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Couples & Married, Love

He doesn’t want kids. Now what?

by Melissa Chapman

He never made any secret of the fact that he doesn’t want children. But in the fog of infatuation, you thought it would be easy to iron out this little wrinkle. Reality, however, proves to be quite different. Now what can you do?

Profound disagreement

You and your husband have settled into the quiet loveliness of newlywed bliss and your first year of marriage has been more than you could have anticipated. You’ve found your groove living together as husband and wife, sharing  simple pleasures together.

It’s the perfect life. Unfortunately there’s an integral piece of this well-constructed family unit missing: A child (or several). You’ve always wanted to parent and have never seen a future that didn’t include children of your own – maybe lots of them.

Your spouse, however, is holding firm to his no-kids stance and you are feeling desperate and scared that the life you’ve created with this partner will ultimately come crashing down if you don’t get on the same page.

Is there any compromise?

According to Laura S. Scott of The Childless by Choice Project and the author of Two is Enough: A Couples Guide to Living Childless by Choice the majority of the people she interviewed had said “goodbye” to the boyfriends or girlfriends who wanted kids.  “They knew they didn’t want children and they thought it was unlikely they would change their mind,” said Scott. “I think they knew they would love any children they might have but they understood that loving your child and wanting to assume the role of parent are two different experiences.”

Here are three things to keep in mind as you work through this problem:

1. The best policy is to be forthright and talk about your needs

If you and your spouse do not agree on the issue of kids, it’s time to pause and talk it over, says Scott. It’s best to be honest and open about that up front.  You both need to acknowledge and understand why the other does or does not want kids. This conversation is vital in that it exposes motives and concerns which may not have surfaced up to this point. These fears, hopes, and concerns are valid and can point to underlying desires and needs for future happiness and security. Don’t assume your partner will change his or her mind when the baby comes. That’s a recipe for disaster and it means you are not really listening to your partner.

2. Is it a marriage deal breaker?

It can be and maybe it should be, notes Scott. I don’t think anyone should be coerced or tricked into having a child. It’s rarely a good outcome for all the parties involved, including the children.

“I think the prospect of resentment cannot be underestimated,” says Scott. “In a way, pestering someone into having a child they don’t want is not respectful. It is a breach of trust. If I can’t trust you to listen to me and speak for me when I can’t speak for myself, how can I trust you to have my back?”

3. Dealing with a spouse who is reluctant to have kids

The best way to handle a disagreement, notes Scott, is to have an honest heart-to-heart talk and lay out all of the fears and concerns and the motives each person has for wanting or not wanting. Some motives like, “I want to pass on my genes” or “I’m scared to give up my career,” might appear pretty lame. But they need to be examined under the microscope and you need to ask yourself , “Is this me talking? Or is this fear talking or someone in my family or community talking?” A good couples therapist can help, provided that the therapist is willing to acknowledge that millions of couples can and do live happily childless and childfree.

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Reader Comments:

34 Responses to “He doesn’t want kids. Now what?”

  1. royd says:

    why will someone decide not to have kid(s)…this is in-sane…yet you have a mum and dad…well, maybe I should call this western madness…children are a blessing…wake up.

  2. francis says:

    I have made up my mind that if the wife i will marry decide not to give me the number of children i want then i will go for second one.how will i get married with someone and tell the person no child baring it is absolutely madness.no child baring no marriage.

  3. Therese says:

    One would think this would be something that you discuss and agree to before you married the person. As for me, once I knew that I did not want children, I only dated men who did not want children. I was surprised. I never thought I would get married because I never thought I would meet a man who didn’t want kids. But I have been married almost a year now (we have been together for 5 years) and we are both very happy with our prospective careers, hobbies and friends in our quiet, spacious, child-free apartment!

  4. NKBurlington says:

    @Rod:
    Children are a blessing if you want them but a burden if you don’t. Why would someone have kids if they didn’t want them?

  5. Aimee says:

    This would not be a problem if people would just communicate before getting into a marriage, or even a long-term relationship. My husband and I had discussed our intentions to not have children long before considering marriage. I don’t know if some people don’t discuss it at all or simply don’t take each seriously, but it’s a serious decision and most people don’t take it lightly. The odds are good that once one’s mind is set nobody can change it.

  6. Jon says:

    Thanks to the internet you can now remove anyone from your potential dating pool who doesn’t agree on the topic of having, or not having kids. Why waste a minute of your time with someone who you have no future with? My best advice is to approach this topic before even going on a first date. Different views on wanting (or not wanting) children is definitely a deal breaker, don’t let it break you!

  7. Dawn says:

    To Rody: Just because YOU want kids doesn’t mean it is for everyone. What does having a mom and dad have anything to do with it? Last time I checked, this was a free country, and forcing people to have children because a small minority thinks we should is madness. And Francis, you need to wake up and get into the 21st century. Are you planning on helping your wife with “the number of children I want”. Maybe you should move to UT and have plural wives, then you can have as many children as your wives will give you. Give me a break!

  8. Ruby says:

    i am dieing to have a kid ….i cry all the time ,feeling sad and lonely .i can’t give up the idia to be a mother .my husband can’t have any

  9. maryann says:

    People Change:
    before we got married my husband and i were both in agreement not to have children. But, as he is growing older and our friends/family are having kids, he is feeling “the bug” to have one and i am not. If this bug keeps growing i don’t know what we’ll do because i REALLY don’t want any.

  10. David says:

    To Dawn:

    Dawn, not everyone in Utah practices polygamy, and members of the mainstream LDS church outlawed it’s practice in the 1800′s. In fact anyone caught practicing the teaching is excommunicated from the LDS church.

    On to the main subject, couples that choose to remain childless have that right, and it is the right decision for them. Some people choose to not be parents because of what has happened in their life, or other circumstances. I myself want to have kids, but I am not going to make my girlfriend have a baby, if she doesn’t want to have one. That would be wrong of me to do that.

  11. Pamela says:

    To Dawn & Royd:

    There are plenty of kids out there waiting to be adopted. Honestly, the idea of childbirth scares me and I don’t want to have a child. I don’t think I’d have the patience for it, some people just want other things out of life. There’s nothing wrong with that. My boyfriend of 2 years and I have discussed the possibility of adoption and have met on mutual grounds here. So many kids are in the world that don’t have a loving family and that need one.

  12. Kym says:

    There is also the issue of one person (myself) who COULDN’T have kids, went through 5 years if fertility treatments and then ultimately a divorce. Thank God the treatments didn’t work.

    I was then in a serious relationship with someone who had a teenager and not interested in more kids. Birth control was never an issue as I was told it would NEVER happen and it never happened with IUI’s, IVF’s, etc. I was on birth control (to deal with pms mood swings, etc) when we first met and decided mutually (after we lived together) that I would discontinue it because the side effects were too much for the benefits. A month later I was pregnant.

    Who the heck knows HOW it happened, and who knows IF it can happen again. But here we are with an amazing 3 year that his father is beyond attached to…but there’s also me wanting to at least TRY for another one (naturally) and see what higher powers have in store for us.

    Sometimes even having the discussion and being on the same page from the first date doesn’t always mean a smooth sailing ride on the topic. I had accepted my inability to have kids, changed my life path, back to school, focused on life without kids….and then bam.

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  15. Jessalyn says:

    Having a kid when you don’t want one/any will be the biggest mistake of your life. I’m glad I am married to someone who doesn’t want kids either. What’s the point of having kids when you have a great life without them? We get to enjoy each other every day, no interruptions, get to save money we otherwise wouldn’t see, take vacations around the world, not have to worry about little Johnny having to have a babysitter or doing poor in school, stress free and happy. Perfect!

  16. gseun says:

    how can i have a wife and she we b telling me that she don`t want to have a kid it can never be done never never never and ever….

  17. jay says:

    Ruby, your husband is very lucky that can’t have kids. That eliminates child support for the future. Anyway, maybe people who don’t want have kids may have a very good reason not to have them. It depends on the lifestyle. Im 24 and I don’t think i want kids. my girlfriend on the other hand does. Reason I don’t want kids is because of family issues. My only sister has four and it’s hard for her. Then the drama that comes with it is unbearable. Then I look at myself and Im no better than anybody in my family (even though Im getting my life straighten out now.). Either way I’m not sure how im gonna tell my girlfriend of 5 years I don’t want kids.

  18. Stella says:

    I’m on that situation now i did agree before marriage not to have kids thinking he will change his mind after awhile which never did…now I want to have even one kid but time is running out and my husband is good to me except one thing we disagree about having kids he makes excuses we cant afford to have 1 but he can afford to buy me expensive gifts….is this a reason to seperate we’ve been together for 13 years and going 14 i’m content except for one thing i want….to have my own child

  19. Nettie says:

    This is only one of the many issues that should be discussed before vows are made.

    I agree that children are a blessing. But I myself do not want them. I have never had the desire to be a mother. I think there are too many people out there that are having kids and shouldn’t. They either are bad parents, didn’t want them and now resent them or simply can not take care of them properly. Having chi8ldren is a big step and a life changing one at that. It should be thought about and talked about seriously before the decision is made. Too many people assume that they need to have kids cuz’ that’s what is expected.

  20. Jen says:

    Believe it or not, over population is the #1 threat to the destruction of the Earth. By 2050 Earth’s population is going to be 9 billion people. It is going to take the same amount of food we human’s have consumed in the last 8,000 years combined, to feed this amount of people. That’s a lot of land used up, a lot mire water and oil and “natural” resources that will be used up…and unfortunately over population is mainly occuring in third world countries, where they really see or have no “reason” to “help the Earth” by practicing safe sex and birth control.

  21. Frank says:

    @Jen

    The world is not over populated, its the mismanagement of resources which is the problem. People should stop using this as an excuse. The U.S and Europe constitutes 1/6 of the worlds population while consuming 80% of the resources. That leaves just 20% for the rest of the developing world.

    What a cheek to say those in the developing world have no right to bear children. If you are really concerned about the planet, a starter would be to stop or reduce meat consumption and giving little Jonny an apple instead of a big mac. Meat industry is one of the major causes of deforestation and green house gases.

    • Cheese Doodle says:

      I think Jen is right on the money. We cannot always think about ourselves and the fact that “we” want kids and not “should we”. There are only so many resources in this world and the more people have kids and people are live longer…expect higher taxes from increased use of social programs, roads, mass transit or any other public good, food will be more expensive, land will be very expensive to come by, there will be longer commutes to work, longer lines pretty much everywhere, higher oil prices, water scarcity and pollution to just damn a friggin’ few of them. I’m writing to you from NJ, the most populated state per square mile and it doesn’t even hold a candle to places like Hong Kong when it comes to congestion nevermind the taxes and general cost of living! You really need to keep up on what’s going on in the world; it’s becoming a very scary idea to bring a child into this world. It’s not Maple Street anymore.

  22. Ashley says:

    I am not married, but I have been with my bf for 5 years and he always says he doesnt want to get married or have kids, 2 things i want. I want kids so bad and it just hurts knowing he doesnt. I am young and ready to start a life and family with someone. I see so many people doing this things and all i can think is that could be me. He said that he wont even reconsider this for another 5 years! Its so hard after 5 years together to deal with this. Neither of us should have to choose, or give up what we want out of life. It will only lead to regret and hatred. Unless he has a change of hearts soon i feel that it may come to an end for us. Soo painful.

  23. Jane says:

    Ashley, I’m in the same situation and it hurts so bad. I didn’t want kids when I started dating my fiancé and he didn’t either. Now 6 years later I’m sure I want to be a mom but he still doesn’t want kids ever. I love him and he’s perfect for me in so many ways, but to me this is just too big an issue to ignore. I have no idea what to do and I’m slowly dying inside everyday knowing that we’ll either have to break up or I’ll have to settle for a life without kids. If anyone has dealt with this and has any tips on how to overcome it, that would be greatly appreciated.

    • Emily says:

      I don’t know if I can give you any helpful tips, because I’m in the same situation as you are. I’ve been married nearly 5 years with a great guy and I’m 29. When we got married we both agreed, rather light-heartedly, not to have kids. But I changed my mind as the reality of the decision sunk in, and we’ve been in disagreement now for 4 years. The discussions we’ve had have been heart-wrenching, and he’s wavered a little at times which gave me hope, but ultimately he’s decided he’s definitely not going to have kids. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll stay or go – it’s such a hard decision! I’ve found that the resentment I feel towards him, despite my sympathizing with his position, causes me to have higher expectations of him in other aspects of the relationship (in other words, if I’m giving up kids for him, he’d better be damn perfect). I also feel bitterness creeping into my thoughts, and resentment towards other girls who have partners in agreement with them regarding childbearing (namely his younger sister, who’s trying to get pregnant). I insist that if I decide to stay with him, I must find a way to get over these bitter feelings. If I can’t, I know I have to go for the good of everyone. I have had moments, a week at a time even, where I’ve felt a life without children MIGHT just be okay. Here are some of the things I’ve thought about myself, which might help you:
      1. There are many ways to have children in your life – volunteering with youth groups or mentoring one-on-one can be extremely rewarding. Foster-parenting is something my husband has agreed to try, and that might be an idea for you too.
      2. What other hobbies do you have in your life? I’ve written out a list, and have thought of many things I could do (more easily) if I didn’t have children.
      3. I’ve considered the human population problem in the world, and the decimation of other species and the environment. This helps me feel that not having kids would be a good thing I could do for the planet.
      4. If your biological clock is ticking and it’s adding to your urgency to make a decision, it may help to consider adoption. That really takes the pressure off. I know it can be hard and expensive to get a newborn baby, but if you look at county listings of adoptable kids you can see that there are so many older kids needing homes. And knowing how much you yourself long to have a child, it’s easy to imagine how much they long for a parent.
      5. Working with animals can allow you to express your nurturing side. Working in childcare can too (although I worked at a daycare once, and with a ratio of 7 toddlers to one adult it was highly stressful).
      I’m sorry you find yourself in this situation! I’m sorry I do too. I know it’s a miserable place to be. I’m not sure if I’ve helped any, but know you’re not alone!

  24. Lashawn says:

    Children may be a blessing but the world is a cruel place. If you were to just open your eyes a little more and listen just a little closer to what’s going on out there, you would not want to have kids. TRUST ME!!!

  25. christine says:

    Ladies, if your guy isnt in to it, take it from me, move on. Chances are pretty unlikely that he’ll change his mind. The prospect of splitting up with someone you love and starting over doesnt get any easier as you get older. Thats where I’m at, 8 yrs later at 35. No offence to the people that dont want children, i used to be one of you, but things do often change. Best of luck to you all.

  26. Susan says:

    I am in the exact same boat as so many of you. I feel so torn because I finally found the man of my dreams and I have worked so hard to make the relationship work (moving my life to another country, learning another language, loving his family and kids (he has two and they are 6 and 10 years old). I can already feel my resentment rising b/c I feel like we already have kids in our lives and he is telling me NO, he doesn;t want more– he seems to be worried for financial reasons and I think he’s afraid of losing the alone time we have together now. But I feel like I am dying inside too– I feel like I have to either give up my dream or give up the man I love. I really don’t know what to do….

    • Jezzy says:

      Susan- If you truly feel as though your giving up on your dreams, that doesn’t seem fair. Love is a beautiful thing, it blossoms, it grows, and can’t be restricted. If he is truly the guy of your dreams, he will except all of you.. And saying this, i think i found my answer to… Good luck with everything

    • ramona says:

      similar story here, takes me to 38 to meet a man i love respect and can imagine spending the rest of my life with. he has asked me to move in. I am selling my home. But… day one i said i wanted children and day one he told me he had a vasectomy, a year on he doesnt want them now – no job – and not sure about future, at almost 40 and always wanting to have children, but never and still dont want them alone – i feel in a lose – lose situation. lose the man i love, lose the hope i have. its a nightmare.

  27. Jezzy says:

    I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have a great guy, who has two beautiful children 5, and 3. Neither of them being mine. The lifestyle as an artist and traveling i have always felt unfair to a child. I absolutely love children, I just never really wanted one of my own. But i seem to have no problem with the fact he has children, i’m ok with helping and being there and being a supporter.. but.. Before he had his kids, he never wanted any. So knowing this i felt comfortable thinking we are on the same page (no kids for us) Now i probably have every existing pregnancy sign without the positive test result. Honestly part of me is hopeful, but the larger part is fearful of my future. I know not everything can be planned, except life for what it may bring with all its blessings i say. But he also reads me like a book, should i wait to say something until i definitely know? or should i just be open and honest with whats going on? Previously i’ve had miscarriages and i don’t know if i just convinced myself that i didn’t want kids so that i wouldn’t ever have dreams of having a family and be let down, i always figured if i changed my mind there are so many children that need homes and adoption was a good option. So now what?


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