They say there is no greater joy in the world than fatherhood. A father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes even more so as studies suggest. But what does an eager husband do when he discovers his wife no longer wants to be a mother and have children with him? Where do his dreams of becoming a family man go?
When two people start a relationship, there is an incredibly large list of things that should be discussed before making any life-long commitments. On the list of subjects that should be discussed between the two lovebirds are money and finances, jobs, health insurance, and housing. However, the most important happens to be the decision to have—or not have children. For many people that is one of the first discussions within the first few months of dating and can sometimes become a deal-breaker if it doesn’t go the way you’ve planned.
Two years ago, a user posted on Reddit her concerns on the forum-based website that her soon-to-be husband changed his mind on having children and hinted at the possibility of having a child of their own one day together. Though she discussed the issue with him prior to their engagement, she grew very worried that he would go back on their agreement. Users shared thoughts and advice much to her growing worry, with many expressing how communication was key and that one must consider what it is about fatherhood that appeals to the anticipating husband. Dr. Harriet Lerner, author of “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up“, shares the same sentiments in her self-help book. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Lerner says, “The party who wants children needs to get clear about whether the wish for a child is greater than the wish for the relationship—or vice versa. Where one lands on this difficult question determines whether one walks—or, alternatively, moves forward with their partner understanding the sacrifice involved.”
Some women and men who choose not to have a child with their partner, cite “happiness” as a factor for their decision to have or have not. In a study with CNN this past year, researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in happiness and life satisfaction between couples with children and couples without. However, they did find childless couples were happier in their relationship than parents, who often experienced more highs and lows in their life. As relationships benefit from everyday gestures, the best advice for parents and childless couples was from co-author, Dr. Jacqui Gabb who says to think differently in regards to what constitutes a relationship to work. “It’s everyday small things that are important to people,” Gabb says. With such advice in mind, it might be best to become more attuned to what’s really going on in our relationships.
This week we hear from Matt of Greensboro, North Carolina who is seeking advice on the subject of fatherhood. He wants to have kids with his wife, but she has changed her mind and does not want children at all. Should Matt simply agree with her or should he move on? Our writers help one more reader as we wrap up and end our month long advice column.
Hello Matt, thank you for writing in. I’m sorry to hear of your current situation as I can tell it’s weighing heavily on you. I’m not married, nor do I have children, but I have considered how I would feel if I were in your shoes. Life is ever changing, and much like a route between point A and B, we often have to take detours. However, detours still get us to our destination. In saying she doesn’t want kids at all, your wife has changed the destination. As a married couple, this should be a decision you reach together. That is my opinion. It’s clear that being a father is very important to you. I don’t know what the reason is that she has changed her mind about adding children to your married life, and I don’t want to assume anything. I can understand being career focused and proud of herself, however she entered into a union with you. I feel that should be respected with an open communication and a compromise. You asked if you should agree and not want kids either. I don’t believe you can do that, as it’s changing something you’re attached to. Our emotions and desires don’t flip on and off like that, nor should they. You stated that you have a great marriage, and there is a good foundation there. I suggest attempting an open communication with your wife, with the hope that she will acknowledge and understand the importance of this to you. It was once a part of her, has it completely changed or has she been sidetracked by other things in life? I really do hope a resolution there can be found. Should it not, the most difficult question you’re going to ask yourself is which means more to you, a childless marriage or becoming a father? I sincerely wish you all the best.
Wow, what a difficult situation you’ve found yourself in – I’m sorry you and your wife are dealing with this. I agree with a lot of what Cathie’s said, honestly. You two entered into a marriage with the thought of kids in your future, and now, her picture has changed. That’s a really tough situation to deal with and compromise in. Have you two sat down and discussed potential reasons for why she’s changed her mind? Could there be lifestyle changes that stereotypically come with children that have her nervous or upset? Maybe now that she’s in a career she’s happy with, she hates the idea of maternity leave, taking time off, and raising children while you continue to work. Maybe she feels your marriage, relationship and social life will suffer if children are brought into your family. Talking to her and finding out why she specifically doesn’t want children will tell you a lot – maybe there are ways for the two of you to compromise, to raise your children in a way that will work for her (ie you taking paternity leave and raising the child while she works). Unfortunately, though, those things may not be the case; it might just be that, in the end, she doesn’t want to be a mother, period. And if that’s where she stands, I wouldn’t recommend forcing the issue – I’ve heard too many stories of loveless or failed marriages that stemmed from a couple’s disagreement on whether or not to have children but deciding to do so anyway. You’re both going to have to decide what’s most important to you for your futures… and, unfortunately, they may no longer be the same thing. Good luck with everything, Matt – I hope things work out for you both and that you’re both able to be happy.
Also, I may suggest sharing with her some of your personal feelings as to “why” you want to have kids with her. It may be better and less threatening than bringing it up after family gatherings and such.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing sounds like it may take a while and may still end without kids. However, if you two can come to understand each other’s particular feelings, then I’m hoping you won’t feel like your marriage has let you down.
Matt, this is a tough one. Going into a marriage knowing you both want to raise a family, only to have the dreams completely change is probably a huge gut-check. It raises a big question for me. If it were the reason, why would freedom from college and getting a great job steer someone away from kids? That sense of security should ease the situation. Maybe it has something to do with her being scared of the moment now that it’s here. Or maybe she isn’t the same girl you picked out names with years ago.
If you truly feel you’re getting gypped in your marriage, after almost a decade, it might be time to reevaluate your life. But it’s definitely not time to reevaluate wanting kids. Nothing against folks that don’t want children, but if you’re someone that lives for raising a life you’ve helped create, there’s no changing that. I believe it’s instilled in someone.
A gigantic conversation needs to happen between you and your wife. This is one of those things that can change the entire course of a marriage. Cathie, one of our writers, said it best, “Which means more to you, a childless marriage or becoming a father?” I know it’s harder than it sounds, being married for eight years, but it does take the two of you to work, so a long conversation is a good place to start. Good luck!
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