me, truly loved me, would he not give me the one thing that would make my happiness complete? I know I can’t force him into it and he is not ready but how can I end something because he MIGHT never be ready? And how do I risk staying if he never will be?

We are looking at relationship counseling, but I’m not sure what good it will do. I feel drained. I don’t think I can live without him but I don’t want to live the rest of our lives with resentment.

Anonymous said…

Reading through this thread has helped me feel like I’m not alone in this struggle. I’m a 46-year-old man who’s thinking about becoming a father for the first time. My wife of 20 years has always known she does not want children. Eleven years ago, I had similar thoughts and explored the options but chose to stay with her instead. Perhaps this is a mid-life thing where I’m looking back over the first half of my life and wondering if I’m missing out? I’ve always known I would be a good father. I’m patient, kind, and generous. People have always told me I’m like a old wise soul. I rarely give advice, instead choosing to be a good listener and help people make their own decisions.

Lately, I’m worried that I’m going to regret not having raised a child. I have no romantic ideas about it. I’ve seen friends and family struggle, so I know it’s not all fun and games. But I’m still drawn to the possibilities in the richness of the experience, and with passing on my values and way of life to another person. I feel drawn to the idea of choosing to raise a child with someone who shares my values not because it’s “the next thing to do” like I see so many people doing, but because I want the experience. To learn. To love. To know.

Bringing this up again after being together for 20 years has caused a tremendous amount of pain. I absolutely know this will end our life together and it hurts so much. We are seeking some counseling both individually and together and we’ll see where I’m at with this in six months. No need to make rash decisions, you know? But for me at least, I know if I decide to do this, my relationship with a wonderful woman is certainly doomed.

Anonymous said…

I’m 32 and my boyfriend is 33. We’ve been dating for a year. When we met, he seemed like he shared my goal to have kids one day. Three months ago, he said he’s not sure, that his feelings for me made him think it’s possible, but he’s never wanted them before. He assured me he thought it was an age/timing thing. Then this week, he said he’s been lying to himself out of desire to keep me. But he never wants them, because of his past (tough childhood).

Of course I was angry. Things would be different if we met from the get-go. I’ve always thought I’d have kids, and I do like kids. But the past year has been the happiest of my life. I feel he’s the right person and I would not find someone better for me.

I am contemplating giving up on kids and continuing with him. We are on a one-week break to think about this. He feels terrible for having put me in the situation, and believes that if we continue, I will change my mind and he will only hurt me more. He wants me to make sure I can be okay with this forever. The problem is I can guarantee that’s okay now but not if I will ever feel different.

So my question to people who gave up on kids for the sake of the man they met: did you have a fulfilling marriage? Is it possible to be happy and change your vision of the future? Or did some of you regret, resent, or change your mind later?

What do you say, my friends? 

 

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 girlfriend. 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 two kids who both are now married. She has two 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, pregnancy 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 seven 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 fights all the time for silly reasons. The other night she said that it 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 me 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 seven years to get a green card and now (after nine 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.