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?
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.