Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Am I Selfish To Marry Just to Have Children?”

For a few years now, I have been desperately feeling the need for a child in my life. I have two nephews who are my entire world. When I went through a time where I was not sure I’d ever be able to have a baby (struggling with low fertility), it made me so depressed that I cried every time I saw a newborn. But here’s the thing: Though I picture my life with children, I can’t picture a man I love. I’ve just never been in real love. I’ve been in love with the idea of my boyfriends, of having someone there to share my life with, but never in love with them. Although I would love to find a man who loved me unconditionally and whom I loved just as much, I always doubt the man’s feeling because I’m not a mind-reader. Lately, I would almost rather marry for security and someone who would be an excellent father and provider than someone I loved.

When I think of my end goal in life, it is not to be married for 50 years or to retire comfortably. It is to provide the best life possible for kids I don’t yet have. Is this terrible of me? Am I selfish for wanting to marry someone whom I don’t love and bring kids into the marriage? — Looking for a Provider, Not Love

You’d only be selfish for marrying someone you don’t love to be a father and provider for your future child(ren) if you didn’t share this plan with him. There wouldn’t be anything, like, morally wrong with finding a partner/potential co-parent to procreate with and share a household with who ALSO wanted the same thing as you and felt as interested and committed to the kind of arrangement you’ve described as you say you are. But . . . if you aren’t interested in marrying for love, why not just skip that part and have a baby on your own? Go to a sperm bank or consider adoption or look into other ways to become a single mother and just do it on your own. That way you avoid what you seem to feel is messy emotional relationship stuff — i.e. doubting someone else’s feelings; thinking you need to be a mind-reader to really know where you stand.

Something tells me though that maybe you really DO want to find love — you want that very much actually; but you’re afraid you won’t find it at all or in time to still have a baby. In that case, I still say you can have a kid on your own now without shutting the door to a potential love match in the future. If you marry someone for the sole purpose of procreating, you take yourself off the market for what could be a loving marriage (unless you eventually fall in love with the father of your child, whoever that might be). But if you remain single, you remain available. You could also consider freezing your eggs, if you have the budget for something like that, and extending your fertility a bit.

And speaking of fertility, do you still have issues with potentially conceiving? You say you went through a period when you weren’t sure you’d ever be able to get pregnant. What, if anything, changed? Were you, at one time, trying to get pregnant and unsuccessful? If so, what was your relationship status like then and do you think this experience and the way you processed it with your partner affected your views on relationships and love?

There’s a lot in your letter to unpack and I’m left with more questions than answers for you, to be honest. If you, too, are feeling as confused, I think speaking to a therapist could help you find some clarity on these issues. The short answer to your question is that: Yes, you can marry someone for reasons other than love. But a remaining question is: Do you really want to?

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

34 comments… add one
  • avatar

    jlyfsh April 9, 2015, 8:24 am

    A large part of falling in love with a partner is being vulnerable. It sounds like you might have issues with that as well as issues trusting people. How do you think everyone else knows that someone loves them? It’s not because they are mind readers. It’s because they trust that their partners love them based on how they show and express that love both through actions and words. What does unconditional love look like and mean to you? What are your expectations of this future partner?
    .
    Like Wendy said it’s possible to marry for things other than love. But, you would need to impart that to the person you’re marrying. That you’re marrying them to be a father and provider, but not because you love them. I think that will probably be a harder sell than you think. Unless they’re allowed to find that connection of love and intimacy outside of the marriage. Most people can’t go through life without that. And I’m going to guess that at some point your children could not make up for that. It’s also a lot of pressure to put on those future children. The idea that your entire life’s happiness rests on them. What do you expect of these future children as they age? What does your old age look like to you? What if your children can’t meet those expectations and you’re alone or still married to someone you don’t love and no longer have those children to fill that void in your life?

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    • avatar

      absurdfiction April 9, 2015, 9:06 am

      jlyfish these are some great points. Love is always a leap of faith! It took me some time when I was younger to figure that out, because I had this warped idea that men were not capable of love in the way that women are (yay, daddy issues!). Once I figured out that was a crock of shit, I was able to have much healthier relationships, because I had been settling for less without realizing I was even doing that. It was a revelation.
      .
      The thing about the LW putting her future kids before her own needs (retirement, etc.) also set off some warning bells for me. LW, you need to be able to take care of yourself and be a happy, fulfilled person in order to be the best mother. Everything you do, you are modeling to your children. Is a loveless marriage the type of marriage you would want your daughter or son to have? What about that thing about retirement not being an important goal for you to plan for – are you expecting these future kids to take you in and take care of you? That is pretty presumptuous.
      .
      I guess the point I am trying to make is that as much as you want kids and as much as you would love them, you need to love yourself to be a good mom. And maybe I’m reading your letter wrong, but it seems like you might be struggling with that. I hope you can have the family you crave, and I hope you can do it in a way that you find fulfilling – just think about your motivations and the consequences your actions will have on your life, and the lives of future generations!

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      • avatar

        Wendy (not Wendy) April 10, 2015, 11:07 pm

        I don’t think that’s what she meant when she mentioned retirement–she just said retiring comfortably wasn’t her goal in life. In other words, she doesn’t care about being rich. I don’t think she means she wouldn’t save for retirement.

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  • avatar

    Kate April 9, 2015, 9:08 am

    Really good points there by jlyfsh. Sounds like there’s a big void you think you can fill with what you think will be unconditional child love. I love how people think their kids will love them unconditionally and they’ll thus never be alone or lonely or unhappy or unfulfilled. Agree with Wendy’s suggestion to figure your shit out in therapy because this sounds not very healthy.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. April 9, 2015, 9:32 am

      I thought that, too. I remember seeing some talk show where pregnant teenagers were asked why they wanted a baby. (Those who had gotten pregnant on purpose.) All of their answers were related to this. They felt unloved by their families, they wanted unconditional love, etc. Consider this: having a child is no guarantee of unconditional love. It sounds like that’s what you want more than a child. Please consider therapy before anything else.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki April 9, 2015, 9:34 am

        Sometimes its the exact opposite of unconditional love. We’re currently going through a difficult time with BOTH of our kids who currently are saying they don’t want to come to our house. We haven’t seen them in a month and we’re supposed to get them tomorrow night but have no idea if we will. And it all followed us being “hard” on them for poor school performance.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 9, 2015, 12:42 pm

        When my aunt and uncle got divorced they let my cousin choose who to live with. He would live with one of them until they would crack down on his bad behavior and then he would move in with the other. He kept moving back and forth to avoid rules. His parents finally realized they were both being manipulated and came up with consistent rules no matter where he lived.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki April 9, 2015, 3:18 pm

        I wish we had that kind of support behind us, but we don’t. Instead she tells them they don’t have to come see us and don’t have to you know, communicate with their dad about any issues they may have (or communicate in general – we haven’t talked to them or anything, they won’t answer). But whenever one has expressed interest in living with us, we’ve always made it clear that we’d do it on a set trial basis (ie: 3 months over the summer to avoid interrupting school) and after that it was permanent. That they can’t bounce back and forth.

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  • Portia

    Portia April 9, 2015, 9:09 am

    I agree with Wendy, that it’s not a terrible thing to have a marriage primarily for the resulting children, but it does sound like LW wants love. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t get into a marriage if what you really pine for is love.
    .
    Also, if the LW doesn’t want to be a single parent, think about her existing system to see if she can get the support there she is looking for in a partner – parents, siblings, like-family friends, etc. If what you’re looking for is an extra parental figure and provider, see if you can’t cobble that together with people you love that are already in your own life with a track record of being there for you.

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    • Portia

      Portia April 9, 2015, 9:12 am

      And this is making me sad because I think my friend is basically doing just this and I don’t think it’s going to go well.

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  • avatar

    Kate April 9, 2015, 9:12 am

    Also, when you say you’re looking for a provider, not love, does that mean you want to not work and have someone foot the whole bill for you and these kids? What would you be giving him in return? It sounds like you’d be using him, and I do think that sounds selfish, even if you are up front about it. Which… Would you really be?

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  • avatar

    Cleopatra Jones April 9, 2015, 9:16 am

    WWS.
    .
    OK, this just maybe me but I get the impression that this LW is either trying to fill a void in her life or thinks that if she pours every ounce of her soul into raising a child she will have someone who loves her unconditionally. It almost feels like she thinks finding actual adult love is way too hard for her, so she’s going to take the ‘easy’ route and have a kid.
    .
    I truly caution you not to do that. While having kids are great, children do NOT love you unconditionally. Their love is resilient, in that you don’t have to be a perfect parent but they just don’t love you no matter what you do to them. Also, it’s really not fair for you to try to make a child the stand-in for the love you can’t find in the real world, that’s a lot of pressure for a child.
    .
    And for the record when you have kids, you DO have to become a mind reader because they don’t always know how to express what’s going on with them. I can tell from the look on my kids face or the way their voice sounds that something isn’t quite right. Then I have to play 20 questions or put the pieces together and figure out how to help them (sometimes without them knowing that I am helping them).
    .
    Raising a child is seriously hard work. It’s one the hardest and most challenging things that you will ever do in your life, so please don’t take that lightly when you are deciding to have a child.
    .

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    • gigi

      gigi April 9, 2015, 9:59 am

      So much this. Children are born to be their own people & spend a lot of time actively resisting your efforts. Its the hardest work, sometimes with little reward. If you want unconditional love, a pet is best – & I am not saying that to be flippant. Humans are just not good at unconditional love in general. And it is so unfair to put that burden onto a child.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover April 9, 2015, 8:53 pm

        Oh, totally, get a golden retriever if you want unconditional love! The sweetest things.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra April 9, 2015, 11:16 am

      Totally agree with you, Cleopatra. I will also add, I’ve seen those parents who try to be super parents and pour EVERYTHING into their kids end up having kids who resent them because they literally feel smothered. In other cases, I’ve seen kids find ways to almost manipulate the parent into getting what they want (“If you love me you would let me do x, y, and z”). Putting every ounce of one’s being into kids isn’t a good idea.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones April 9, 2015, 12:16 pm

        My experience with those types of parents are, they do that because they are unhappy in their own relationship. It’s oftentimes easier to pour all of that energy into their child instead of dealing with the issues in their marriage. It’s a variation of ‘blaming the other woman’.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope April 9, 2015, 9:43 am

    Lw, you make an interesting point. If we’re not mind readers, how do we know if another person really loves us? We know because when we’re really tuned in, we can actually feel their love. Nobody really tells you this but as humans, we have the innate ability to feel what others are feeling in any given moment. Think about it. If someone you’re close to is really, really angry you know it because you can actually feel their anger (although most people aren’t consciously aware that they’re feeling it). We can do that with more subtle emotions too. It just takes a lot of practice. Close your eyes, get quiet internally and focus on feeling what the person in front of you is feeling. It may not work the first time but if you keep practicing, it will eventually. I’ve been doing it since someone told me about it 20 years ago and I can feel everything from sexual attraction to love to nervousness to nothing. We all can. (It also works with physical sensations, by the way. Example, my friend called me and said her autistic son wasn’tfeeling well but she couldn’t tell what was wrong. I said put him on the phone and she did. I felt pain in my ears and told her his ears hurt. She took him to the Dr. and sure enough, he had an ear infection. I do this all the time. I’m not gifted. I just work at it).

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  • bittergaymark

    Bitttergaymark April 9, 2015, 9:56 am

    I disagree with any of you saying this isn’t selfish. Honestly? If marrying some sap you don’t give a damn about because you simply want to a “provider” for you and your future kids isn’t selfish… well, then I don’t know what is. NEWSFLASH! Of course she’s NOT going to tell the sap. For starters. seriously? Who would willingly marry THAT?!
    .
    PS — This is the COLDEST LW on here in ages. She seemingly has no empathy for others and openly admits that she wants what she wants FOR HERSELF. That’s clearly ALL she cares about… Do you REALLY think she should rush right out and have kids on her own? Um… Sorry. I don’t. She’s only been in love with the “idea” of boyfriends? Great. She sounds like somebody who is also — truly– only in love with the “idea” of kids. Think about that. Think about how awful that will be for those kids. Because just like all those boyfriends — they will somehow NEVER measure up…

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    • Ika

      Ika April 9, 2015, 10:34 am

      THANK YOU MARK!!!!!!!! You said it so much better than I could.

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    • avatar

      Cleopatra Jones April 9, 2015, 10:45 am

      IDK BGM.
      I think she’s more unrealistic about the situation than selfish. I think she thinks she can go out into the world and find some poor shlub to father her kids AND take care of her. That will be harder than she thinks. Besides, that sounds like a pretty [email protected] relationship and I wouldn’t willingly sign up for it.
      .
      I mean, It could work if she found someone who was independently wealthy & needed a wife for appearances only but I’m pretty sure that only works in Hollywood or D.C.
      – So if she lives in either of those places, she should go for it.
      .
      Other than that, she should get to therapy post-haste! to find out why she is trying to have a kid to feel loved.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover April 9, 2015, 8:58 pm

      First of all, for the record, I don’t think this LW should be having kids right now. However, in general, I don’t think it’s selfish to want to have kids and to not care if you marry for love. Everyone’s allowed to have priorities. There are tons of cultures where you don’t marry for love, you marry someone because they’re a good match. Similar values, similar levels of education, etc. It’s not unusual. In fact it’s extremely normal for humans. Marrying for love is a luxury. I’m glad I got to do it, but not everyone does, and I don’t think it necessarily makes sense to put your whole life on hold because you haven’t fallen in love.
      .
      Huge caveat – your partner needs to feel the same way and understand your point of view. It would be awful to pretend you were in love with them to trick them into marriage, when you really weren’t. Might be hard for a white woman to do (assuming she’s white), since the assumption among most whites now is that you marry for love.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray April 9, 2015, 10:11 am

    If you’re lonely, trying to find happiness, or trying to find a purpose, having a baby and raising a child is not going to fix that. And if you want to have a child to fill a void and unconditionally love you, then yes I think that is selfish. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to marry someone for the purpose of having kids, as long as you’re honest about it, but I don’t think it has a great chance of it working out long term for you. I think you’re trying to take the easy route out of this by not confronting your issues, but when you do, life and love will be much more fulfilling.

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  • avatar

    memboard April 9, 2015, 11:05 am

    LW: what you should really ask yourself is if you think that this marriage is going to last? Because if it does not, you will have children of divorce and those are at a statistically demonstrated disadvantage in life. Making kids going through hardship for your happiness isn’t one of the 10 commandments, I am sure of that.
    .
    That’s not to say that this marriage can’t be made to work. If you are both on board it could work. But remember that your future husband has a say in this and if he finds out that you aren’t into him he might call it quits on you whether you like it or not. This isn’t only your decision.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra April 9, 2015, 11:10 am

    Well, for starters I think you are looking for this unconditional love in the wrong place. I do not have kids, but I do teach them…though it’s DEFINITELY not the same thing as having kids of my own, kids have such a WIDE range of emotions. Every day is different. Some days your kid may love you unconditionally, but other days they may claim they hate you and treat you like utter crap. As an example, even just talking to some of the parents of my more…challenging…students, even some of the most patient parents get frustrated with their kids acting out. Are you fully ready for dealing with that type of misbehavior?
    .
    You can also fill your life with children in other ways. Volunteer as a Big Sister, or volunteer to coach a sport at a local school, or read out loud on Saturdays at the library. There are plenty of kids who need a positive mentor in their lives. I recommend looking into some of these options because it simply isn’t the best idea to have a child out of desperation. That’s what I’m getting from your letter. Not to mention…it’s absolutely not fair to a guy for you to marry him just so you have kids. Do you HONESTLY think a marriage built on children alone would last? Then imagine what the kids would go through when you go through a messy divorce. In your head this is a great idea, but in reality, not so much.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna April 9, 2015, 11:35 am

    I definitely agree with Wendy’s advice, but I would also say that if you aren’t nearing the end of your fertile years yet you might be a little too pessimistic about your prospects of finding love and procreating with a guy you really want to be with. Maybe you haven’t been in love because you haven’t met the right person yet? It seems normal to not be able to picture who you’ll end up with. But, like Wendy said, if there’s a time window you need to take advantage of, why not separate having a kid from being in a longterm romantic relationship.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy April 9, 2015, 11:40 am

    From the LW:

    “Unfortunately, being a single mother is not an option, for the same reason freezing my eggs isn’t. I could not manage it financially. And yes, I’m still struggling with the fertility issues. When I said a period of time before, it’s still something I have trouble with, and will for the rest of my life. I have maybe a 30%-40% chance of actually being able to conceive, and of then, only about 20% chance that will become a full term, healthy baby and not end in miscarriage. I guess… That the numbers make me worry more about kids than a man… I’m really trying, but the thought of never having my own baby… Makes it hard to get up in the mornings…”

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 9, 2015, 11:45 am

      It’s definitely more than time to get to a therapist.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 9, 2015, 11:51 am

      Given this information, I would REALLY advise against marrying just to have a child, considering the relatively low percentage that you’ll actually carry a full-term, healthy baby. If the only purpose to get married is to have a baby, what happens to the marriage if you don’t/can’t have children? Honestly, I’m not convinced that your motives for wanting a child are… well, the healthiest (it sounds a lot like you’re looking to fill a void and guarantee some kind of unconditional love in your life), but for argument’s sake, let’s say that your motives are perfect. In that case, if you can’t afford to be a single mother, I’d think the next reasonable arrangement if you haven’t found someone to marry for love, would be to find someone to co-parent with outside of marriage — someone who wants to be a parent as much as you and who will help financially and emotionally and practically in raising a child. But even that would require a considerable amount of trust (not to mention some legal framework) — something it sounds like you have some issues around.

      Bottom line: it really, really sucks, but some people just don’t get to be parents, no matter how much they may want to. That’s life and it’s unfair. But lots of things are unfair. The key is to focus on the things you DO have and the ways you can fill your life with joy in the absence of your own children. That your two nephews are your entire world speaks volumes… and not in a good way. You need to create a life for your own self. Because something else in life that is unfair is putting the responsibility of an adult’s happiness on children.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra April 9, 2015, 12:06 pm

      Therapy, and lots of it.
      .
      I’m sure this is insanely challenging to deal with — not being able to have your own kids. Yet at the same time, adoption is definitely an option. Why not marry for love and then adopt a child together? Say you do get pregnant and then God forbid have a miscarriage — if this already is causing you to lose sleep and make it difficult to get up in the mornings, I can’t IMAGINE what it would be like for you if you got pregnant but then lost the baby. Adoption may be the best option here. I have a friend who has had a very difficult time conceiving with her husband (2 miscarriages in less than 6 months) and she said he was her rock when she absolutely needed him most. They supported each other, and recently were seriously thinking about adoption until she got pregnant a few months ago. If you only marry someone JUST to have a child instead of marrying based on love and commitment to each other, you wouldn’t have that type of support…which I feel you would need.

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    • avatar

      samiee April 9, 2015, 12:23 pm

      LW,

      I have been where you are – fertility issues and not in a position to be a single mother. My entire life, all i wanted was to be a mother and finding out i couldn’t be a bio-mom was devestating. However, it can get better. Going to therapy was the best decision i have made and it has really taught me to find the happiness and love that exists in my life the way it is now (and no longer fretting about how i thought my life was “supposed to be”). I am looking into alternative ways to become a mother (such as fostering which provides financial supports for the child and/or looking to adopt an older child (school aged) so i can continue to work full time without having to pay for full time daycare). There are also mentoring, babysitting, etc. opportunities you can find to increase the amount of time you can spend with children which can benefit you both. But definitely start with exploring your fears/worries with a therapist.

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja April 9, 2015, 11:48 am

    I don’t think ‘selfish’ is the word here. I think it’s stupid, and completely ignorant to even think of marrying someone just to have kids with them. And a complete asshole move to even consider marrying someone like that, and pretty much ensure their unhappiness for part of their life. Because if you marry someone you don’t love, eventually it will end. then where will you be? Definitely not in a secure place. Plus think of your children growing up in a loveless marriage – which is not in their best interest.

    I think the best thing for you would be to see a therapist. You sound obsessed with having children, but have no idea of the life consequences of marrying someone just to procreate with them and use them.

    Another option, what about an arranged marriage of sorts? that may not be your culture, but if you’re not worried about loving your spouse, find someone with the same ideas at least.

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  • avatar

    MsMisery April 9, 2015, 12:03 pm

    If you can’t afford to be a single parent (therefore cannot afford to begin the adoption process, which sometimes is not friendly to singles anyway), there’s a good chance you cannot procreate naturally, aren’t looking to marry/date for love but only for their sperm and money then I suggest two things. First, therapy. I think you have some emotional issues regarding love, trust, and relationships that need to be worked out before you date or consider children. Second, you can donate your time to children in other ways (Big Brothers/Sisters, Children’s Hospitals, even foster care). But that should be after you start therapy and start working on your emotional health.

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  • chief10

    chief10 April 9, 2015, 12:04 pm

    I think BGM hit the nail on the head on this one. I was thinking something very similar to that. I don’t think I can find a true love so I’ll make a true love. Yeah that’ll work.

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  • avatar

    someone October 3, 2017, 10:44 am

    Dear All,

    just writing upon my experience on a couple of related fronts.

    I would not like to respond directly to what the original post says and would not like to say something that would hurt her. Obviously she is in a difficult state of mind and needs support rather than judgements.

    1. I am a male. In the past had a gf who wanted to marry me. She always checked out how I was getting along with kids and she tried to check my health status (genetic diseases?). Over a long time, so I did not understand it immediately, but something felt as if there was a hidden agenda. She left me at the point when I told her I want a marriage based on love and not on the project of kids and that when we are sure of having a happy marriage we would consider having children. The way she finished it has been so abrupt and pitiless that I am now convinced she never loved me. So, that is something common. Most women do this without being honest. Honesty is important!

    2. But!!! Honesty is not enough! You can be honest to the guy and although your chances are far far less to convince someone, you may find that person who would want a marriage not based on love. But, you have not asked your child whether she/he wants to be born to a family not based on love. I was born into a family where there was only one sided love. My father loved my mother but she just saw marriage as a social status. That was the biggest injustice done to ME. I felt it, believe it or not, in the first year of my life. I remember clearly that when I am 5 , i concluded that I am not entitled to happiness in life.

    3. Seeing the experience of a number of male friends: they got married to realise the project of a child. They got the child, the first 3 years of the marriage went with the excitement of the child. Then the excitement went away from the wife and the husband. Since there was not real love to start with, everything fell apart and they ended up in divorces. Unhappy children, unhappy parents, one parent condoned to see the child only once a week or fortnight.

    So, I do not agree with the comments of Wendy.
    My personal belief is that getting married just to do a child is unfair and is ethically wrong.

    A child deserves respect even before born. If you do not think that you can give him/her a happy family life, you should not make him/her suffer for your own fulfillment of motherhood hormones. Other than being a man, I am also a scientist, I know it very well that we are biologically coded to wish for children, not only women but also men. I want a child. But nature has ignored the happiness of the child in this coding. It did only one thing very right, to encourage the healthy ones to reproduce but again did not consider the psychological side of it.

    So, in my dictionary of life, using sperms to become a single mother is also not something justified. I may be wrong, I am not a child psychologist. I speak only of my experience.

    Adopting a child who is left to an orphanage is a very honourable thing to do. I would consider that.

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