I Finally Stopped Blaming My Husband

Readers: Today we have a guest post by Sharilee Swaity who has published a new book about second marriages. See the link at the end of this post. I already ordered my copy. I think you’ll like this post and you’ll probably have few things to say about it. Enjoy.–Sue

me -- purple shirtFirst, I just wanted to thank Sue so much for allowing me space on her blog to share my story. I have been reading “Childless by Marriage” for a few years now and it was the only place that seemed to understand my feelings on this topic. This is the story of how I came to a greater place of acceptance regarding my spouse’s decision to not have children again.

He was Sorry

One sweltering summer evening, not too long ago, I looked over at my macho husband as he lay quietly on our bed.  With tears in his eyes, he told me he was sorry. That he loved me and knew I deserved children but he just couldn’t do it. This time I listened and finally believed him.

The “having kids argument” had been a constant in our marriage, pulled out of the closet once every two or three months, a battle with no winners and sure tears, hurt feelings and harsh words.

My tirade was sometimes triggered by the sight of a friend with eight kids bragging about their latest escapades. Or the changes in my body that signaled I was getting closer and closer to that time when having children would no longer be an option. Sometimes it was brought on by the difficulties of step parenting his children, a reminder of the lack of my own.

I would come to him, irate, pleading with him, “Don’t you love me? Don’t I deserve children, like every other woman?” My husband would look sad, avoiding my gaze and sitting quietly, his head hanging in shame.

Despite the hurt I saw on his face, the words would always spill out, the darkest thoughts of my heart, that were usually kept tucked safely away.

I am Childless By Marriage

You see, my husband has kids. I do not. I am, as the title of this blog so aptly describes, “childless by marriage.” I have stepchildren, whom I have taken as my own, but they are not mine. I love them dearly but they are their mom’s. And their Dad’s.

When my husband and I got married nine years ago, it was with the understanding that my husband was not able to have any more children because he was not physically able. It was a second marriage for both of us and he came into the marriage with children and a vasectomy.

When I found out about reversal surgery and came to an understanding that it would be theoretically possible for him to maybe have children, I asked him to undertake the procedure. He refused and I felt hurt and angry. Even though the chances of a successful reversal were almost nil and it would have cost $10,000 we did not have, I could not let it go, until that night.

What I came to realize in those few seconds that my husband pleaded with me, with pain in his gaze, is that not only is he physically unable to have children, but he is emotionally unable.

As a child, my husband went through a traumatic inter-racial adoption. He was ripped away from his biological mother at the point when he should have done his strongest bonding. After losing her at one year old, he did not meet her again until he was eighteen years old. He was adopted into a nice family, but he never felt quite connected with either family in the way that most of us take for granted.

Years later, he went through a divorce where he felt ripped away from his own children. Twice he lost a connection that should have been fundamental. Twice his heart was torn out of his chest. And he couldn’t do it again. For him, the thought of having children was irrevocably linked with certain loss.

His Pain Was Real

The moment I believed him, something changed in me and I saw beyond my own pain to see that his pain was devastatingly real, too. And I heard a still, small voice telling me to love him, embrace him. He was the one right in front of me that needed my love. There was no child–but there was him.

I saw with fresh eyes that his fear was just too strong. Just as I could never walk along the ledge of a vertical cliff, or enter a cave filled with bats, he can never again risk losing the most precious thing in his life.

I knew that I had to stop. Stop pushing him to do something that he couldn’t. Stop wishing for something that I didn’t have while ignoring the man that God had placed in my life.

What I saw in that moment of epiphany was that loving this man meant embracing him, fears and all. It meant accepting him, as he accepted me. I looked at him with eyes of compassion and felt a deep sense of connection with this man who loved me.

Does it mean I will never long for a child again or feel a wave of sadness when another acquaintance pops out a baby? Probably not. My own grief about missing out on children is complex and will probably still take time to work out. What it does mean, though, is that I intend to stop blaming him for my state. Blaming him for his brokenness. Blaming him for my own brokenness.

About the Author

Sharilee Swaity has been married to her husband for nine years now. She has two adult stepchildren and two cats. She spends her days writing and marketing her writing. Her book, “Second Marriage: An Insider’s Guide to Hope, Healing & Love” was published in April 2017, and is on sale this week on Amazon for $0.99. The book focuses on helping couples who are in a second marriage work through some of the common issues such as healing from the past, accepting their situation and loving their spouse. Sharilee also writes at her blog, Second Chance Love.

To get her free mini eBook for connecting with your spouse when you have no time, sign up here.

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Men Hurt Over Childlessness, Too

Dear friends,

We get a lot of comments from women whose male partners don’t want children or can’t have them. Either they were open about it from the start or they changed their mind somewhere along the way. It’s easy to get mad at these men and blame them for everything. But sometimes the situation is reversed.

About a year ago, Anonymous wrote:

I’m a 34 year old childless man. My wife has two boys from her previous marriage, and due to health issues is infertile. Though I’ve always wanted a child, I delayed it as some do, waiting for the ‘right’ time, financial stability, etc, etc. However, the older I have gotten, the stronger the desire has grown. Now, the powerful sadness of not having a child, of not feeling a real part of our family, and the resentment and feeling second class to my stepsons’ father and my wife as the biological parents has begun to consume me and bring about a depression that I didn’t know was possible.

I have always had a great desire for us to be as close to a conventional family as possible. I’ve poured my heart, soul, years, resources, time into it, yet the results I hoped for always eluded me. The father pays no child support, and it falls to me provide, clothe, and care for the boys, which I happily do. But doing homework with them, but never allowed to a teacher conference, maintaining all responsibilities of a parent but I’m not and never will be called ‘Dad’, is a torture that I’m not familiar with. Simply, I feel resentful, hurt, and lonely from what I perceive my role to be: second class, outsider, not good enough.

No matter what I do, I’ll never have the bond my wife does with her ex. I’ll never have those experiences with her, and it’s hitting me for the first time that this is my reality. I love my wife dearly, which is perhaps an aggravating circumstance to my emotion. It’s my own fault for making the choices in life I have. I just hoped for more, and I’m understanding that that hope was foolish.

Thank you for providing a venue to vent…..this has been eating me alive. I’ve browsed your blog and it helps to know that it isn’t just me, that maybe I’m not completely weird in my feelings.

More recently, Tony had this to say:

I got married very late in life, 42 and my wife, or soon to be ex was 45. She had two boys from her first marriage. We agreed at the time that we wouldn’t have kids because it’s hard for women over 40 to have healthy kids. I was quite heavy (360 lbs) and wasn’t as attractive as I was in my younger years. Then I was ok with not having my own kids. Some years later, I had weight loss surgery and lost 150 lbs. We lost a grandbaby five years ago and my wife went into a tailspin. My youngest stepson and his wife had two boys and while I care for them, I don’t love them like my own. I’ve tried and I can’t. I resent being around them and knowing that none of my DNA is in them. This may sound ugly, so be it. They are my feelings and I don’t apologize for them. I’m 63 and my wife is 66. She’s let herself go and I’m in the gym EVERYDAY ! I’ve met someone many years younger whom I’ve fallen in love with and who can and will give me children. My own DNA, my sperm produced children. I know many people may hate me for this. Again, so be it. But what am I supposed to do. Stay married to my soon to be ex and resent that I never had my own kids? Or do what my heart and soul are telling me to do?

I responded that it looks like he already knows what he’s going to do. It does sound ugly, but people feel what they feel.

Here’s another situation for which you might feel more sympathetic. Author Elliot Jager has written a book about being a childless Orthodox Jew. The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness describes how not having children turns him into an outcast in his religion. In his case, he is infertile. He and his wife have tried all the options, and they haven’t worked. “In Judaism,” he writes, “having children is seen as a blessing. But someone who doesn’t have children isn’t seen as being unblessed, but as being actually punished.”

Jager notes that just because men might not talk about it, they do feel the sting of childlessness.

I think that’s true, and it’s not just in the Jewish faith. I’m Catholic, and I can tell you that both men and women who don’t have children often feel like they don’t fit in. But it’s not just at church. The subject can arise at work and in social settings, too. “Hey, Jack, bring the wife and kids.” But Jack doesn’t have any kids. Men might share in the jokes about male body parts that follow, but they may be hurting on the inside.

We women want to claim all the childless grief because we’re the ones who carry the babies in our wombs, but men are part of the story, too.

What do think about all this? I’d love to read your comments.