PROBLEM: My husband recently told me that he does not want to have children. This a crushing blow for me because I love my husband with an intensity that I never thought possible and find it hard to imagine that should I move on. I don’t think I could ever find someone to spend my life with whom I loved quite as much, and yet, I cannot bear the thought of never becoming a mother.
We have discussed the issue of parenthood on and off for years now, and while it has been clear throughout that he hasn’t wanted children, having had a very traumatic upbringing, whenever I made it clear to him that this was a deal-breaker for me, he always came around and agreed. Recently, however, his views seem to have become stronger and I think at this point he may be willing to let me go, despite the fact he clearly loves me deeply and depends on me for emotional and practical support.
All of this is complicated by the fact that he has a child from a previous relationship, which was an exceptionally stressful experience as he fell into the role of sole breadwinner and primary carer with next to no external support. His previous partner has restricted his access to his son since the relationship’s dissolution, which has been devastating for him, and all of this has only confirmed his negative views of parenthood. He has also struggled with depression and anxiety for decades but has improved in the past six months, having finally been put on medication.
I am 32 and feel that my time is running out. I know that my desire for motherhood is greater than my desire to stay with him.
Is there anything I can do to help him see parenthood in a more balanced light or should I allow him the freedom of his perspective and leave without another fight?
ADVICE: It sounds as though you are finally at decision point and a very difficult one at that. You are at the cusp of having everything: a man you love passionately and the possibility of having a family. The parenting question has been a live one in your relationship for a long time and there have been slivers of hope for you when he agrees to have children, only for this hope to be shattered again when he comes up against experience and fear.
You say that your husband has been doing well in the past six months since going on medication, therefore his decision-making might be unencumbered by depression or anxiety and thus be clearer and more defined for him.
He is clearly stating that his choice is not to have more children, and this decision comes both from his experience of his own childhood and from his painful experience of parenting. On one side, he has all this first-hand knowledge and, on the other, the faith and love you offer for a possible future.
Both of you are now at the point where a decision needs to be made and it seems as though you both are on the brink of leaving as you feel so strongly about this situation.
The pattern seems to be that you “fight” and then some equilibrium is restored until the issue rises again as you have not actually sorted it. If both of you keep the same positions nothing will change and this pattern might actually become the hallmark of your relationship, with regret and bitterness resulting.
You know his position and no doubt he knows yours; this will escalate unless one of you lets go either of your position or of the relationship. It would appear that you are the person with the most awareness at this moment, so the choice is yours; accept what he is offering now (no children but devotion and loyalty) or leave knowing that you have loved hugely and that you have benefited from this.
All the information is now available for you to make this decision and you have no crystal ball to look into the future, so the decision must be based on all the knowledge you have at this moment.
Many couples face the issue of life without children (whether by choice or not) and go on to have very successful marriages and fill the gap in their lives by being wonderful aunts and uncles or giving back to the world in different ways. However, the urge to parent is primitive, fundamental and strong, and to cut off that possibility when that urge is at its most prominent is no small task. You have an enormous decision to make and now is the time to make it. Whatever you chose, follow it completely and do not waver from it as the alternative possibility is continuous suffering for both of you.