This is part one of a two part series.
Are you in a happy relationship with a person you love BUT they do not want kids and you do?
Although highly distressing, this is not so uncommon. In fact, in our work researching Beyond The Egg Timer, we found many women in that situation. These women grappled with the question: should I stay or should I go? If this is you, read on to learn more.
Should I stay in a relationship with a partner that does not want kids?
This is the first question women typically ask. It’s an excruciating dilemma. Leaving a loving relationship is heartbreaking. It is also a huge risk. What if you don’t meet someone else who wants kids. Perhaps, having a child on your own is not possible? For women in their late thirties, there is the added pressure of beating the egg timer.
However, staying or leaving the relationship is not the first question I suggest you ask. It’s putting the cart before the horse. Many times, the conflict can be resolved through exploration and conversation.
How do I talk to my partner about having kids?
I know at this point, you may be rolling your eyes. You thought the two of you were on the same page and now he is backing out. It’s scary and hurtful. Perhaps you are resentful that years have been wasted. Slow down. Focus on your goal. You need to create closeness in order to have a baby. Your feelings are valid, however acting out on them will cause more of a chasm, not lead to having a child.
First, use whatever coping skills that work for you to center yourself. Some people find journaling or exercise good ways to release their tension. Mediation can help focus your mind. You need to put yourself in the place of truly wanting to understand your partner’s hesitation, not convince him to have a baby.
Speaker- Listener Technique
The crux of the speaker -listener technique tool is to wholeheartedly listen to your partner and reflect back to them what you are hearing. It takes a lot of patience to not get defensive, argue, or state your case. The speaker breifly expresses their point of view and the listener ‘s job is to really hear it.
The point of this is to move the conversation forward. If you do not understand your partner’s concerns, you can not resolve them. You will also get a chance to express your concerns. However, not quite yet. The next part depends on what your partner says. I present possible scenarios below
Reasons your partner may be resistant to having kids.
- We can’t afford kids.
In this economy, that is not totally unreasonable. I discuss some ways of rethinking the financial obligations here. This is a good time to discuss how you envision raising a family. What quality of life you expect, what do you consider needs versus wants.
- It will ruin our relationship.
Again, not completely untrue. Some data indicates that people with children are less happy than those without. However, a lot of this depends on how you choose to parent. Obviously if you treat your child like a king and you become the servants, resentment and unhappiness will fester. This is a good time to explore your values. Hannah Caradona offers a valuable list of questions to discuss in her guest post on our Psychology Today Blog. You don’t have to give up all of your interest to chauffeur your kids to endless activities. You and your partner can remain “interesting “ people with thoughts and activities separate from painting. My husband and I love discussing current events. We also love being with our kids. It’s about balance.
- They had an unhappy childhood.
If your partner struggled and suffered through childhood, this may cause ambivalence in having a child. Regardless of whether they pursue parenting or not, it would be beneficial to heal these wounds. Gaining closure and insight will only help all of their relationships, including the one with you.
It is crucial to validate your partner’s concerns. If it is the first two, then have open conversations. Be creative. Use “and” thinking not “or”. For example, if your partner loves to travel and is afraid you won’t be able to with kids, show him examples of families that go on adventures together.
Challenge black and white thinking. I once worked with a woman whose husband thought they had to start saving for college the moment the child was born. I explained that most people don’t do that. In fact, a lot of people wait until they are done with daycare and then direct what they were paying for daycare (or a portion of it) into a college fund.
Create a list of supports. Creating and raising a person is overwhelming. Perhaps, your partner would feel more confident doing it if they had community. Make a list of people in your life whom you think would be willing to help at some level. These are people who could offer advice, periodically babysit, or simply listen to complaints. You’re not alone in the world but you need to create your community.
You and your partner may want to consider counseling. Marriage counseling can be a great way of having facilitated conversations in a safe space around this. Your partner may also want to consider individual counseling if they have a lot of unresolved childhood wounds.
These are really hard conversations. However, they are worth having. You and your partner will feel closer after connecting at this level. If you do choose to have a child, learning to communicate effectively and compassionately will make parenting a lot smoother.
What if your partner refuses to engage in this discussion or, after talking, still does not want children? Part two will help guide you through that scenario. Come back next week to learn more. Follow us here and on Facebook & Instagram and never miss a post.
Do you need help navigating a relationship? Are you looking for a warm, compassionate counselor? Please contact us. We serve women throughout Maryland in person or via tele-health.