Another Man Drops the No-Kids Bomb

Yesterday at lunch I heard that a friend’s daughter’s fiancé has announced he does not want to have children. The person telling me this didn’t want me to say anything about it, and he quickly changed the subject. He was probably supposed to keep it a secret. And he probably didn’t understand why I got so angry.

Why does this happen so much? People keep writing to me about mates who won’t procreate. They share heartbreaking stories, and I don’t know how to comfort them. They ask whether they should leave and look for someone else to make babies with or stay and remain childless. Or will he/she maybe change their mind? They tell me about forced abortions and failed fertility treatments, about parents who complain about not having grandchildren, and about how awful they feel at baby showers and other child-centered events. I remember how I felt in my 30s and 40s. So hurt, so angry. Age has made it easier, but it still hurts. Just last week, I saw a young man down the street and realized I could have had a grandson that age, and oh God, I wanted so bad for it to be true.

I realized that my lunch companions knew nothing about my Childless by Marriage book or this blog. They knew I didn’t have kids, but they didn’t know why. They were both great-grandparents with pictures on their phones to show me. In their world, everyone has children, including people who probably shouldn’t.

I could see they were not following me, so I shut up, but I’m still angry. I have known this young engaged woman since she was little. She’s smart, beautiful, funny and loving. She lived with her fiancé a long time before he proposed marriage. She left her home and family to live on the other side of the U.S. with him. The wedding is soon. She has already made the arrangements, already bought her dress. Now he tells her he doesn’t want children? What is she supposed to do now? I want to throttle the guy. What right does he have to take motherhood away from her? I hope he changes his tune, but the fact that he said it will always be hanging out there. He’s not old, does not have kids from another marriage. So what’s the deal?

I hate that this keeps happening.

I’m telling a story that isn’t mine to tell, but I can’t help it.  It’s just not fair.

I know you understand.

You’ve got to ask the hard questions

Two days ago, Richa wrote:

I am going through the worst pain of my life. On second day of my marriage my husband told me that he already has two kids so he would not want kids from me. It came to me very shocking. He just announced his decision and never thought what I wanted. Today after 4 years of marriage I keep fighting for kids but he just turns a deaf ear. I have started having menopause and he never ever discusses anything about my pain of being infertile. Many times I talk abt out adoption but he doesn’t even wanna do anything about it.
I loved him but I hate him for this. I am really not a risk taker and because of insecurities that life offers I continue to live with him. But it is really difficult to forgive him for all this.

On the second day of their marriage???

As someone far removed from the situation, I’m thinking I’d be screaming, “Annulment!” But then I try to put myself in her situation on that day. She loves this man. For months or maybe years, she has been planning this wedding and this life together. Now, with the wedding dress not yet put away, the gifts not yet all opened, the ring still new and shiny on her finger, her new husband drops this bomb. She feels stuck. Heartbroken. Disbelieving. Surely he doesn’t mean it. He’ll change his mind.

He didn’t.

Why didn’t he say something sooner? Did he just realize he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of becoming a father? Was he afraid he’d lose her if he told her the truth? Is he just a jerk?

What would you do if you were that woman? From the comments I have received here at Childless by Marriage, I know that some of you ARE that woman or that man who found out after the wedding that you did not feel the same way about having children.

If you’d like to respond to Richa, go to (https://childlessbymarriageblog.com/2013/02/26/sometimes-childless-grief-is-too-much-to-handle-alone/) and scroll down to the comments.

There are certain questions that need to be asked before a relationship goes too far. Maybe I’m influenced by the finale of “The Bachelor” TV show that happened on Monday. I hope I’m not spoiling anything, but Nick chose Vanessa. Unlike the usual “bachelorettes” who swoon into their engagement as if it were the happy ending of a fairy tale, Vanessa still has lots of questions and concerns and is not ready to plan a wedding until she knows some answers.

I’m with Vanessa. Love is great, but you’ve got to get some things straight before you make a long-term commitment. The following is a list of things you really need to talk about. If your partner refuses, see that as a giant red flag.

  •  How do you feel about having children with me? Do you want them? How soon? How many? What if we have fertility problems? Would you be willing to try in vitro fertilization or other techniques? Would you be willing to adopt children?
  •  Where do you want to live? Would you be willing to relocate? Are there places you would never want to live? Would you be willing to change jobs so we can live where I want or need to be?
  •  What are your goals in life? What do you dream of doing? Do you have a secret desire to be a singer, mountain climber or astronaut? What would you regret never having a chance to do?
  •  Are you religious? What church do you belong to? Would you be open to changing churches or expect me to convert?
  •  Republican or Democrat?
  •  Have you ever been arrested?
  •  Do problems with alcohol, drugs, mental illness or domestic violence run in your family? Do certain diseases run in your family?
  •  How will we handle money? Who will be in charge of the checkbook?
  •  Dog or cat?

It’s funny. We learn our sweethearts’ favorite foods, favorite music, and favorite football teams, but we don’t always know about the things that really matter. If I don’t eat sweet potatoes or okra, so what? But if I won’t set foot in the church that means everything to you, that’s a problem. Likewise, if I say no to the children you have always wanted. Sometimes we don’t ask because we’re afraid the answers will destroy the relationship. They might, but better now than when it’s too late.

So ask the hard questions. Sometimes people will give you the answers you want to hear instead of the honest truth. But push for real answers. It will save a lot of heartache later.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

**************

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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.

Should she stay with her older man?

Today’s topic is young wives and older husbands. Sometimes it goes the other way around but not as often. A new commenter calling herself Anonymous wrote today about her dilemma. Her fiance is 15 years older than she is. He’s perfect in every way except that he doesn’t want to have children. She says she was okay with not having kids before, but now that she has this great man, she’s feeling the baby urge. Now she doesn’t know what to do? Is this relationship worth giving up having children in order to stay together? Sound familiar to anyone?

It’s an impossible question. Nobody has a crystal ball to predict how we will feel in 10, 20 or 30 years. Will he change his mind? Probably not. If he has gotten to 40 or older, he’s going to be pretty sure about his no-kids decision. Either he never wanted children or has already done the dad thing and doesn’t want to start over. Anonymous noted that her fiancé was worried about the financial aspects of parenthood. That makes me cringe. Yes, children are expensive little critters, but that’s not the point, is it? My dog costs me a fortune in vet bills, but I wouldn’t give her up for anything. Not that it’s the same thing.

Marrying a person substantially older includes issues you might not even think about. It’s more than not liking the same music or having different cultural references. His friends are likely to be older, too, and you may feel out of place with them, just as he will with your friends. Your husband and your parents might be closer in age than you are. That’s all just fun little quirks when you’re both relatively young, but as you age, your older partner is likely to experience health problems. He may retire and want to do retired-people things when you’re not even close to old enough. You might find people asking if you’re his daughter. He might even die, as my husband did, leaving you not only childless but alone. Do the math. When you’re 25 and he’s 40, it’s no big deal. But when you’re 55 and he’s 70, it’s different.

So we come down to the main questions: Is he worth it for however many years you have together? Should you leave him for someone who would be your baby daddy? Preferably someone your own age? What if you never find that person?

I never found anyone else I liked as much as Fred. I think I made the right decision, but it’s pretty lonely sometimes.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen. You could live a long wonderful life together, doing all the things people with children don’t have the time or money to do. I know people who have done just that. Or you could spend your life resenting your partner for preventing you from having children. You might also end up alone.

All you can do is look at what you’re feeling now and decide to try it or not.

So, what do you think about all this? Do May-December partnerships work? Should Anonymous stand by her man? I look forward to reading your comments.

 

 

Childless post 550, same question persists

Dear childless friends,

We seem to have discussed everything there is to discuss about being childless by marriage. This is my 550th post! How many times can we go over the “stay or go” dilemma? The mate, usually the man, doesn’t want kids; you do. Should you leave in the hope of finding someone else or stick around and hope that you can live with the decision or, better, change, his mind? The answer is always: Talk to your mate, be honest about how you feel, and decide which you want more, kids or this partner. Unless the relationship is already a mess or you’ve only been dating for a week and a half. Then the answer seems clear to me. Move on!

Funny nobody has written here about having an affair with someone who would be happy to make babies together. Should she leave to be with the potential baby daddy or get pregnant and tell her husband, “Oops, I guess some sperm slipped through all the layers of birth control”? Is nobody doing that, or does that only happen in fiction? You can tell us anonymously in the comments.

I did date someone who tempted me with the babies we could have. I wasn’t married at the time, but technically he was. The kids he had were gorgeous, and he really hated birth control. But no, he was not the right guy. And once I met Fred, I didn’t want any other man. I never considered leaving him to have babies.

It’s all a done deal for me now. My namesake niece, age 29, is going for the mommy job in a different way. She has just been approved to become a foster mother. A child could be arriving any day. She is not married. She works full-time. How she’s going to do this, I don’t know, but she’ll have plenty of help and advice. Her brother and his wife just had a baby last year, and her mom is over the moon with grandmotherhood. Her cousins and friends keep having babies. Being a strong, assertive young woman, she decided to go for it on her own. She is braver than I ever was.

My cousin and his wife just announced their pregnancy on Facebook. I’m glad for them. This will be their second child and it will be great for their daughter to have a little sister. I added my congratulations to the many congrats pouring in. But it’s all very far away, geographically and in terms of life experiences. I can hear the babies crying and the children playing in the distance, but I’m busy with other things. For the most part, I’m happy. Are there times when it hurts? Yes, especially when I see family photos of women my age surrounded by kids and grandkids. All I’ve got is myself and my dog, and she can’t work the camera. But what’s done is done. I curse for a minute and move on.

Speaking of moving on, I’m delighted that Halloween is over. Aren’t you? This morning, I saw my first TV Christmas ad for kids’ toys. Yikes.

So readers, what have we not talked about here? What concerns about your childless life would you like to see discussed? I’m here for you.

Go or Stay? Readers Keep Asking

Should I leave the person I love in the hope I can find someone else who is willing to have children with me? That question comes up over and over in the comments here. Sometimes people ask if they should do it. Sometimes they declare that they are going to do it, that they have to do it, that it’s breaking their hearts, but they have no choice. However, most of them haven’t done it yet. It’s next year, next month, if he doesn’t change his mind, if, if, if . . .

I don’t blame anyone who is hesitating about taking that giant step, especially when they have been in a relationship for many years or when they’re borderline too old to get pregnant. What if you end up alone?

I don’t know how many people are as insecure as I am, but I always found it miraculous to get one guy to love me. How could I know if anyone would ever even ask me out again? And now that I’m older and widowed, it has been ages since I kissed anyone except my dog, and my friend are all busy with their grandchildren. Maybe I screwed up, but now it’s too late.

How do you step out on faith, as my churchy friends used to say, when you’re not sure there’s anything under your feet except a big black hole? I didn’t do it. Most of the men in my life left me one way or the other. There was that handsome druggie whom I dumped because I couldn’t deal with him always being stoned. He was willing to have children. It would have been a disaster. As it was, he stalked me for six months after we broke up. No, you never know what’s out there. It’s not like “The Bachelor” TV show where you have all these men who look like models and who all profess to be eager to get married and have children. The real world isn’t like that.

I suppose a person could do online dating, specifying that they only want partners who are willing to have babies. Back when I was younger and dating, that kind of ambition scared some guys away. I suspect it still does. If you’re Catholic, you could do catholicmatch.com. The church says you have to welcome children. But I know a Catholic couple that didn’t get around to marrying and trying to get pregnant until the woman’s eggs were defunct, so even that’s not a guarantee.

I’m meandering here. It’s that kind of day. But hear me on the following:

1) If you are in the go-or-stay dilemma, I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t know what’s right for you. You have to decide which you want more, to be with this person or to have children. Nobody should have to make such a choice, but that’s the deal.

2) If you’re in your early 20s, just dating, and haven’t been together long, for God’s sake, find someone else. You do not have to stay or to settle for a life that’s less than you want. If you’re older and have been together for ages, see #1.

3) I would really like to hear from someone who has taken the leap, left the relationship and tried again. Did they find someone, did they have kids, did it work out? We need to know.

I welcome your comments.

“Honey, I changed my mind about having kids”

In Carolyn Hax’s July 20 advice column, a reader asks what a lot of folks ask here. She and her husband originally agreed not to have children. Now she’s having second thoughts. She has a whole script worked out to discuss this with her guy, hoping maybe he has changed his mind, too, but what if he says he still doesn’t want kids?

Hax asks the reader if she can accept it if her husband sticks to his no-kids decision. She offers comments from other readers who have experienced this situation. And one of them mentions this blog. Whoever you are, thank you. Tell your friends.

So, people do change their minds. They think they’re okay with not having children, but then everyone around them is having babies, they are aware that they’re running out of time, or they realize they agreed to a childless marriage just to keep the relationship going. Maybe they thought stepchildren would fill the space where their own children would be, but they don’t. Am I ringing any bells for people?

Maybe you’re not the one changing your mind. Maybe it’s your partner, who suddenly says he wants kids or that he (or she) has decided he does not want them. He/she cites money, freedom, jobs, age, bla bla bla.

Where once you thought you agreed on this huge decision, you don’t anymore. You had an agreement. You knew what you wanted and were living your life counting on that agreement staying the same. Now what do you do? Do you leave? Do you urge your partner to leave? Do you get counseling to help you accept the unacceptable? This is the heart of the whole childless by marriage concept.

As longtime readers know, this is what happened to me. I stayed. I didn’t have children. I cried where my husband couldn’t see me. I wrote a book about it. He didn’t change his mind. Now I’m a childless widow living with my dog. It’s not as tragic as it sounds. I have a good life, but I still wish I had found a way to become a mother and grandmother and great-grandmother.

I want to share some comments posted at my old Blogger site that you might not otherwise see:

On July 20, Anonymous said…

In my fourth year of marriage, during marriage counseling, my husband told me he never wanted me to have children because of my auto immune disease. I divorced him because we had agreed on children, we had picked out names. One unsuccessful relationship after another led to me missing my window. I never did get to have a child. But I have a stepson who lost his mother at a young age. We love each other so much. Jumping in as a parent of a teenager is very hard. But to hear him wish me my first happy mothers day was priceless, absolutely priceless. My ex has been married twice after me and he plans on having children. Sometimes I hate him for what he did to me. But now I have my wonderful stepson who I never would have met if it wasn’t for my ex. My husband now is pretty awesome too. I love my boys like crazy. So, happy ending!

Yesterday, Anonymous commented:

I feel like I am the only woman in the world who started out not wanting children, grew to change my mind, and had my husband on several occasions scream at me that I can’t change my mind. He expects me to be around and support all of his friends families and everytime, I die a little more inside. I am scared for my future in aging, lonely, and just sad I married someone like this.

On July 21, another Anonymous wrote:

I was lucky enough to fall in love in my mid-twenties with a man who, like me, was somewhat leaning against having children. I was pretty sure I didn’t want children, having had, since childhood, a feeling that motherhood probably wasn’t for me. But after we married, I wanted to wait a few years before making a final decision to see if my feelings, or his, would change. They didn’t. What happened next was a series of vivid dreams in which I would inexplicably find myself six or seven months pregnant, too late to change my mind, horrified and terrified, and trying desperately to convince myself that having a baby would be okay while knowing it would not. At least twice I woke up clutching my belly. Husband and self are now in our sixties, happily married and childless. I know that by not having children, we gave up some wonderful things. And I know my sisters will have the support of their children as they age, and I won’t have that special kind of support. But I remain convinced that I made the right decision for me, and my husband feels the same way. My childhood was happy, my mother is warm and wonderful, and I really can’t explain why I knew I didn’t want to become a mother while my sisters wanted to be, and are, great mothers. I do know that especially after those dreams, anyone who might have tried to persuade me to have a baby would not have been successful. To the list of reasons why some people don’t want children, I’d have to add “Unexplainable but extremely strong gut-level knowledge that having children would be a huge mistake.”

Everybody’s different. I thank you all for your comments. Keep them coming. This is one of the few places we can discuss this stuff without judgment, and I appreciate every one of you.

I have been in the process of transitioning from one blog host to another. This month, I’m posting the same posts here and at childlessbymarriage.blogspot.com. An unexpected side effect is that I’m still receiving most comments at the old Blogspot site and they don’t appear here. Until I can figure out how to fix that, you might want to visit and browse the comments there. If you do want to comment, please comment at this WordPress site. Let me know if you have trouble doing that. After Aug. 25, the old site will remain online, but new material will only be posted here.

I apologize for not posting yesterday, my usual day. I work as a music director at our local Catholic church and we have a new pastor whose changes kept us occupied and mind-blown all day. Basically he thinks this is a cathedral, not a little coastal church, and he thinks it’s 1950, not 2015. Think Gregorian chant. In Latin. Last Sunday, he gave a little speech on the importance of family that let me know he’s going to make it hard on us childless folks because we failed to reproduce. I can’t wait for Mother’s Day. (Don’t share this blog with him! I need my job. :-))