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What if he doesn't want children?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 16, 2012 08:28 AM

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I can't chat today. I'm in Maryland and Virginia for book dates. It's so cool that the people at these readings have checked in with Love Letters and think that the commenters are awesome. (You are, by the way.) Perhaps we'll have some new participants from Baltimore.

Also, it's 7,000 degrees here.


Q: I have been with my husband for over 6 years. We've been very happy together in that time. We aren't without our disagreements, but we've always gotten through them and wound up stronger for it. Lately we've been working on being even more honest with each other and more honest with ourselves. It was working out great for us -- we were getting even closer and developing a stronger bond -- but then my husband came to the realization that he doesn't want children. I've always wanted children and he had previously agreed that we could have kids someday, he just wanted to wait. I was fine with waiting so I never thought much of it.

Now that he knows he doesn't want children though, it's changed everything. I immediately went into a depression because I can't handle the thought of never getting the chance to become a mother. I tried to dismiss it, to tell myself it was okay if I could stay with him forever, but it's just not. Now I'm on the verge of tears every time I see a happy family, or pictures of my friends' children.

He felt bad that I took it so hard and he offered to someday have children with me. I'd just have to accept that he may not be happy about it. As much as I want to accept this offer, as much as I want both him and children, I know I can't accept it. If there's any chance he could be unhappy and it would be my fault for guilting him into children, it would kill me.

We're still young, both 24 years old. I was thinking that the best thing to do is to stay together for another few years, finish paying off our college debts, and see if he's changed his mind by then. If not, as much as it would hurt, I feel like we should split up.

But is it really worth giving up everything that we have? We're so perfect for each other in every way except for this. I don't know if I could ever find anyone again that I'd love as much as him, and I don't know that it would even be fair to anyone I would ever try to date again to bring all this baggage with me. I also know that my husband doesn't want to split up.

The only other two options I see are that we stay together and don't have children, and I won't be happy, or we stay together and have children, and he probably won't be happy. He's not as sure about how he feels as I am; it feels black and white for me while it's more gray for him. But is it really fair to him for me to hang on and hope he changes his mind?

– Torn over children, Mass.


A: I like your plan, TOC.

I hate telling people in troubled relationships to wait and see, but you guys are so young. In another few years (maybe two?) you both might have different priorities. His gray might turn into black and white.

You're in a unique situation, one that calls for more discussion until certain questions are answered. He knows that you're struggling with this, so you shouldn't be concerned about stringing him along.

It's so difficult to anticipate how children will affect your life. Some of my friends who were desperate to have children admit that the experience, while fantastic, isn't what they expected at all. And some people who were on the fence about kids have embraced parenting in ways they never expected. Based on what you told us in your last paragraph, your husband is unsure about all of this, which means that he just doesn't know. Allow this conversation to continue.

Frankly, it says so much to me that you guys are having honest discussions about this. Many young couples just move ahead with their plans because they're too passive to ask themselves whether the decisions they made in their early 20s are still appropriate.

Spend some time being 24. And when it isn't too stressful, talk about all of your options for the future -- what your lives might look like in five or ten years. If he doesn’t want kids, what does he want? Travel? Work? And for how long? How would a child change those plans?

Gray means pause. Take a deep breath and give yourself some time.

Readers? Should she quit now? Or wait? Does anyone know a final answer at 24? What should she do? Did anyone change their mind about kids? Discuss.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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