Married, in love, but suddenly one of them wants kids.

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone whose marriage is great – they’re in love, get along well with their spouse, everything is good – but the spouse has recently decided they want a child.

The child conversation had been had earlier, but for one of them, things had changed, and they wanted things to change for the other spouse, too. Only, the childfree half wants to remain childfree.

Everyday breakups are hard, but the pain is usually mitigated by the knowledge that things just aren’t working for reasons that create animosity (religious disagreements leading to loss of respect, a personality mismatch, growth in different directions that leads to loss of interest, etc.). But if you love each other and feel right for each other and the only issue is a disagreement over children… it’s very Monica and Richard (that’s a “Friends” relationship reference for you non-Friends-ers – or, the kind of love you’ll always long for even if you can’t have it because the only reason you can’t  have it is that you can’t agree about the presence of a child in your life).

I don’t know if there is a way to help in cases like this, but on the off-chance my advice (?) to the author can be at all useful, here are some excerpts from my emailed reply (author’s issues in quotes):

It makes him/her angry that it’s a one-sided issue and that it means if I don’t want kids, s/he’ll never have them. S/he feels like s/he’s missing out.

If you don’t have kids, one of you will be missing out on something you want. If you do have kids, the other will be missing out on something you want (a certain way of life and living).

I don’t think s/he realizes just how drastically our lives would change — We are both very career-oriented.
What does s/he say when you explain that bringing a child into your lives will change school plans,  work plans, and/or savings plans? What would s/he say if you asked whether s/he’d be fine with altering a lot of those career plans so s/he can stay home when the child needs … well, anything …. while you keep your career as it is?

Whose career is expected to take the hit? Both, yours, or his/hers?

I don’t want my spouse to be resentful of me for not having/wanting a child.
Unless you have the child and decide yourself, “Hey, I actually love this! Woo!” or, conversely, unless there is no child and s/he suddenly realizes the desire for a child was just a phase s/he was going through and that having a real one wasn’t really what s/he wanted as much as the Christmas card picture of a family, one of you is probably going to feel resentful.

The good thing about going with the no-kid option in that case is that there isn’t a child there to witness the resentment. If it comes to it, s/he can always leave and find a wo/man who WILL have a child with him/her.

I don’t know how to make him/her not angry and make him/her understand my perspective.

I’m pretty sure the way s/he feels about never having a child  is how you feel about the thought of having one.

I remember that when I was younger I never gave having kids any real thought, but once I was married for the first time and was presented with an expected future of children, all I felt was dread. Heaviness. Darkness. It was like knowing a prison sentence was out there waiting for me. It felt comparable to being forced into marriage with someone who wasn’t the person I loved. Or anything else that would mean, “That life you don’t want? You’re going to have it.”

I’m not sure what it feels like for you, but maybe you can ask what reaction s/he has, physically and emotionally, when s/he imagines no kids in his/her life. Then ask what s/he feels like when s/he imagines having them. Then try telling her/him how you feel when you imagine each scenario as it pertains to your life.

S/he has to figure out what s/he wants more: a life with you even if it’s without a child, or a different life with a child. S/he has always known where you stand, and while I understand that s/he’s had a change of mind –it happens, and it’s no one’s fault — it’s not fair or reasonable to expect you to change your mind just because s/he did.

If being a parent is that important to him/her, if s/he knows s/he’ll regret not having children later, as much as s/he wants to stay with you, it might not be the right choice.

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One thought on “Married, in love, but suddenly one of them wants kids.

  1. Emily

    Personally, I think the best option in such a case is to break up. It is not really fair to deny a spouse a child; on the other, it’s not fair to impose a child on someone who does not want one. And it’s important to have this discussion before the marriage takes place. For better or worse (pardon the pun), having children has always been assumed to be a given in a marriage, but not all married couples, or – in this case – married individuals, want children. I also suspect that people who are pressured, or feel pressured, into marriage are reluctant to have children. This appears to be the case with comedian Jen Kirkman. She admits that she put pressure on her ex-husband to get married. Once married, he was reluctant to have children with her. So I think the fact he wasn’t too keen on marrying her in the first place was a sign he didn’t really want to further bind himself to her with shared offspring.

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