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.

Stay or Go? No Easy Answers

 

Dear readers,

My life recently has been blessedly free of childless drama, so I’m going to let some of you talk today. Whenever I post about deciding whether or not to stay in a childless relationship, readers comment at length. (See Stay in a Relationship Without Kids or Go?)That’s the key question for so many. Do I stay or go? Do I accept a childless marriage with the person I love or take a chance on finding someone else? And sometimes the question comes from the other direction. The person writing is the one who doesn’t want to have children and worries about ruining the other person’s life. All the while, the biological clock is ticking. Listen here to Amanda, Kathy with a K and Cathy with a C. Their comments have been shortened a bit.

Amanda:

Dear Sue, I need help with my thought process and how I actually REALLY feel about the potential of being a parent. I’m very confused and quite honestly I could go either way with it but the fact that I won’t have forever to decide leaves me feeling a little anxious and maybe even feeling some sadness for what reason I have no idea why! I have been with my husband for six years and we just got married last year. He is quite literally my best friend, soulmate and partner in life. We have an amazing connection on so many levels in our relationship but I will say we have a lot of ups and downs. The passion and love is intense at times and I can’t imagine my life without him even when we are in the midst of a heated argument I know it will blow over and we will soon be back on the right page together in each other’s arms smiling and laughing once again.

When I first met my husband, I told him the idea of getting married and/or having kids was not appealing to me. Obviously when he proposed, two years later, I said yes, and we planned a beautiful dream-come-true wedding in Hawaii. My husband is 53, and I am approaching 30 (aka: biological clock-ticking age). I say this only because at 53 my husband is in no place with his age to want or need to be a new father. He has a son who is currently 20 and at the state university to become a pharmacist. Lee and his son are very close, he is a loving, caring and nurturing father, and his son is such a great “kid”.

Recently I noticed a sudden curiosity around motherhood. I think it began when I was 10 days late with my last period and a couple of the months prior it had been very light. I wondered if I was pregnant and I procrastinated taking a test because I was too afraid to find out. During that time of waiting I found myself thinking about what it might be like or could be like to have a mini-me/Lee running around, making us smile and laugh and bringing such joy and blessing to our lives. How my stepson would potentially love having a little brother/sister.

I cannot believe my thoughts have headed in this direction. One thing that recently hit me was the fact that my husband will likely be a grandfather someday very soon-maybe in the next 10 years. My stepson is with an amazing, beautiful, smart, energetic and good girl and I could see them getting married and having a beautiful family. I guess it freaks me out in a way because how would that feel being a step-grandma without ever having had any little ones of my own?

I still cannot fathom having kids of my own AT THIS POINT…. BUT WHAT IF in 3-5 years when I’m in my mid-30’s that urge kicks into full force?! What then? Start over? On my own. Single. Divorced. For what? The POSSIBILITY of meeting a great guy, who wants marriage and kids… And maybe doesn’t already have an ex, and kids already?! Shit. Seems like a lot to leave my husband- the loving, kind, devoted, beautiful soul of a man- to give him up for something that might not even happen, like you said, “the gamble”, not to mention AM I EVEN FERTILE? I know he will not change his mind. Even though he laughs and giggles when I tease him with “let’s make a baby” or “put a bun in my oven”, he laughs because he knows I am kidding about wanting to make love.

My husband is much older and could literally die first and leave me all alone with nothing and nobody! I feel so torn. I do NOT know what to do. The only thing I can do at this point is rely on the small tiny chance that somewhere down the road my husband will not pull out in time, and as a result we will be pregnant. He has already told me he clearly does NOT want more children (understandably so) and that he would understand if I did, and he would allow me to go on and pursue that dream. Of course he understands that if I got pregnant he would not leave me, he would stay by my side as husband and be the good father he already is, but he will not willingly give up his sperm to purposefully make a mother out of me.

It seems unfair that if the day ever came that I was truly willing, ready and able to procreate, that I would suddenly ditch and divorce such a loyal, faithful, devoted man, (especially because he wouldn’t divorce me if I got pregnant) but what I can’t wrap my head around is why he would be OK with me leaving him to go off and make a baby?! He told me that he knew that was a risk falling in love with & marrying a younger woman- that I might want to leave him for babies someday. I know I’ll never change his mind. So what the eff is my problem? Why am I worried about this now? Maybe I should not worry until IF the time actually ever does come THEN stress about this… Just worried it will be too late by then. I’ve always been the last to show up to the party, the chronic procrastinator, this is something you can’t really wait around on, right? HELP!

Kathy:

Amanda, I’m in a similar situation as you, only I’m 10 years older than you. My husband is 15 years older than I am. He has a 20-year-old from a previous marriage. We’ve been together for 14 years. We are the best of friends and still passionately in love. And I’m quite close to his daughter.

BUT… Before we got married, he always said he wanted more kids and then got cold feet after we got married. So slightly different situation than yours, but I was ambivalent about having kids just like you are, so I just kind of shrugged it off. But I will always regret letting someone else make a life-altering decision for me.

Now that I’m 43, I’m broken-hearted, and I feel like I wasted my life. And I keep thinking about the fact that my husband had a child with someone who was awful to him and then denied me the right to have children. Even though I’ve been nothing but good to him. This is a tough pill to swallow. This is the same pill you will eventually have to swallow. Take a second to make sure you can emotionally handle that.

My advice to you is to “talk” to future you. Look around and ask yourself if you’re completely OK with being alone as you age. Will you be able to find meaning in your life if you don’t have children? Only you can answer that.

In my situation, I just kept kind of living day to day – having a good time with my husband, but not planning for my emotional future. I had a real wake-up call a few months ago when I started skipping periods and realized it’s the start of menopause – even though I’m an athlete who is still in top shape, my fertile years are over just like that.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see someone who wasted her life needlessly. I didn’t examine whether I really wanted children because I wanted to be with my husband. Now I look back at the person I was and want to scream “RUN” to her. Even though I love my husband. Even though my life is perfect in every other way. I still feel like I am not a whole person. And being a step parent or step grandparent is not the same – even in the best of scenarios, like mine.

My advice is that only you know yourself, but if you have even the slightest fear that you’ll end up like I feel, RUN. You can learn to love someone else, but you can’t go back in time to have children when you’re older. My cousin found himself in a marriage with someone who realized she didn’t want kids, and he left. That was 25 years ago. He now has a wonderful family with three happy, successful kids. So it can happen for you if that’s what you want.

I can’t tell you if you’ll be filled with regret. Some people aren’t. You might be perfectly fine with not having kids, and that’s a very valid choice. I’m not you. But I desperately hope you’ll make a decision that sits well with future you. Because once it’s over, it’s over.

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not what 29-year-old me would have wanted to hear. But nobody took the time to tell me this might be a possible outcome, so I’m taking the time to tell you.

Cathy:

Wow. I’m on the opposite side of the coin. I had my son at 20, I’m now 36. I met my husband at 21 and have been with him ever since. He has wanted kids since we got married in 2008. I don’t want any more kids.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was able to go to school, work and raise a baby. At 36 I can barely stay awake past 10. My son is going to graduate high school next year (a year ahead) and we’ll be free to travel and enjoy life- no diapers, formula, sleepless nights, teething, crankiness, etc. etc. We can spend money on luxury items whereas most of our friends spend all they earn on daycare and the baby.

I’m one of the lucky ones- no stretch marks, veins, weight gain, no gray hairs (my sis had gray hair right after birth at 28) etc., I bounced right back within 4 months ( I didn’t breast feed though so I calorie restricted). I feel like if I had a baby at 36 I would never be that lucky, it would destroy my body.

My husband doesn’t agree, having his own kid means everything to him. I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to lose him but I don’t want to resent the baby or my husband either. It’s not easy on either side.

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Now it’s your turn. Feel free to join the conversation.

 

 

The Big Gamble: Should You End the Relationship to Have Babies?

Should I leave my otherwise good relationship in the hope of finding someone else I can make babies with? That’s the question people ask the most in the comments at this blog. I can’t answer that question. There are so many other questions to be answered first. How bad do you want to have children? Are you 100 percent sure it will never happen in your current relationship? Are you otherwise happy with your partner or would it end between you anyway? What if you never find someone and you end up alone?

I can’t answer any of these questions either. I know what happened with me. The first marriage without children was doomed from the start because my husband cheated on me and the only place we got along was in bed. By the time I got to the second marriage, after a couple more failed relationships, I was sure I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I wouldn’t even have cats because I was allergic. So when Fred came along, we were such a good match, I accepted that we wouldn’t have children together and was glad to be a pseudo mom with his kids. A close friend has a similar story except that her first husband was abusive. Her second husband, Roy, had three kids, and my friend was content not to have any of her own. But our first marriages were bad to begin with, and not everybody finds a Fred or a Roy.

What if the relationship you’re in now is good, really good, except for this one issue of having children? Let’s look at it from the view of my mother’s generation. If one’s partner turned out to be infertile, one did not leave. If one of the people was infertile, then the couple was infertile. They adopted or accepted their childless status together. They didn’t dump the first spouse as a defective model and find a new one. As for someone declaring he or she didn’t want to have children? We didn’t hear much about that? If they were having sex, they were probably going to have kids because birth control was not nearly as easy to get.

Being older than most of you, I was sort of on the cusp of the old way. A certain family member urged me to get pregnant “by accident” and then everything would fall into place. Not likely, but life seemed so much less complicated then. Marriage, babies, the house with the picket fence . . . okay, I know it was probably not that simple, but I’m trying to make a point. Are we too ready to bail on our relationships now? Or should we get out quickly, before it’s too late to have babies? Which bring us back to our original question, to which I do not have the answers.

Here are some articles to read that might offer some answers or raise more questions.

“The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages,” Psychology Today. Sobering facts to ponder before you dump your partner.

“8 Tough Truths to Consider When Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids,” Huffington Post. This writer really does give you some answers or at least a path to finding them. Read this and do some soul-searching.

“I left the husband I loved because he refused to have children (and had IVF twins alone)” There’s another way to go, as this Daily Mail piece describes. Would you be willing to have children on your own if you don’t find the ideal partner?

This subject is too big for one post. I know many of you are in pain over this issue and agonizing over what to do. Please read and comment and we’ll come back to this next time. Thank you all for being here.

How do you answer those nosy questions about babies?

A Facebook rant by Emily Bingham  about people who ask her when she’s going to have a baby went viral last month. She wants all those who keep asking to know, “It’s none of your business.” Read all about it here.

We’ve all heard the questions. The second you get married, people want to know when you’re going to have a baby. If you’re pushing 30, they start warning that you’re running out of time. Your parents rag on you about giving them grandchildren. Well-meaning friends who have children urge you to get busy and start making babies so you can raise them together. These days, even if you’re single, people may encourage you to adopt or get pregnant with a donor.

But Bingham is right. It’s none of their freaking business.

The questions don’t stop after you reach menopause. People assume that you, like most folks, have children. They want to know how many, how old, where do they live, are you a grandparent yet, etc. Yes, I’m sorry, but it never stops.

The worst time for these questions is when you’re still trying to figure it all out. As Bingham writes, you may be struggling with infertility, having marital problems, or aren’t sure whether you both want children. Just asking the question may trigger a wave of grief or anger.

And how do you answer? Have you ever said, “That’s none of your business?” Or do you dodge around the question. “Well, we aren’t quite ready yet.” Do you blame your partner? “I want kids, but Joe says he doesn’t.” Do you make a joke, maybe saying, “We’ve decided dogs are easier.”

In my fertile days, I used the “not ready” answer for a long time. Sometimes I implied that I had health problems. Sometimes I blamed my lousy husband for not wanting kids. Now that it’s a done deal, I have better answers. With my churchy friends, I can say, “God had other plans for me.” With others, I answer honestly, then change the subject. “Nope. No kids. So, you have four, huh?”

Some people claim their pets as children. Some say they’re too busy to have kids. Some say they don’t have room in their lives for both their work and children. And of course there’s the “childfree” crowd who proudly state that they never wanted children.

But how many of us say, “You know, that’s kind of private. Let’s talk about something else.” Or, “That’s none of your damned business.”

What do you say when people start getting nosy? One of the people I interviewed for my book, when asked why she didn’t have children, answered, “Because I’ve seen yours.” Let’s build a list of good comebacks in the comments.

Wanting babies but using birth control

Shortly after my boyfriend introduced me to sex, I found myself in the stirrups at the college health center getting my first prescription for birth control pills. I was still living at home, so I couldn’t possibly tell my parents about having sex or needing contraception. When my first prescription led to my first yeast infection, I had no idea what was going on and let it go way too long. That was the first of three different pills and some terrible side effects. It turned out The Pill and I were not compatible, so I switched to condoms and diaphragms, those rubber disks you fill with spermicidal jelly and slip up your vagina just before intercourse.

I wanted babies, but I didn’t want to be an “unwed mother,” as they were called in the days when it was a scandal. When I was married, my first husband kept saying not yet, not yet, not yet, until he just said no.He made sure I had my diaphragm in before we had sex. No accidental babies allowed. Divorce followed, for other reasons. Single again, I put that diaphragm to good use with other men. On my first date with Fred, who became my second husband, we were doubly covered because I used my diaphragm and he had his vasectomy, which I didn’t know about yet.

I wanted babies but avoided the chance of having them, except for a couple slips with one boyfriend, after which I prayed for my period to start. Birth control wasn’t so easy in my early days of adulthood. A lot of things we can buy over the counter now required getting a prescription and facing a certain amount of disapproval. Now they sell condoms at the grocery store.

Looking back, It seems crazy. All those years of pills, condoms and jelly to prevent something I really wanted and expected to have in my life. It was also against my religion, but I didn’t even know that then. Nobody spelled out the rules, and even if they had, religion did not speak as loudly as the parents who told me my life would be ruined if I got pregnant outside of marriage and the men who wanted to have sex but not babies.

I got to thinking about this because my subscription to wedmd.com recently brought a fascinating link to my attention recently. It’s a slide show that looks at birth control through the ages. This is all back before most modern methods existed. They seem kind of crazy now. Take a look.

I would love to know about your relationships with birth control. What have you used? How faithfully have you used it? Have you ever tried to sneak in some unprotected sex in the hope of getting pregnant? Men are welcome to offer their point of view, too. You can be anonymous. Your mother will never know.