Now that we are married he doesn't want kids

Dear Toni-

My husband "Dan" and I have been happily married for two years. We dated for several years before getting engaged--and all along the way we discussed our hopes and dreams for a future life together. Our plan always included having children. However, now that we (mostly me) are talking about trying to get pregnant; Dan is expressing mixed feelings about becoming a father. He focuses on the increased commitment and workload, financial impact, and overall lifestyle changes that a baby would bring. I don't disagree that these changes would come with a little one--my issue is that he always led me to believe he was on board with having a family. Now I wonder if he ever meant it or if he was holding back his true feelings until after marriage.

I never would have married Dan if I had known about his reluctance to be a parent. I have always known I wanted children and I know I would feel an ever present emptiness if I ended up childless. When I shared these feelings with Dan recently he responded by saying that a child could destroy what we have as a couple and then a happy family life would never be possible for any of us.

I don't know what to do now. I know you must have experience working with couples who can't agree on whether to have children or not, and I was hoping you could offer some insights, suggestions and/or resources that have helped other couples come to a decision, either to move forward with a pregnancy or to cut their losses and walk away. If you don't believe that a positive resolution is possible in our case, I'd appreciate your honest thoughts. --Not Childless By Choice

Dear Dear Not Childless By Choice,

Let me begin by saying how sorry I am that you are being faced with this difficult and painful situation. What you are experiencing is grief-brought about by the anticipation of a significant loss. It appears that you were upfront about your desire for children throughout your courtship with your spouse and that he in turn communicated the same desire. Therefore you now find yourself in what seems like a bait and switch scenario--and any resolution that doesn't result in motherhood won't be acceptable to you. So the next steps should be easy to figure out, right? No, not necessarily so.

You entered your marriage with the assumption that you and your husband wanted the same things from a future life together. You had many discussions beforehand in which YOU talked about your desire for children and it seemed that Dan was in agreement. It's possible that you believed he felt the same way because he didn't state his feelings in so many words, and instead just listened and went along with what you were saying--also assuming that in time your feelings would either change or you would become more open to either delaying parenthood, having fewer children and/or perhaps deciding a family of two felt just right. In short, both of you may have moved forward on assumptions about the other--which is a common problem that newlyweds face when reality comes face to face with deeply held feelings and desires.

Though this situation may seem hopeless, it doesn't have to be. A win-win solution can be found if both of you have a strong commitment to one another and to your marriage. Success will rest on a compromise that takes into account what you both must have on one hand and can't live with on the other. There is quite a bit of room between those if you are willing to do the work to find it. For instance, at least one child would be on your must have list. His top must-have might be about how much money will need to be put aside before the baby is on board, or perhaps he would need assurances that he could continue pursuing certain leisure activities and/or have the kind of quality time with you that he fears will be taken over by baby and family needs. Can't live with lists might include (for you) an absentee dad who spends most of his time at work or pursuing individual interests during his leisure time. For him, it could be having a stay-at-home wife which would lead to a decrease in income, and have a significant impact on your financial security and lifestyle.

By framing the issue in this way, you are able to get past the smokescreen of baby VS no baby and get to the real issues and fears that many would-be expectant parents have but are unable to clearly identify or articulate. For once you do this, you can set goals that are baby steps towards having a baby--ones that address how you would handle money, shared responsibilities, marital intimacy and communication, and your own individual needs when baby makes three.

A competent and experienced therapist is always a good resource. He or she would help to guide you through this process by providing structure, keeping you on task--and teaching you new and better ways to communicate and to meet one another's needs--all of which help to keep a family of any size strong and together.

(from June 2014)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Is his affair the end?"
List of more
"Relationship Challenges"

"The married "single parent""


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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