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“Neither of Us Wants Kids, But What if One of Us Changes Our Mind?”

no babies

I’m 29 and, after over a decade of dating, I’ve found the man I’m meant to be with. We have a supportive, loving, honest relationship that’s full of laughter and respect. For me, Brandon is truly the kind of person you encourage your readers to be with. He cares about things because I care about them, he considers me in his life plans, we have a lot of fun together, we have similar values, and, even when we fight, it’s fair and honest (and doesn’t last long). We’re doing long distance right now, but it’s been going as well as can be expected; we Skype daily, see each other at least every month, and have a plan to be in the same city by May 2015.

So here’s the “but”: we’ve been together about a year and had frank discussions about marriage and all that entails, including finances, life goals, kids, etc., and, while it’s obviously best to be matched on these BEFORE getting married, we are undecided about the possibility of having children. We are both ambivalent on this issue. We like other people’s kids, but don’t seem to have a strong desire for any of our own, though neither of us has said firmly “No” or “Yes.” So, what would happen if we get married and one of us decides we really do want children while the other is still on the fence or possibly has shifted more towards not wanting them? Won’t that be a bigger problem once married? Are there successful marriages when this want is not necessarily fulfilled for one partner? Is this something I shouldn’t worry about because you can’t predict the future that way? Part of me feels like I’m almost finding things to worry about because I can’t believe I could ever be in such a stable, fulfilling relationship. At the risk of annoying your readers, please, Wendy, help me with my “non-problem” problem! — Trying to Figure it All Out Ahead of Time

I have answered a variation of this question many times before:

“He Wants Kids But I Don’t Know if I Do”

“He Doesn’t Want Kids, but Maybe I do”

“He Wants Kids But I Don’t. Can We Still Date?”

“I Don’t Want Kids but My Live-in Boyfriend Does. Are we Doomed?”

“I Changed My Mind About Having a Baby, But My Husband Didn’t”

As you can see, you aren’t the first person to be in an otherwise great relationship who worries that the kid issue is going to change things. It will. And you are right to worry. If one of you decides that, yes, you do want a baby while the other remains unsure, or decides for certain that he or she doesn’t want a kid, your relationship will be in trouble. And there’s not much you can do now to avoid that except either break up (which seems extreme) or not get married until you’re both sure what you want (which still isn’t a guarantee this issue or something else won’t come between you) or accept that you simply can’t figure it all out ahead of time. There is no perfect relationship. This is no path that is smooth forever. At some point, you’re going to face a dilemma in your relationship that no amount of talking beforehand will fully prepare you for.

So what do you do then? You cross the bridge when you get to it. When it comes to this particular bridge — the bridge of children, let’s call it — then the person who wants a baby has to decide if that desire for a child is more important than his or her very real spouse and marriage. And if it is, then the marriage ends and you both go on your way, one of you maybe having a baby with someone else and the other maybe finding a new relationship with someone who does not want to have kids. Or, conversely, maybe the person who wants a child decides that that desire isn’t strong enough to end the relationship and so maybe you get a dog instead and that fulfills the desire to care for something, to feel maternal or paternal. I don’t know. None of us can know what will happen in the future. That’s why loving someone and committing to someone and vowing to be together forever is so fucking scary because we can’t predict what forever will bring. But we follow our hearts and we trust and we love and we hope that things work out and that, if they don’t, we have the strength to withstand the fall-out. That’s all any of us can do, really.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar neatist August 13, 2014, 8:55 am

just wait a bit, LW! 29 is very young. If I were in your situation I would enjoy things as they are for a year or two more. If you and your partner are able to get to a more comfortable position on this issue you can plan and enjoy a wedding feeling more secure and relaxed about the entire process.

avatar Smalls August 13, 2014, 9:08 am

I’m of the mind that you don’t know what the next year will bring, much less the next five to ten. You don’t know how you’ll change and grow and evolve, and the same for Brandon. If you both keep talking and working things out together, in partnership, that’s your best bet. My husband and I have gone all over the place, to don’t want kids, to we want kids, to do we actually want kids or do we just like the idea of kids, and everywhere in between. To Wendy’s point, I ultimately don’t know where we’ll end up, but I know that we’ll get there together. I think what’s critical is that the two of you aren’t already divided – it’s not like one of you wants kids and one of you really doesn’t right out of the gate.

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 9:09 am

Since you are both currently ambivalent about whether or not you want children, I say wait and see. Cross that bridge when it gets there, especially if you are on the same page about everything else. At least that’s what I would do. I mean, why end something good because of an uncertainty? And I do believe if you truly love one another, you’ll come to the best solution for you when the time is right.
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Then again, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t worry about this stuff. I just figure it will work out how it’s supposed to. BUT… it takes me forever to decided on big purchases. Like, I was sitting on an air mattress for several months before I decided on a couch.

avatar jlyfsh August 13, 2014, 9:26 am

I agree with Wendy and others that since you’re both ambivalent it seems best to wait and see. If one of you had stronger feelings than the other, I would suggest talking it out more. But, it doesn’t seem that way. I do think having an agreement that if either of you suddenly does come to a realization that you definitely do or don’t want kids you should bring it up to the other.

Kate Kate August 13, 2014, 9:30 am

If everything is great, then go with it. Keep checking in on the kid issue, especially if this relationship proceeds to getting engaged.

I worried about this a bit as well. I was 37 when I met my husband (he was 41) and I was pretty sure I didn’t want kids. He was on the same page, but I wondered if maybe he’d change his mind. I just ask him about it now and then to be sure. I told him that if he does change his mind and start thinking he wants one, to let me know. So far he doesn’t, and neither do I. I’m 39 but I think I may have a few years left where I could conceive naturally (though I’m on the pill).

You guys are a lot younger, and yeah, one or both of you could change your mind. But you’re on the same page now, and he feels like the right guy for you, so I’d say keep moving forward.

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 9:34 am

Ooh, you were 37? That gives me hope!!!!
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Sorry, sometimes it’s just nice hearing about people getting married a little later than the norm.

Kate Kate August 13, 2014, 10:04 am

Yes I was, and we met on Match. I had gotten out of an awful on-again-off-again 8-year shitshow relationship a year prior to meeting him. I wasn’t even looking to get married necessarily, just to have a nice healthy relationship. Caveat – I had been married before, from age 21 to 28. But yeah, you can meet the right guy at any age, I think. And I find it kind of comforting to realize, you know what, if my husband and I had met at any time prior to when we DID meet, it probably wouldn’t have worked out for us. Not to sound corny, but I think we needed to go through the experiences we went through in order to be a great match for each other. Also, when we met he had fairly recently retired from elite rowing. I couldn’t have dealt with him when he was in serious training for national teams and stuff. He’s intense enough as a Masters athlete, but it’s a level of intensity I can handle. Elite sports are a totally different story.

Sorry to ramble, but I think you get the point :)

avatar joanna August 13, 2014, 10:28 am

This is a great example of it being the right timing for a relationship to happen.

avatar TheRascal August 13, 2014, 10:46 am

“if my husband and I had met at any time prior to when we DID meet, it probably wouldn’t have worked out for us. Not to sound corny, but I think we needed to go through the experiences we went through in order to be a great match for each other.”
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This is EXACTLY how I feel with Mr. Rascal. We both had awful, manipulative longterm relationships in our 20s that helped shape us both to be better partners. Had we met any earlier, I don’t think we would have worked.

Kate Kate August 13, 2014, 10:50 am

Yup, exactly. So if you think about it like that, it could be helpful to someone who’s wondering why she hasn’t met the right guy yet. The right guy has to be the right guy at the right time, so you can each be what the other needs.

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 1:31 pm

I don’t really wonder why I haven’t met the right person. I mean, I was engaged once and had a couple other long-term relationships that didn’t work out, mostly because of timing. I’m friendly with everyone of these exes. I guess what I’m more concerned about is the dwindling numbers, or chances of meeting someone. That’s why it’s nice to hear about people meeting and marrying later. I’m in absolutely no rush and I would rather be with the right person than marry just to marry.

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 1:34 pm

It’s refreshing, is all, because I don’t read a lot of these stories and don’t know many people, personally in this situation.

avatar Breezy AM August 13, 2014, 11:13 am

I totally get that Kate.
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I am with someone now I’ve known almost 15 years, and had we gotten together initially it would have been a disaster. We both had a lot of living and growing up to do.
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My guy was firmly in the child free camp. So firm he wouldn’t even date women with kids still at home. It was a hard and fast dealbreaker rule for him.
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And then he got reconnected with me and got over it real fast. Absolutely no one who knows him can believe how much he got over it. But here’s the thing: he decided to get over it. I didn’t push him. I didn’t even know he had this as a rule! But he’s almost 50 and decided he had a lot more patience now than when he made that rule decades ago. And he’s not only tolerating the kids, he’s actually really amazing with them (even their dad and my soon-to-be-exMIL say that!).
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People change when they want to. If children are super important to someone, sometimes, the couple changes. And sometimes, if remaining childfree is super important to someone, the couple changes that way too. I’ve seen it go both ways, and provided it was a good relationship outside of that issue, the people work it out to something reasonable.
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We can’t always get what we want in ANY issue. Relationships are about working it out and compromise. Honesty, integrity, compassion, and good faith.

FireStar FireStar August 13, 2014, 11:05 am

I got married at 36 – I have three friends getting married this year – two at 39 and one at 40…all first marriages. I know there was a whole debate on marrying early vs. late but almost everyone in my friend circle got married happily after 30 when they were already established…and everyone seems happy (no divorces at least)

avatar something random August 13, 2014, 9:33 am

Wendy is right. You need to cross that bridge when you come to it. You might have a better feel for things as you get closer to the “forever train” platform. If you will be in the same city in May of next year, I would give yourself some time to settle in to what that feels like. You have time to wait and see because if kids were something you wanted in your immediate future you would know it. So be patient and accepting of yourself and where you’re at- both personally and in your relationship.

avatar lets_be_honest August 13, 2014, 9:47 am

“the person who wants a baby has to decide if that desire for a child is more important than his or her very real spouse and marriage.”

All of this stuff gives me such anxiety, and it is (to use Wendy’s words) so fucking scary. I really sympathize with you LW. I try to tell myself that should my partner change his mind, that I will be supportive because I love him and want him to feel fulfilled. If that means he has to leave me, then that’s what I’d want him to do. Its sad and depressing to think about, but I’d rather that then spend years wondering if I kept him from having a fulfilled life. I don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s life regret. That would be way worse to me than losing someone I love.

avatar Marcie August 13, 2014, 10:03 am

My husband and I came into our marriage thinking we would have kids. We just kept having a great time just the 2 of us. Now it’s 8 years later and we need to make a decision. He’s 36 and I’m 33. I know that we could have plenty more years to decide, but who really knows. He wants kids more than I do. But after a few intense conversations (the last one I about had a panic attack), he says he’ll do what I want to do and won’t leave me if I end up not wanting kids. Which makes me feel a bit better but I know the decision is solely up to me at this point. Most women don’t understand that I might not want to be a mom, which is fine. I think I’m getting to the place where I feel comfortable with this feeling. Our moms won’t be happy, but these are our lives, not theirs.

All that being said, I think you should just continue on, and try not to worry too much about it right now. Everyone else is right, no one knows about the future. Figure it out when you come to it.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy August 13, 2014, 2:02 pm

Drew and I had a similar experience. We’d been together five years and thought we’d have kids one day but were having fun just the two of us. Drew wanted kids more than I did, though I was very open to the idea. Still, I think I could have/ would have waited longer if we weren’t as old as we were (I was 34 and he was almost 41) and if I didn’t feel like we might miss our chance if we didn’t act soon. It was definitely my decision to make as drew made it clear he was ready, like, yesterday. And, finally, a day came that I just didn’t want to hang out in the “meantime” anymore; I was simply ready to move forward. So we did. And I’m so happy we did.

dizziej dizziej August 13, 2014, 10:26 am

I met my husband when I was 28. At the time I absolutely did not want kids. He didn’t care one way or the other. But spending time with him and really getting to know him while we were dating made me realize what a great dad he would be.
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We now have 2 amazing kids and while some days I wish for the ability to sleep in, or put things away and have them stay where I put them, or not find clean clothes strewn all over the floor because someone decided to play in a drawer, hearing Mommy, seeing their smiles and listening to their laughter totally outweighs everything else.
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You never know what the future will hold. Take each day as it comes and live life like it’s meant to be lived.

avatar Simonthegrey August 14, 2014, 9:01 pm

This is almost me exactly. I turned 29 just after meeting my husband. I had never had a strong maternal instinct. I love kids, but had never had the desire for MY OWN kid. Now, we are married and I’m 33, and I would like us to have our own children. But we’ve also talked about, if we don’t end up having kids, that’s ok. We would rather have each other. He wants kids too, but that’s been a process for him.

avatar Portia August 13, 2014, 10:37 am

I struggle with this a bit too, after years of dating, and we have had (and still have) a lot of conversations about it. Some of the conversations are more lighthearted than others, but nothing turns into a big screaming match. I’m glad that we’ve been able to keep a dialogue about it open. Since I’m still figuring it out too, I really have no advice, but I just wanted to add that you’re definitely not the only one going through this.

findingtheearth findingtheearth August 13, 2014, 10:42 am

I think its good you are aware of the potential for concern, but, I also understand the need to find something to worry about when things are going well.
I know for me, I probably won’t be able to have another child. I have pretty much accepted it, and know I would have to find someone who already has kids and is older. The person I am seeing now has 2 kids and is quite a bit older than I am, so he thinks he doesn’t want anymore. But, that could change. He could hit his early 40’s and get the desire to have another. Then we would have a lot of pros and cons to weigh if we are still together.

avatar Laura Hope August 13, 2014, 10:53 am

I’ve had one husband but 3 different wedding rings–each one symbolizes a completely different cycle, or even “incarnation” of the marriage. It all keeps changing and evolving. You really can’t know how you’re going to feel at 35 or 45 about kids, jobs, where you want to live etc. All you can really do is marry someone to whom you are sexually attracted, who shares your core values and your commitment to work at the relationship. Then you pretty much have to cross your fingers…

avatar SasLinna August 13, 2014, 11:45 am

Getting married will always be a judgement call – you have to take into account so many different factors and there is always some uncertainty as to how things will play out. In the end you have to go with your gut feeling. I do believe in gathering enough information though. Maybe if you wait a year or two before you get married you’ll have a clearer picture. If in doubt, being a little older when you make the decision is better. I personally find it’s an advantage to make the commitment when you have a pretty clear idea of your position regarding kids (that could also mean that you come to the conclusion that you could ultimately live with or without kids).
I’m in a somewhat similar situation age and relationship duration wise (30 and boyfriend and I have been together for 1.5 years). We’ve always talked about having kids from the beginning. It comes up in conversation quite a lot. We’ve both said we want kids (obviously there’s not absolute certainty until we do make the decision) and our conversations since have solidified that. So I think that while you shouldn’t just assume that nothing has changed in how your partner views things, it’s possible to “take the pulse” from time to time and to find out very quickly if things are shifting for one of you.

avatar Miss Lady August 13, 2014, 11:47 am

My husband and I are going through this as well. We like other peoples’ kids, especially our niece and nephew, but aren’t so sure we need any of our own. We think we could be happy being child-free or having a few little ones. We had some pre-marital counseling, and our counselors assured us that this was not something we had to decide before we got married. We are coping in a couple of ways.
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First, we put an expiration date on our waffling. We decided that by the time we are age xx, if we have not decided to go for it, then we are closing the door on having a biological child. A few years after that, we will close the door on adopting. I like this because it takes the pressure off of deciding right this minute. I do want to note that we understand things change, life changes, minds change. These dates are our Right Now expiration dates, but they are always up for discussion.
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Speaking of discussion, we talk about this frequently. We are open and frank in our communication and check in with one another about how we are feeling. These are not always deep serious discussions, maybe more like FYI’s or temperature readings. We’ll say things like, “this movie makes me wonder if we’ll regret having kids when we are old and all our friends’ kids are giving them grandbabies” or “baby-sitting our niece makes me feel like I do not want to be a parent.”
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Last, because we think we’d be happy either way, we loosely think that if one of us starts really feeling strongly either way, we’ll probably default to that. But who knows? Good luck!

Diablo Diablo August 13, 2014, 11:53 am

“The Bridge of Children” creates quite a visual image. As in, “It’s time to drive the car of desire across the bridge of children and into the parking lot of enduring debt.” Thankfully, M and I never had to answer this question, as we decided a long time back that i am enough children for any relationship.

avatar csp August 13, 2014, 11:54 am

LW, I agree with a bunch of commenters that you should just keep having the conversation from time to time. Ultimately, life takes turns that you cannot predict. You might decide you want kids then find out you can’t have any or you might accidently get pregnant and that might make the decision for you. There are so many what ifs because life’s problems are not usually about the things you worry about but totally unexpected things that blindside you. When picking a husband, you want someone who will be good at weathering the storm with you.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 13, 2014, 12:54 pm

In my experience it’s usually the woman who changes their minds about kids. Guys tend to be hard and fast on this by 30. But many of my good friends, my sister included suddenly out of the blue started wanting kids by 35…

There is no real way to plan for this.

Just go with the flow.

Look, you can’t count on anything in life anyway. I just learned a friend of mine — a guy I wanted to date, actually — succumbed to brain cancer at the alarmingly young age of 38. Anything can happen. And thinking you can plan everything? A recipe for disaster and disappointment.

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 1:28 pm

I actually do know a guy who changed his mind in his early 40s, and his wife is pregnant now. Or, I guess they both changed their minds. What I’m saying is, guys not saying they want a child in their early 30s could change their mind too. There’s really no hard and fast rule on this.

avatar lets_be_honest August 13, 2014, 1:39 pm

cough Peter cough

avatar ktfran August 13, 2014, 2:08 pm

Oh my gosh, I so wish I would have been talking about you….

avatar Commalovr August 13, 2014, 6:45 pm

I’m really sorry about your friend, BGM.

avatar Lovelygirl August 13, 2014, 2:00 pm

My husband and I felt the same way you and your boyfriend do regarding kids before we got married a year ago and things have remained unchanged. We are both on the fence with kids and are ok with either decision that we make a few years from now. We are 32 but don’t yet feel the internal clock and maybe we never will. The fact that you are both honest about how you feel is the most important part. A decision will come for you later and that’s okay.

mylaray mylaray August 13, 2014, 2:42 pm

I think everyone has given great advice. It’s so true that as sure as you can be about being together, you never know who will change their mind on what. Anything can happen. Continuing to communicate the issue is key.
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When we started dating, my husband and I were both ambivalent and I had the same fears about one of us changing our mind. Now it seems like we are both wanting a child, but we still change our minds all the time. We didn’t get married to have a child (I respect people who make that choice though) and so I think it’s even harder for me to make the decision of whether I want one. It’s still at least a few years away, and I think how we will come together to make that decision for sure will test how we will last as a couple. And you know, no one wants a marriage to end, but it happens for a variety of reasons, and if you get married and then end up breaking up over wanting kids/not wanting kids, it’s okay.

fast eddie fast eddie August 13, 2014, 7:42 pm

We didn’t have kids and have no regrets. Many of our friends didn’t either. Life is very much easier for that decision but sometimes I wonder if it was wise or not. The biggest downside is with no family at all the estate will all go to our cats.