My not wanting to have children contributed to the end of my first two marriages.
I was young for the first marriage, and I didn’t really know until after Bill (not his real name) and I were about a year into being married that I didn’t want kids. He, on the other hand, wanted 1. A House 2. A Nice Car 3. A Family. So, that was that. (It didn’t help our relationship that “soul mate/partner/wife” wasn’t an item on that list, but was lumped in with “family.” I knew even at 19/20 years old that if I ever did for whatever reason decide to have kids, I wanted to be a partner first and a mother second–appreciated for more than the fact that I was “the mother of his children.”)
The second time I got married, I knew I didn’t want kids, but Ted (not his real name) didn’t believe I knew it. When I finally got him to accept that I’d been telling the truth the whole time and not playing the coy “No, I don’t wants kids” (“Of course I do! Tee hee!”) game – you know, that one – that was pretty much the end of us (we’d been on our way to ending, anyway, but the No Child in My Womb initiative clinched it).
I used to be pretty resentful of the fact that whether or not I’d have children helped along their decision to let the relationship die. If they loved me, wouldn’t they want to be with me no matter what? How could they love some unborn, imaginary child more than an actual person? How could they take their chances with some other woman they might not love the same way they love me just because she’d be willing to get pregnant?
“They must not really love me,” I thought, and, “Someone who would leave me over the mere idea of a child doesn’t deserve me, anyway.”
As I discuss in No Children, No Guilt, this was pretty flawed – hypocritical, even – thinking.
After all, I was willing to let the relationship die because they wanted children. I wasn’t willing to consider changing the life I envisioned to make them stay. I didn’t love them enough to do something I didn’t want to do.
Even now, married to a man I can’t imagine ever being without, if he suddenly told me he wanted children, we would probably end up getting divorced.
Just as my exes weren’t willing to stay with me without children, I wasn’t, and am not, willing to have children to stay with a man.
As I wrote in No Children, No Guilt (and I think I can get away with not using quotation marks if I’m quoting myself), what I understand now, and what my need to feel done wrong and wounded had me refusing to understand then, is that someone’s desire to have a baby is just as strong as someone’s desire not to. If something extraordinary isn’t keeping two people together, it’s no easier for a person who wants children to stay child-free with someone than it is for someone who has never wanted children to imagine having one they don’t want — even if what’s between the two is something close to real love.
To have children or not is a lifestyle choice, and if two people have opposing, but equally strong, feelings about that choice, it’s not a comment on the love or lack thereof if someone leaves, but a pursuit of what each person wants/needs in his or her life. If those needs aren’t compatible, the relationship won’t work (unless someone makes a change and does it without being resentful).
So, like, cut the guys (or gals) who ditch you for kids some slack. You’re not so different from them.
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“A weird combo of really funny and really insightful.”