Some funny person on the internet once said, “A compromise is an agreement whereby both parties get what neither of them wanted.” If you or your partner doesn’t want kids – and the other one does – this may sound familiar to you.
At times, relationships can feel like an endless exercise on the exhausting treadmill of compromise. However, there are instances when compromise just isn’t a possibility. And the question, “Should we have kids?” is often one of those instances.
What can you do if your partner doesn’t want kids and you do? Or (s)he doesn’t want any more kids and you have baby fever again? How can you get to a place where both of you are happy with whatever decision you make? You can’t agree to have half a baby, so what can you do?
What to Do if You or Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids
There are plenty of women who don’t want kids and men who don’t want kids. In a perfect world, couples would have had this conversation before they got married, but, hey, no one is perfect. In addition, sometimes people do have the conversation but then they change their minds later on and decide they either do or don’t want kids.
So, let’s talk about how to work with what you’ve got. The first step is for each of you to really understand your own position on this matter. There is no way that you can even begin to understand why your partner doesn’t want kids (or does want them) if you aren’t clear on your own feelings.
So, how in the world do you do that? You can start by asking yourself – and others – some simple questions to figure out how you and your partner really feel about having children and how it might impact your life.
Questions to Ask if You or Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids
Author, Cheryl Strayed once wrote about a visualization exercise that I think can be really helpful when making any big life decision. We’ll use the example of having children here but feel free to insert whatever life decision you are dealing with.
Visualize two future lives, one with kids and one without. Get really clear on what these lives look like. What is your day to day experience? Who do you spend time with? What activities do you participate in on the weekends? How does it feel to do these things and be with these people?
Then ask yourself the following questions about each visualization:
- What are the great aspects of this life?
- What are the not so great aspects of this life?
- Which affects you on a visceral level?
- Which won’t let you go?
- Which is ruled by fear?
- Which is ruled by desire?
- Which makes you want to close your eyes and jump and which makes you want to turn and run?
These are excellent questions to ask yourself if you aren’t sure whether you do or don’t want kids, if your partner doesn’t want kids, or really, if you’re facing any major life decision.
To gain further clarity, I would also recommend interviewing people that are on both sides of the fence. If you have friends or family that don’t want kids, or if their partner doesn’t want kids, ask them about what went into making that decision and what they experience as the benefits and drawbacks.
How to Talk About Whether to Have Kids
Now, let’s say you know for sure how you feel. You want kids. You can feel that biological clock ticking and your husband doesn’t want kids or maybe is still unsure.
How can you talk to your partner about this? (By the way, I’m using the example of a husband here, but am well aware this goes both ways and many women don’t want kids either).
Two words: Openly and honestly.
Tell him how you feel and why you feel that way. Explain where you are coming from. Don’t shy away from letting him see your vulnerability. Be open and honest about any fears and insecurities you have. Wanting children is a very emotional event for some people, and it’s okay to let your partner see that.
Now, it’s your turn to listen. Ask him how he feels and why he feels that way. Even if you don’t agree, try to understand where he is coming from and acknowledge that understanding. Encourage him to share any fears or insecurities he has about the situation.
If this is your first conversation about whether you do or don’t want kids, just try to open the lines of communication so that you can talk to one another with love and compassion as your guides. You don’t have to figure this all out today and you probably won’t figure it all out in one conversation.
Moving Forward If You or Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids
If after many conversations, you still can’t come to an agreement, then it’s time to think about whether or not this is a dealbreaker for you. Some people know that they are destined to be parents above anything else. If you are one of those people and your partner doesn’t want kids, it may be time to think about finding someone who is.
If this is where you are, it’s important that you are open and honest about that possibility with your partner. Now, to be clear, I do not recommend giving your partner an ultimatum if you do not mean it. There is a difference between giving an ultimatum to manipulate a situation to get what you want and setting a healthy boundary based on genuine needs and desires.
Ultimatums get a bad rep in relationships but the reality is, there are some things that will result in the end of a relationship if they are not met. Having children is often one of those non-negotiables. If you genuinely feel that you would rather end the relationship and find someone else in the event that your partner doesn’t want kids, then you have every right (and responsibility) to share that with your partner.
I know this can be really scary to think about, especially after putting so much time, effort and emotion into a relationship but it is important to be honest with yourself and your partner about where you stand on this topic so that you can both make the decision that is right for you.
With a topic that is this emotionally charged and has the potential to change so much in your relationship, having a nonjudgmental outsider to mediate the conversation, like an online couples therapist, can be extremely helpful. If you end up in an argument every time you bring up the word “kids,” it’s definitely time to contact an online marriage counselor for help.
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