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?”

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.

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? 
***
Well, dear readers, what do you think? I welcome your comments. 

Is he worth it?

By the time Fred let me know that he didn’t want any more children, I was in love with him and we were planning to get married. That left me with a difficult choice: stay with the man I loved or leave him in the hope I would find someone else who wanted children. I chose Fred.

It’s a terrible choice to have to make. I interviewed another woman last week who found herself in a similar predicament except that they were already married. At first, neither she nor her husband had much interest in having children. However, she gradually changed her mind. He didn’t. In fact, when she confessed her desire for babies, he stood firm, telling her that if she couldn’t live without being a mother, she would have to find someone else. She chose to stay with her husband. Not having children causes her great pain, but she’s certain she made the right decision.

Another woman told me she had left her home in another country to be with the man she loved. Only after she had said goodbye to home, family and job did he inform her that the daughter he had from a previous marriage was all the children he wanted. When I talked to her,she was still trying to decide what to do, knowing she was running out of time if she wanted to conceive a child.

Every woman I know who is childless by marriage has heard the suggestion that she forget her birth control accidentally on purpose and get pregnant. Once that happened, he would come around. But we all know that’s not necessarily true. Besides, how could you trick someone you love on a matter that is so important?

Women are not the only ones in this predicament. Sometimes it’s the man who wants children and finds that his wife/partner does not. So how do you decide? What do you think? Is it worth dropping an otherwise wonderful partner to look for someone who is willing to have children?