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Choosing to be childfree, but my husband still wants children.

Greetings.

I hope all very well. I have been engaging all of my practice to work through my realization that it is not my path to have children. There is something about my journey which has paralyzed me and I think it is time to turn to a sangha and humbly share my story and request any wisdom.

I have never had a maternal instinct or pictured myself as a mother, and I had a very rough family/childhood, and it took a LOT of therapy and sheer will to upright my life. I met my now-husband when I was working on my PhD and at that point I was still in the fuzzy "yeah maybe someday" abstract possibility space. But once we married and I stopped the pill it was like a force field stopped me from being able to continue. And then I finished my PhD and started teaching as a professor of sociology and I have total clarity that this is what I was put on the earth to do: to teach young people about conflict, peace and liberation--to help them grasp the dynamics of oppression and transformation--and to help them articulate their own values and visions. I have so many books to write, so many documentary films to finish. I am exhausted but really happy.

And I'm 40. And my husband really wants a child. But the more I spelunk in my heart, I encounter so many reasons why being childfree is my path:

1) logistics/timing with my career
2) he is wonderful, but was very spoiled by his Italian mother and doesn't help around the house much, so it's pretty clear I'd take all the load
3) we have no money, very little savings
4) I have a moral complaint with bringing more people into this crowded terrible world--who am I to yank someone into this existence that it has been a life-or-death struggle for me to find peace in? Why not guide and nurture people who are already here?
5) I had an ambivalent mother who resented how motherhood held her back professionally and also was destroyed by guilt and shame for neglecting motherhood and for not having the right emotional makeup to raise a mentally healthy child. It would have been better for her to maximize her strengths and give what she was meant to give, but being a mother compromised BOTH of her paths and really damaged both of us. We are for the first time in more of a place of peace because I have forgiven her--she had her own wounds form an angry mother, and she definitely tried her best. I'm different from her, and I have the emotional resources she lacked, BUT we are very similar in our devotion to our careers, and I don't want to repeat history.
6) Pregnancy, Ugh, Childbirth, BAHHHH! Nursing, GAHHHHH. Sleeplessness, vomit, screaming, tantrums, BLARGHHHHHH
7) Babies and pregnant women gross me out--I still need to do some processing on my overwhelming feeling of disdain, like "you fell for it!"--BUT when I pass dogs or puppies I feel the deep heart-full full-throated longing and tenderness that I assume some women feel for children.
8) I'm finding the courage to understand I can't just have a child out of guilt and obligation for my lovely husband.
9) I just...don't want to have a child.

So, I've pretty much figured out what's right for me.
But. I'm really sad for my husband. He has always wanted it. He isn't actually very realistic about it and I think he wants it because he's maintained a pretty abstract fantasy, and because he is very unfulfilled in his work. But nevertheless, he's really devastated that I'm coming into clarity and we're not on the same page.

I really love him and want him to be happy. But I realized my brief window of willingness was more about wanting him to be happy and enjoying the fantasy of me being able to fulfill his dream or be that mother-earth type person we wanted me to be.

But I'm not. I've got other gifts. And that's okay. I am starting to accept that.

Still the idea of drawing this bright line and being the cause of the collapse of his dream is really tearing me apart. It's the very last piece of this puzzle before I can free myself into my power, into being who I was meant to be. We are in therapy together, and we are each in individual therapy, but I'm still paralyzed.

I thought I might drop this line and see if any of you have any wisdom to share on the particular topic of navigating the painful space of embracing my path and yet disappointing a beloved husband who is still caught in unexamined longing for children, who feels robbed and betrayed by my choice.

I'd really appreciate any thoughts you have.
Thank you so much.
Me

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Sadly, in this situation, there is no 'win-win' solution. And your first 8 justifications for not having a child, are by and large made entirely redundant by reason number 9: You just don't want a child.
    You don't have to justify yourself to us, or in all honesty, to your husband.
    The fact that you don't want one - and are now in your 40's - is all the justification needed.

    And, for what it's worth (though I would never presume OR assume to speak for anyone else here) I agree with you.

    I totally get the Italian angle, by the way. Being Italian myself, I see where you're coming from (although fair to say, Italian mammas do not have monopoly of the 'Mummy's Boy' application...).

    Sorry.
    I don't have an easy answer for you, save to support your stance, and be completely, unequivocally straight, up-front and honest with your husband and tell him that you are no prepared to have a child, because you don't want one.

    Full-stop, end of story.
    Make sure you use protection, and accept the consequences of your husband's reaction.
    It will be what it will be.

    As long as he maintains his part of the Marriage Contract, you will both come through this, but be prepared for reasonable resentment, and some ill-feeling from your H and possibly, his family.

    However, if he prolongs it unnecessarily - well... you know, not everyone stays compatible, no matter how long they've been together.

    Do what is best for you.
    Not in a selfish 'me me me' way. but for the good of your sanity, personal well-being, serenity and long-term contentment.

    Good luck.

    FWIW, we're here for you.

    nakazcid
  • Sure he wants a child, OP, because you would be doing all the work! A child is something that, from his perspective, you would gift him with, and then you'd do all the childcare, just as you're doing all the housework, and his mom did everything for him, before that.

    The other thing that jumps out at me from your narrative, is that you two can't afford a child. For some mysterious reason, you can't even afford a savings, or a retirement plan, even though you both work, and you're a university professor. (Congratulations, by the way, on that accomplishment, and on finding a sense of purpose, there!). I think you two should work on your finances. For your own sakes, not for the sake of a hypothetical child.

    Have you explained to your husband, that you're too traumatized by the bad parenting you endured while growing up, to have any nurturing feelings or desire to be a parent, yourself? This is more common than you think. But I suppose it wouldn't matter to him. He wants what he wants. Congratulations on all your therapy, btw. You've done a ton of personal work! Sometimes, when one member of a couple does a lot of therapy and healing, as you have, they come out of the process a different person, than they were when they went in. If their partner isn't flexible and supportive of the outcome, the two may end up parting ways. I agree with Federica, there.

    Why does he hate his job? Could he get some training or education, to qualify for a different profession, or for a better position in his current one?

    I see you applying nurturance in the way you're dedicated to your students, and to fostering their personal and intellectual growth. You should like a great professor! Best wishes for you, come what may.

    nakazcid
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @prospecthearts -- On the one hand, you are absolutely right to fear like the fires of hell the fallout from having children. Never mind all the goody-two-shoes blather -- having kids is an exercise (like Buddhism) for those willing to pay attention and take responsibility. It is no damned joke.

    I for one was petrified at the parental prospect when Numero Uno was knocking at the door: What the hell did I know about parenting? Wouldn't it take me away from the things I cared for and was good at? The answers, respectively, were nothing and yes and yes again.

    It was, among other things, my Zen teacher who put things into perspective when I asked him how I was to proceed with Buddhist practice with what had become three kids. He said simply, "Take care of your family."

    And this brings up "the other hand." Every reference you make to a frazzled world seems to have a negative cast (why make things worse by contributing another poor sucker?) Is there no positive note? If you train your own children in kindness and decency, is this not a nourishing means to easing some of the frazzling pains? And train you into the bargain? The honest answer is "I don't know." But one thing is certain -- the torch you hold in your quest to mold young hearts will never light the scene in precisely the way you plan it. For example, the odds favor your own inadvertent creation of a suicide bomber along the way. It's the way of the world. Unintended consequences.

    I agree with @federica -- your "no" is entirely acceptable... just like your "yes." Choose what you choose. It's your life, after all.

    But perhaps it would be worth the price of admission to re-comb your carefully-combed arguments. Scared is OK. Ignorant is OK. Savvy is OK. Imagining you've got it all figured out is not so OK. Hell, that's why most of us became Buddhists in the first place ... the old "if I'm so damned smart, how come I'm not happy?" schtick. Anyway, before you put the topic to bed, I suggest you go through it one more time ... what, precisely, would you lose, if you lost everything?

    Sorry if this is disjointed. My three kids (now out the door) were my most profound Buddhist/life practice. But that's just me. Did I want to kill them along the way -- you bet I did. Am I glad I didn't? You bet I am.

    All best wishes to you and your husband. :)

    person
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    With the greatest of respect, @genkaku , first of all, I would presume (harshly perhaps, for which I earnestly apologise in advance) that the major part of care and upbringing was down to your wife; that's not to say you weren't - and aren't - a good dad. But I have to tell you, it's a whole different ball-game of emotions for guys.

    And let us not forget (point 2) that @prospecthearts has already mentioned a husband who is, shall we say, less than co-operative when it comes to household duties.

    Thirdly, he contributes - she commits. To act as an incubator to a child she clearly doesn't want, and the whole process leaves her stone cold.

    When a woman says she doesn't want a kid - believe her.

  • Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

  • I think it is a perfect decision not to have children OP. It is an equally perfect decision to have children. You have put much thought into arriving at your decision , which many people don't. Good for you. ❤

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

  • @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

  • The unconditional love a parent has for a child is a love like no other. All that that involves knows no gender differences.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If only all fathers were cast in the same mould as you.

    I am tempted to say a lot more, but I refrain as it would be veering the subject off-topic, and I don't think that as a new member, @prospecthearts deserves that.

    I would not be disagreeing with you, but there are several angles to consider...

    Suffice to say, I just think it might be accurate to say that while the love might be there, her husband would not be as involved, proactive or as supportive a dad, as you are. ('Father' is different to 'dad'....)

    Hozan
  • Such an honest open clear-minded post. If you haven’t already, you should explain exactly the same to your husband. Regardless of his hopes and dreams he couldn’t fail to see that you have considered this well and have made your decision. There is no hope to cling to, there can only be acceptance of the situation.

    You have made your decision and now he must make his, you sound like you will do what you can to make it the least painfull you can for him. The only thought really in my mind is whether you want to stay together if he accepts your decision and chooses you over being a parent? Do you want him in your future and will you not feel guilt over him not being a parent if he makes that decision? Help him understand and make an informed choice, unless deep down you’ve already made that decision for him.

  • @federica said:
    If only all fathers were cast in the same mould as you.

    I am tempted to say a lot more, but I refrain as it would be veering the subject off-topic, and I don't think that as a new member, @prospecthearts deserves that.

    I would not be disagreeing with you, but there are several angles to consider...

    Suffice to say, I just think it might be accurate to say that while the love might be there, her husband would not be as involved, proactive or as supportive a dad, as you are. ('Father' is different to 'dad'....)

    I agree entirely @federica both parents need to be willing to give it 100% and share the work and responsibilities. No doubt about it.

    federica
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Hozan said:

    @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

    I have to disagree - it is different. I speak as both a single and coupled mother. Not for one minute is a father’s role lesser or inferior. But they are entirely different due to our very natures.

    My ex-husband (certainly NOT the example of the average dad),,, the less said the better. My fiancé, is an exceptional father and has raised three sons on his own till I moved in to help. And I say help because I am certainly not going to assume their mother’s role. They have a mother (again the less said the better). But his role as a single father is a very different role to mine as a single mother.

    At the end of the day OP, reason number 9 invalidates all the other reasons.
    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I have seen this with couples. It is never easy for them.
    Usually it is the woman who wants children and the husband who doesn't want them. And usually the wife gives up her dream and learns to invest her interests in other things, keeping the marriage.

    I am sorry for your dilemma. It would be a mistake to have a child when you yourself don't want one.

    Kundo
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I just...don't want to have a child.

    In the long run it's you and your partner's dilemma, and no matter what answers any of us give ...at the end of the day you will do what you feel is the right thing to do...( for you )

    Having a baby is the right thing to do .... "Uncertainty"
    And...
    Not having a baby is (also) the right thing to do ....."Uncertainty"

    Such is life's conundrum.....

    I guess if we throw a Buddhist answer in then I would have to say....."Meditate"

    person
  • @Kundo said:

    @Hozan said:

    @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

    I have to disagree - it is different. I speak as both a single and coupled mother. Not for one minute is a father’s role lesser or inferior. But they are entirely different due to our very natures.

    My ex-husband (certainly NOT the example of the average dad),,, the less said the better. My fiancé, is an exceptional father and has raised three sons on his own till I moved in to help. And I say help because I am certainly not going to assume their mother’s role. They have a mother (again the less said the better). But his role as a single father is a very different role to mine as a single mother.

    At the end of the day OP, reason number 9 invalidates all the other reasons.
    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Fundamentally its not different. We can agree to disagree

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    With the greatest of respect, @genkaku , first of all, I would presume (harshly perhaps, for which I earnestly apologise in advance) that the major part of care and upbringing was down to your wife;

    @federica -- There was when my kids were little and is to this day a sense of sadness: You are absolutely correct. Based on income needs, my wife carried much of the burden. Even today I marvel ... what the hell would I do with three children at supper time when all I wanted to do was kick back with a beer? ... yikes! So yes, you are right -- things are different.

    But over time it is interesting to observe the division of labor that nature seems to enforce. This is not to excuse my activities, but merely to point it out. One partner does X and the other does Y ... it just seems to work out that way.

    From where I sit, women are the potential living avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver. Men seem to hog up on Brahma (the creator) and Shiva (the destroyer). ... How's that for a sexist broad brush? :) Women clean up the pottery that men seem to destroy.

    I am truly sympathetic to anyone who doesn't want kids. Likewise, I am sick to death of what darling little buggers those 'blessings' might be or anyway be praised for being. Every blessing comes with a curse, so I guess there's little reason to exempt children and/or the having of them.

    As I said, I agree with the assessment that the OP should stick to her guns. And also, I see no reason not to make sure the I's are honestly dotted and the T's honestly crossed. Just my take.

  • Having children has it's own rewards and trials.
    Being childless, likewise has it's separate set of rewards and trials.
    It is best to get any counseling from a trusted neutral trained counselor.
    as a woman, you are the one who would carry the child, bear the child, be the primary caregiver for the child. You have decided that that is not your path.
    Your husband has said he would really like to have a child. Unless this is an absolute for him, it along the lines of, "Gee, I would really like to have a house on the lake.", When you live and work by the seashore. If you are close, you will fill your lives with other things and be rich for it.
    The worst reason to have a child is because someone else wanted it when you do not.
    Beyond that, I can add nothing to the discussion.
    Ultimately, it is your decision to make. and I think you have already made it.
    Nieces and nephews are nice too.

    Peace to you

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    I made a conscious decision to not have children, but in the end it didn't matter anyway. I have an inheritable condition and didn't want to pass it on to my hypothetical progeny. My fiancee lobbied hard to have children, but in the end we discovered she had endometriosis, which makes pregnancy unlikely and difficult. She was also about 40, and at the time it was thought that her age might contribute to birth defects.

    I also had very poor parental examples, and doubt that I'd have the skill and patience to be a good caregiver. Like your husband, I'm not very good at housework and childcare, and I doubt I'd bring much to the table when it comes to rearing children. And having a child without the necessary financial resources in place seems irresponsible.

    The only quibble I have with your arguments is regarding pregnancy. I absolutely understand not wanting to have a child and going through the pain of birthing. But why not try adoption instead?

    But considering all the other factors on the table, I'd probably come to the same conclusion in your shoes. I think @federica and @dakini had some great advice about how to break it to your husband.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well you are certainly not alone, I also decided not to have children, mostly out of consideration for the planet, which at 7 billion of us is already past a reasonable carrying capacity if you ask me.

    But you might want to take into account a few different factors...
    1. Emotional impact later in life... you may reach the age of 50 and end up regretting it. Child rearing is a normal and natural part of the human life cycle and you may at some point feel that you’ve missed out.
    2. Impact on pensionable age... without children to visit and care for you in old age, you may find you are heading towards a lonely set of twilight years. Again this is an area where you may feel as if you are missing out.
    3. Impact on your current relationship... if your husband feels strongly enough about this, you may find it is a decision that has consequences.

    In the end it is something we all have to work out for ourselves.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2018

    @Kerome said: 1. Emotional impact later in life... you may reach the age of 50 and end up regretting it. Child rearing is a normal and natural part of the human life cycle and you may at some point feel that you’ve missed out.

    If you will excuse me saying so, this is a classic argument put forward by those presuming a woman cannot (a) possibly know her own mind and (b) cannot possibly be completely bereft of any maternal instinct. Both are not only completely possible, but are also far more commonplace than you would think. If a woman tells you - at this mature stage - that the very thought and idea of having children is an alien anathema to her - believe her. She absolutely knows exactly what she means.

    1. Impact on pensionable age... without children to visit and care for you in old age, you may find you are heading towards a lonely set of twilight years. Again this is an area where you may feel as if you are missing out.

    My daughter - who has steadfastly insisted for as long as I can remember, that she is certain she doesn't want children, replies to the question - "Who will care for you in your old age?" this way. "Your kids will. What makes you think that simply because I have no children, I will be alone and uncared for? Nope. If my kids don't look after me, someone else's will...!"
    I had a neighbour without kids, who had a large family with plenty of nieces and nephews. She always had company. When she wanted it.

    1. Impact on your current relationship... if your husband feels strongly enough about this, you may find it is a decision that has consequences.

    I think if we examine the OP's description of the situation with her husband, it sounds very much as if he has an idealised notion of what having kids means.

    I personally know of at ;least one dad who wishes he could put his kids in kennels every year so that he and his wife could have a holiday on their own again. And Germany - as a nation - has no future national population of young people who can take their places in the workplace. The national German population is actually declining, because a vast number of this generation have actively decided to NOT have children. What will THEY all do in their old age, then?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I know, I know... it’s a lot of people’s choice to remain childless, as it is mine as well. But it’s a decision that is not without its costs, and I just wanted to make clear that aspect of it. It’s something that you only fully realise later in life, it’s easier to say when you are young “I don’t want any children”, and then to come back on it when you are 55. But it’s a very personal decision, and no one can make it for you.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    It's funny really.... having a child, or children can bring a couple (the parents) closer together or drive them apart...especially if their relationship is a little unsettled as many relationships are...
    Having and maintaining a family unit takes time,effort and a big dollop of patience interwoven with wisdom & compassion ...It can either break or make the parents...

    This karmic baby bundle of vibrating flux & joy, could a relationship easy destroy
    This gift of vibrating flux called karma, could well destroy love if there's no practice of Dharma

    Kundo
  • LincLinc Community Instigator Detroit Moderator
    edited December 2018

    Being on the other side of that equation (I think I'd be happier with kids; my husband is very opposed) I have a couple ideas for your husband:

    First, volunteer with organizations that work with kids. There's a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained in helping kids grow, regardless of whether they are your own. "It takes a village" is the truest of aphorisms, and being part of that village is rewarding. I think this is true whether you have your own children or not, but I think it certain opens more time for you to do it when you don't have your own little ones.

    Second, help your friends and family with small kids and be involved in their lives actively. Most parents hugely appreciate this! It's super stressful raising kids, and having someone to talk about it with, to help manage the kids during gatherings, and to make space for them to participate in social gatherings with their kids is a really, really huge thing. I think a lot of folks don't realize how isolating it is to have kids in the modern world (especially in suburbia) until well after they do it.

    Every relationship is a negotiation, and I think identifying constructive ways to deal with the things you trade is a super healthy way of dealing with it.

    ShoshinKundofederica
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2018

    Moderator note:

    Just to let all contributing members know that I have been in touch with the OP and she advised me that due to a tricky little thing called 'Life' getting in the way, she has been overwhelmed with scholastic and academic duties of late, and has not had a chance to look in, but promises to do so and is looking forward to reading everyone's comments.
    Hang in there, more to follow!

  • I think it's really important to mention that there is no "incorrect" or "wrong" decision.
    And this is a very difficult situation, you have my empathy.

    I also never wanted children, never in my life experienced that urge to have a baby, and what do you know I ended up having a fantastic kid who is now a fantastic (really!) teenager. Like you, I had to really patch myself together coming from a rough background... I relate a lot to what you have written.

    You are clearly a person who is willing to do the inner work, so to speak, so even if your path does include a child you shouldn't worry about repeating your past on your child. You won't. You are too aware.

    I truly feel like I am breaking generations of bad patterns and dysfunction through my child's upbringing- her life is so different than mine was, and much better. She is amazing and I have learned so much from her presence in my life. But I will never have another one, and I have always said that and meant it. People haven't believed me, but I will absolutely never have another child.

    If my past marriage had never resulted in a child I would have been ok with that as well, and that's the truth- but I have no regrets whatsoever. Different lessons and karma in this life.

    It sounds like no matter what you do, you are helping others.
    If you truly just know that in this life you aren't meant to have a child, do not force it.
    Don't do it.

    If your husband needs to be a father as strongly as you need to be child-free, you might have to lovingly release him so he can find his happiness, which you cannot provide. And vice versa. I know that's a really strong thing to say and I don't say it lightly as I have been through a similar experience.

    I wish you well in this very difficult situation. Whatever you do, go into it with full acceptance. Then, any decision you make will be the correct one.

    federicaKerome
  • Dear everyone. Thank you so very much for these thoughtful, nuanced replies. I think about a month and a half has passed since I wrote my original post. At this time I was summoning the courage to tell my husband that I do not want biological children. I am somewhat open to adoption, but for so many reasons (age, PCOS, family tendencies. psychological issues, tokophobia, finances, career etc) pregnancy is just beyond the pale for me.

    I've never had a "maternal instinct" but becoming a mother was part of my social programming and I assumed it was an eventuality. I thought hard about it when it seemed time to go for it, and I was overwhelmingly repelled by the idea of pregnancy and childrearing, but uncovered just enough enough ambivalence in myself about the idea of not having a kid. I seized desperately on this ambivalence for my husband's sake and stuffed all my feelings down and tried to get knocked up. I was "trying" (i.e., not on the pill) for about 10 months but it was really the act of trying, and feeling a huge red light in my gut, feeling increasingly alienated form my body and spirit and future, feeling increasingly that it was wrong for me, which finally took me to a breaking point. I think if I had never "tried," I would never have known so clearly that I did not want to have children. I grew up in an alcoholic home and I spent a lot of my life burying my needs and desires, so it was very hard for me to know what was right for me. I love my husband so much that I wanted to give him what he wanted and be the Mother Earth lady he saw me as, but trying to do this showed me that I’m not that person. It has been really painful for both of us but I can’t have a child just to give it to him. I would end up abandoning both of them probably, or being a resentful and distracted mother, which is what I had, hence all the problems. I need to break the cycle...

    It took me so long to embrace my lack of desire to have children as well as my aversion to having children (two different feelings I had to cope with in different ways). In the lingo of the wonderful book Two Is Enough, I’m a “postponer.” Part of the delay is that I’m married to a person I very much love who has always wanted children, to whom I was saying “sure maybe someday” about kids when we met 7 years ago. So the terror of “coming out“ as childfree to him has been profoundly agonizing. I turned 40 this year and I was no longer able to pretend. Luckily (!) I seem to have some real medical fertility problems (whose ever been so happy and relieved about a diagnosis of PCOS?) so it seems to be helping him get used to the idea. I told him I just want him to be happy and that if he needs to have children in order to have a good life, I will lovingly release him into his dream—but he did not want to break up either. So we are muddling through.

    The longer time goes on since my decision has been made clear, the happier and calmer our relationship is becoming. There has always been this crushing pressure in the background. I feel like we’re looking at each other with clear eyes for the first time in seven years, choosing each other as life partners, choosing each other as each other, and not just for the potential future we might provide for each other. I also worry that because I want this to happen so badly I might be looking at things wishfully, with rose-colored glasses. But there’s been no denying that after so many years of pressure, I finally announced that I would never have biological children and after a really hellish and scary month or two starting about when I made this post, things suddenly started feeling happier and more secure and accepting, in a way they never have. We are fighting less, we have more fun, I feel less uptight and naggy, we are happily childish and careful with our words. I feel so much more tender energy for dealing with our normal marital tensions and the aspects of him that I never thought would be a good coparent. I can totally handle it all, as long as there’s not a dependent a third-party. This confirms my intuition that this is the best thing for our marriage.

    For us it has been really loaded. He is Italian (=family + gender roles) and I am a lifelong people pleaser. So it was crazy hard, the idea of accepting something about myself that was so radically divergent from him, and disrupting our originally mutual vision when I realized that the mutuality was founded in some really distorted ideas about myself and who I felt I needed to be for other people. I was really prepared to have to get a divorce. Maybe we will still? It’s still so new. We had a really wonderful holiday vacation together and I’m daring to hope that we’re adjusting to a childfree marriage, but I still feel really uneasy that he’s giving up something too big for himself. I know I just have to live with the uneasiness and wait and trust him to do the work and be an adult the way I had to.

    I think he wants me to be more sad about it, and to be very very honest about something I’m not totally proud of, I think I have definitely emphasized the aspects of this that are about “fertility challenge“ and less about me not wanting to have a child. There is something about my psychology, probably growing up as the accommodating scapegoat and an alcoholic family, that makes departing from what’s expected of me to be extremely existentially painful. Although I probably could make myself more explicitly clear about being childfree, I’m pretty sure the message is across now, and like I said I don’t want to make our entire relationship about this topic because then there will be nothing left and we will have to break up, even though there’s really so much left between us. I really hope the sharpness will fade. Because life without children to me seems so wide open and wonderful and full of possibility and joy. I hope he sees that too but I know it may turn out to be otherwise, and if so I’ll be OK.

    Nevertheless, there is still an elephant in the room. The controlling and extremely anxious part of me wants to make everything absolutely extremely clear, but I know that he doesn’t actually work best with this approach. Moreover, part of making this choice and articulating it has been learning how to live with uncertainty and accepting things as they are, accepting the things I cannot change and having the courage to change the things I can, and developing the wisdom to know the difference. There is still some tension between us, but tension is natural in intimacy, and I don’t want to make our relationship totally centered around this issue, especially since I am hopeful this issue will eventually recede and give way to our daily relishing of each other’s company, which we are doing now...with a tiny “pea under the mattress” of a lack of complete resolution on the issue. I can sleep on the pea! I’m not a princess!

    I want to give him time and space to grieve, and I think have made very clear that he is free to live his life as he needs to, but that I cannot participate in biological babymaking. Ultimately I have to trust that he is doing his own internal work and making a conscious choice that he will not resent me for. I can’t get into his head and I can’t predict the future, but I think I’ve done my due diligence in respecting his autonomy and making my own true self clear. Only time will tell.

    i’ve always been the more flexible one before the two of us so I thought I could be flexible about maybe having a child. I really really really tried to embrace the idea of having one. I can still imagine the good side of it, after the age of 7 or so. But at the end of the day I really cannot deal with the idea of pregnancy or raising an infant or the long preverbal stage of constant sacrifice and dependency, especially given the fragile point I am at in a career I love and have invested over a decade into. In some ways I wish it happened years ago for us, but the timing isn’t right anymore. I also think this situation is complicated by the fact that we are both emotionally intense and slightly insecure people who are really scared of losing each other, so we tend to avoid the topic because it is so painful to confront this huge difference between us. I guess that’s partly why I feel like it’s better for us not to have children. We were never really able to talk about it productively and now that it seems like we will not have them we are also not able to talk about it. I’m not comfortable with the passive stance I’m forced to take on this issue but again, it is a sign to me that we have no business trying to raise a child together. I’ve been as actively clear about my stance as I’m able to be, and if he doesn’t choose to leave on his own I have to assume he’s going to make peace with a happy life that we already do have. I hope.

    I just knew that, once I started to accept and make peace with my deeply childfree nature, I had to tell the truth about myself and accept the consequences. This act of love for myself seems to have created more love between us. I hope that is true, but I also know that I will survive if we need to say goodbye, and I will be able to live with myself.

    Thank you again for all of your caring feedback. I am sincerely grateful.

    federicastapeliad
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Thank you for coming back to us on this. You are courageous and considerate.
    I totally get the 'People Pleaser' matter.

    The bottom line is that ultimately we are all responsible for our own personal well-being and health, and we are the most important person we need to care for, tend to and listen to, every day, every hour, every moment.
    This isn't being selfish, but unless we can be completely honest, open and true to ourselves, we cannot be that with others.
    Treading on eggshells is not the way to have a meaningful, fulfilling and productive, positive relationship.

    My only suggestion would be that if you feel there are still areas where you need to express yourself without fear, hesitation, or worry, it would be good to write him a letter, then allow a neutral third party (like a Counsellor) to read it out loud, and support further discussion between you two.

    While you still fear he will not be completely happy, fulfilled and satisfied with the Status Quo then you will never be truly free to be the liberated, professional, fulfilled woman you rightly deserve to be.
    You'll still have shadows of your 'People Pleaser' role, and that's unfair to both of you.
    Hugs to you, and it's wonderful to have you back.

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