Are you in a loving relationship that is 99% awesome except for one thing? You want kids and your partner does not. If so, you are not alone. First, check out last week’s blog post on how to broach a conversation exploring your partner’s hesitancy. Oftentimes, we go to the worst case scenario but a little connecting and probing may resolve the issue.
If you already read it and your partner is either unwilling to have a conversation or is still a hard no after talking, you may be feeling overwhelmed and alone. It’s one of the worst dilemmas: Do you stay or do you go? Staying may resign you to a childless (not completely by choice) life at best, and resentment and regret at worst. Leaving a partner you love is heartbreaking. It also does not guarantee you a child. It’s a huge gamble.
My partner is unwilling to even have a conversation about kids.
This is a red flag for me. Here is why. Regardless of how they feel, this is an important topic to you. A supportive partner will always be open to discussing what matters to you. Now is a time to reflect on how supportive they are in general. What is their response if you are upset about something at work or want to talk about climate change? If they never show interest, then that is a huge problem. If they are unwilling to discuss this sole issue, it is just as problematic.
Second, major decisions are mutually made in healthy relationships.
This is true whether it pertains to what part of the world you live in or if you go back to school full time. It is certainly relevant to deciding on having children or not. Your partner is making a unilateral decision about children if they refuse to even discuss the issue with you.
For the reasons mentioned above, I strongly advise couple’s counseling. If your partner refuses to go, I recommend that you get individual counseling. The question you ultimately have to ask yourself is: Am I willing to stay in a relationship with someone that won’t engage with me on something this important to me?
My partner and I talked and they are still completely against having kids.
This is really challenging. Assuming you both explored the talking points layed out in last week’s post, and your partner is firm in his beliefs, you need to take this at face value.
Why do I say that? Because I have seen too many women ignore what their partners are saying. They think, “Oh, he’ll change his mind”. But a no is a no and if he knows himself well enough and is holding firm, that needs to be respected. However, this does not mean a childless life for you. It does indicate some tough decision making, though.
First, reevaluate your desire to have a child. Some people know for sure, it is non-negotiable. If that is you then no need to explore further. However, if there is some level of flexibility, reflect on that.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What does becoming a mother mean to me?
- What would it say about me if I did not become a mother
- What am I looking forward to as a mother?
- Where/when did I decide motherhood was for me?
- What would it feel like in ten years to not have children? Twenty years?
- What would I be missing out on if I don’t have kids?
- What do I gain by having children?
Anne Davidman and Denies Carlini developed a beautiful resource for resolving maternal ambivalence. I highly recommend their program.
Can your maternal needs be met in ways other than having your own children?
Some women become the number one aunt or participate in mentoring programs. Some hospitals have programs for baby “rockers”. Although pets are different from children, some women do find solace in fostering dogs or volunteering at an animal shelter. You can be an instrumental influence in a child’s life without actually having a child.
I’m a firm yes on having kids even though my partner is a hard no.
This is where it gets really hard. The bottom line is that love is a true wish for another’s happiness. If you truly love your partner, you won’t force them to have a child. Conversely, if they truly love you, they won’t want you to miss out on being a parent. Therefore, whatever decision you make, know you are making it with love.
If you choose to stay, take time to grieve not becoming a mother. Some women actually hold a burial ceremony. They gather up some “baby” items – maybe a cute onesie or a maternity shirt and bury them. You can also write a letter to yourself as the mother you would have been. It may look something like this: “Dear XYZ, you would have made an incredible mother and I’m sorry you don’t get to have that experience……..”
If you choose to leave, let love lead the way. Treat your partner with kindness, this is as hard on them as it is on you. Acknowledge the loss and also acknowledge you are doing it out of love for both of you. Know that it will be excruciating at first but focus on your reason why. As Viktor Frankle wrote in his seminal work, Man’s Search For Meaning, we can get through any situation if we have our why. Gather support, you may even want to see a therapist during this time. Lastly, none of our feelings last forever. Feelings are temporary. Therefore, you will not feel this bad a year from now.
Are you having trouble navigating a tough relationship or life decision? Get in touch now and one of our therapists can help you.