“How Do I Find Meaning in Life Without a Wife and Kids?”

I’m a 49-year-old man who has never been married and has no children. I’ve been told I’m handsome, quite intelligent, and kind. I’m educated, responsible, and self-sufficient. I own my own home and have a good job. I’m a normal person who grew up in a loving home. From my late 20s, I always wanted to marry but had issues with attachment. I have an avoidant attachment style which my therapist believes has prevented me from having a life partner. I’m attracted to women and I have no issues dating them and being intimate, but a long-term relationship proved to be more difficult and I’m working with my therapist to overcome this.

If I can overcome my attachment issue, I can still have a life partner and even get married. But I don’t want to have a kid at my age. If that were to happen, I would need to work well into my 60s and 70s and that’s not something that appeals to me. So basically, it’s too late for me so I need to accept this. But it’s a bitter acceptance, and I am experiencing great pain and sadness because I feel I have failed to achieve something I took for granted (becoming a husband and father).

I’ve withdrawn from friends because they have kids who are now teenagers and I feel embarrassed and inadequate because I didn’t have kids. They’ve accomplished something great and I didn’t. I dread bumping into these old friends and their teenage kids. At my work, I dread people asking me whether I’m married with children. That’s because nearly everyone at work is married with children. I feel like such a loser and a failure.

My question is, what do I do now? My future seems desolate and empty to me. I try and make the most of my freedom. I travel when I can. I also have great supportive parents. And most importantly, I have my health. But what meaning is there to life without a family of my own? I wish I had a normal life with a wonderful wife and kids. I feel adrift, purposeless, and like my life is finished.

How do I find some meaning and purpose in my life? How do I face a future that seems like an empty void — no children, no grandchildren. Nothing. — Feeling Meaningless

I don’t believe you. I mean, I believe that you feel bitter and like a loser and a failure and like the odd man out among your friends and colleagues. But I don’t buy that the reason you feel that way is because you feel like you have no meaning in your life. First of all, there are lots of ways to find meaning in life (which I’ll get to in a minute), but beyond that, if having children were truly the sole way to find meaning and purpose in life, and you really, really wanted meaning and purpose in your life, you could have children. You could foster or adopt, for one thing. You could, you know, NOT rule out having biological children because you think you’re too old and don’t want to work into your 70s. Think about that for a minute. The reason you’ve shared for ruling out having children at your age is that you don’t want to work into your 70s. And you want me to believe you are desperate for meaning in your life and that you are just so super bitter you don’t have children? Nope, not buying it.

What I do buy is that you regret that finding meaning and purpose takes effort and sacrifice. I buy that you’re bitter than “attaching” to another person — committing in heart, body, soul, and finances — isn’t always convenient. It takes compromise. And effort. It can be a lot of work. Certainly, raising children is a lot of work. I have two of my own and there are days I feel like I’m running a marathon for 16 hours straight. And I have it easy compared to many — I have a supportive, very present spouse, good health, able-bodied children, and enough financial comfort to meet all the basic and not-so-basic needs of our family. We are very lucky and it’s still an incredible amount of work. But, yes, I do find that having kids brings a deeper sense of purpose and meaning to my life, it brings a lot of joy and laughter, and I don’t feel alone.

But I feel confident that I would feel all of this even if I didn’t have children. Because I am, by nature, invested and engaged in my community and the world around me. And I don’t measure success by what others have. Not usually, anyway. And when I do, I know that I’m doing myself a disservice and I train my focus on my own life, my goals, and what I hope to accomplish.

What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? What steps are you taking on a daily basis to meet those goals? More important: how do you define meaning and purpose? For me, it’s a feeling that I am useful, that I’m making a difference in the world (in however a small way that may be), that I am using and improving my innate gifts and learning new skills that help make my life and the life or lives of others easier, richer, more beautiful, and more connected to others. If I can succeed in helping someone feel a little less alone in the world, I have found some meaning. I don’t rely solely on parenthood to do this. And thank goodness, because on a day-to-day basis, parenthood is a real slog, and there often isn’t time and energy to bask in the meaning and purpose of it all.

You say you have “avoidant attachment style,” which sounds like a fancy way of saying you’re a commitment-phobe, and that your therapist believes this has prevented you from having a life partner. And you believe that not having a life partner and children has prevented you from having meaning and purpose in your life. Well, isn’t that convenient for a commitment-phobe! To believe there’s one path to meaning and purpose and you have a psychological excuse keeping you from that path!


There are lots of paths to meaning and purpose. You have actively chosen not to pursue one of the paths (parenthood). And don’t give me (or yourself) any crap about how it wasn’t a choice and you just didn’t meet the right person to have kids with. You have actively chosen to avoid the path of partnership and parenthood, and you are saying now that, even if you did find a partner, you would forgo parenthood because it would require you to work longer and that would be inconvenient. You have chosen to forgo that particular path, which is fine. Good for you, actually, for choosing NOT to have children when you know you don’t want to invest the time and energy and work parenthood would require of you.

So, fucking choose another path. What are your gifts and skills and interests? (If you’re 49 and you don’t know the answer to that, you have bigger problems than a lack of meaning in your life and you and your therapist have a new topic to focus on together). How can you use your gifts and skills and interests to make the world a little better (meaning! purpose!). Brainstorm, discuss with family and friends, check out volunteer options. Look at where there’s a deficit or room for improvement in movements, organizations, local government, nonprofits, schools, places in your community where your special skills, gifts, and resources could be of help. Offer help! That’s a sure way to find some meaning and purpose.

Still afraid of dying alone? Need immediate companionship? Nurture your friendships. The people in your life whose kids are no longer little are probably finding themselves with lots of extra time now that their teenagers don’t want much to do with them anymore. Instead of withdrawing from those friends because you’re embarrassed that you never married and became a dad, invite them to hang out. Start a monthly or bi-weekly dinner club. Help ease the transition into empty-nesting that your friends will soon be finding themselves in by being available for companionship and adventures. You might find that as bitter as you’ve been that you don’t have their lives, they’ve envied your freedom and the financial surplus they may assume you have. You might come to better appreciate your lifestyle by spending time with others who have a different one.

And, finally: get a dog. A dog’s loyalty, companionship, and neediness may fill that void you say you have. And you won’t have to work into your 70s or even volunteer anywhere to get it. They also don’t generally live past 15 or so. Could be a pretty perfect solution for a commitment-phobe who’s feeling too adrift in life.


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


  1. A lot of your post could belong to a midlife crisis. Such melancholy about what hasn’t been done, about youth dreams that aren’t accomplished: this is like a midlife crisis. It is good that you address it with a therapist. But your life won’t be always like this: an elegy about what you didn’t do. Take it as a period to refocus on what you would like to accomplish. A lot of this dream you speak about is not impossible: you can very well still meet a woman with whom you could have a beautiful relationship and go deeper than previously. You are quite free: you can date women who are divorced and have already children (even if it is a challenge for you, don’t exclude it at once), or a woman who don’t want to have children, or a single woman like you who dreams to have a child. Please don’t exclude now the idea to become a father: lots of men have children in their fifties and are fine! It keeps you young and yes, you will have to work, but not for ever. Perhaps your parents are a bit too protective for you and you are not used to do things for others. Give more. Date. Register in activities. And don’t avoid friends, on the contrary. Say it frankly that you are longing to find a partner, ask them to set you up. Or simply receive them, be more social. If you really want to have a partner, you have to socialise.
    Lastly, even if you eventually don’t marry, this isn’t a drama. You can be very happy otherwise. But I think you still have a lot of opportunity to find love, if you stop escaping the others, accept that you followed a different path (like many) and don’t claim to everybody that you are avoidant and don’t want children anymore. Don’t say that. Go towards the others and let your future open.

  2. Teri Anne says:

    Wendy gave the LW very good advice about finding meaning in life without marriage and children. The problem is that in our culture everyone is expected to have a family, and not having a family is considered a personal failure. Family is very rigidly defined as spouse and children plus extended family of parents and adult siblings. Other types of relationships such as friend groups are supposed to be secondary. The only way to obtain a family for oneself is to be born into a functional family where adult siblings stay in touch; get married into a family with nice in-laws; and or have children. My husband died after 20 years of marriage, my in-laws were not very nice, and I could not have children. Although I have followed Wendy’s advice for living a good and useful life, I still struggle with feelings of failure even though I know I did not do anything wrong, and for this reason identify with the LW. But I also want to tell the LW that love and meaning is still possible. He can still find a life partner, and find parenthood through an older stepchild.

    1. “The problem is that in our culture everyone is expected to have a family, and not having a family is considered a personal failure. Family is very rigidly defined as spouse and children plus extended family of parents and adult siblings. Other types of relationships such as friend groups are supposed to be secondary. ”
      I agree with this completely. Even now, for me, there is this veiled expectation that, since I’m single with no kids, most of my time should go to the relatives, and my friends and personal interests should be secondary. Me refusing to conform and doing my own things has definitely created some riff within my immediate family circle. But I think it goes back to cultural expectation.

      1. I feel you, @Just Max – my mom has said to me on more than one occasion “Friends are more important to you than family??” when I’m doing something like going to a friend’s birthday instead of visiting my grandfather when she wants me to.

        If I go by Teri Anne’s definition though, I currently don’t have a family because I am not married, have no kids, and am an only child – lol!

      2. dinoceros says:

        Yeah. My family harasses me constantly to move back closer to home. (Like to the point where they should probably be embarrassed.) But I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t talk about it in the same way if I was married and had kids. Like, sure, they’d probably be all like “we want to see the grandkids,” but they don’t seem to think I have anything in my life currently that isn’t disposable.

  3. Once you’ve worked through your commitment-phobe issues, there’s nothing saying you can’t meet a nice lady who already has kids, and you can enjoy and love her children. NOT saying you’d replace their dad, but you could at least have kids in your life in some capacity, kids that you love and a woman that you love. It’s definitely still a possibility.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Very true! At the LW’s age, many women he’d meet would have children. And if the kids are are adults, she likely will have grandchildren, which is a lot of fun.

      1. I don’t know many 49 year old women who are grandmas, but he could definitely date a woman in her late 30s, early 40s who still has young kids.

        Again, not implying that he would step in as a new daddy. But he could still have a meaningful role in the kids lives as a step-dad, however he and his (hypothetical) partner choose to define that role. And if he’s with this woman for life, then yes he’d get to be a part of those kids lives as they become adults and eventually be step-grandpa. And he wouldn’t have to work into his 70s to support them haha!

        But yeah… LW do what Wendy says first and keep working with your therapist.

      2. dinoceros says:

        Well, I guess I wasn’t assuming he was going to immediately find a life partner tomorrow. I just meant that if he, at some point, ended up dating someone with adult children, he’d still get to enjoy grandchildren potentially.

        It’s true that he can try to find a younger woman, but I also think that he should be open to women his age, even if they don’t have small children.

      3. dinoceros says:

        And I know you weren’t saying he should only look for younger women. Just agreeing that he has a lot of other options beyond having biological children. (Some options that will still apply even if it takes him 10 years to find someone.)

      4. @dinoceros that is true! I wasn’t thinking ahead!

  4. dinoceros says:

    I think one of the issues with our society is that we classify marriage and children as a controllable and guaranteed in a way that we don’t classify other types of things that happen in life. We know that when we apply to our dream college or dream job, we might not get it. We know that every career path that we think we might want might not happen. I didn’t become an astronaut. Was it possible? Yes. But could I guarantee that if I tried, I’d get it? no.

    Because many folks see spouse and kids are more personally fulfilling than a career, then they feel like it’s more OK that you can’t always control being an astronaut but less OK that you can’t control having a life partner and kids. Especially because it’s seen as more attainable because more people do it. But the idea that everyone gets one is not true and it’s harmful. Some people have a medical condition where they can’t have kids, some people have a spouse and they die, some people could have kids with adoption or IVF, but can’t afford it. Some people have a spouse, but that person divorces them. Some people have children who unfortunately may pass away or who they become estranged from. No one can truly control these parts of life, but because they are “easier” than being an astronaut or getting into Harvard we tell ourselves we all can.

    I have a friend who wrote out a five-year plan when we were in college, and the plan included when she’d have kids (like four children, to be exact) and her career path. She got married 5 months out of college. They got divorced three years later, with no kids (thank goodness). She was single for a bit, so no kids. Then she got married again, and they tried to have kids. She postponed trying due to some personal issues and starting her doctorate. She began trying again, to no avail so far. Through all this, she achieved all her academic and career goals — a master’s, a doctorate, good jobs, promotions, and now she’s in her dream job. What she didn’t realize when she made her plan was that those things were much more attainable because there were specific steps to follow and if she followed them, she could get most of what she wanted. Spouse and kids involves a certain amount of luck. She may never have kids. But she is an incredibly involved aunt, babysits friends’ kids, and has built the best life she can within the areas of her life she can control. I know that that part makes her sad, but she knows that you only get one life, so she’s not willing to waste it being miserable just because it appears she won’t be able to have the exact life she always expected.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment; it resonated so much with me. There’s this belief in our society that if we do not have marriage or children by a certain age, we’re either irresponsible (“Darn, I forgot to get married!”) or don’t want to. That’s just not true. There is so much more to it than that and parts of it are entirely out of our control.

      LW, it seems like you are doing what is in your control now and that’s great. You actually sound like a couple of my exes and it’s…heartening?…to learn that people may eventually want to make these changes. I totally agree with Wendy about everything she said, though. Life is meaningful with or without biological children, and the best way to find that is to give back and sow into other people.

      Also, dogs are the absolute best but only take on a dog if you are prepared to care for it throughout its life. 🙂 (Dog mom here!)

    2. Your friend sounds awesome!

      I wanted to touch on that paragraph… I decided in my early 30s that kids weren’t in the cards for me. I loved kids and I always thought I’d have them, but the older I became, that idea faded. Do you know how I compensate for not having my own children, LW? I am an AWESOME aunt to my nieces and nephew. I also hang out with and enjoy my friends children. You know what else I do? I tutor. I’ve tutored the same girl from 5th grade and she’s now a Sr. in high school. We’ve gone on a movie date. We’ve had our nails done. We hang out.

      Anyway. Wendy’s right in that focusing on what you don’t have isn’t good for you. It’s wasted energy. Focus on what you do have and build or foster meaningful relationships. It helps.

      1. I realize that I said it was my decision to not have children and while that’s true, I also don’t know if I’d be able to have them if it was something I wanted. I know that makes it different because this is a path I’ve chosen, however, I think the surrounding yourself with people you love and children (if you’re a kids person) is still valid.

  5. I found myself wondering if this wasn’t just a brag in disguise. I have no patience for this guy and Wendy was far nicer than I would’ve been.

    And FWIW, I bet he’s really only interested in his own bio-kids, not someone else’s.

    A dog is a great solution. If he gets a purebred dog, he can show it or enter agility, rally, obedience, hunt tests, etc. and find a whole crop of folks whose lives don’t center around kids and family and those are activities that can take up all his spare time (and money) as well as provide meaning.

    1. What a weird thing to say. Someone confessed that they feel their life has no meaning and they feel inferior to their peer group and you… think they’re bragging? I’m really glad it’s Wendy giving the advice and not you, you would be horrible at this. Please, if anyone ever comes to you with a problem like this, keep your nasty thoughts to yourself and tell them to ask someone else.

      1. Wendy and most of you sound like judgmental heartless selfish misinformed people. It isn’t always easy to find the right person to be a coparent. Many people realize that adopting as a single parent is a bad idea.

  6. The first thing you have to do is let go of the archaic notion that a spouse and kids are this magical ideal that everyone aspires to and the only true path to happiness/meaning/fulfillment. It’s ONE way to live and ONE way to find those things, but by no means the only way or the right way for everyone. If you can let that go, then you can do the work of finding out what kind of a life is best for YOU and what is fulfilling to YOU. Do you even actually WANT a spouse and kids? Or are you just unhappy with your current situation and latching on a spouse/kids as the cure because that’s what society is telling you you should want? Once you answer that question, you can move forward, either taking steps to find a spouse/kids if they are REALLY what you want, or if they’re not, taking steps to find what you DO want out of life.

  7. TeacherNerd says:

    I face similar issues, LW, although I’m married, but we weren’t able to have children of our own, and our attempts at adoption didn’t work. (I really wish people would just stop suggesting adoption as an easy, guaranteed thing.) I live in a conservative state in which people have very large families, and the first question I’m often asked if I have children; when I reply that I don’t, those who ask (and it’s invariably women who ask) tend to have zero follow-ups, so I just learn to talk about my job (I’m a teacher), and the next interesting place I’d like to travel to. But given that I live in a state that is 50th in the country for women graduating from college, it’s disheartening all around, since often the women who ask have no career/job and few outside interests outside their children. Conversations often turn to large numbers of children and grandchildren, and I have nothing to contribute in that area.

    Yes, yes, there are exceptions all over the place, but it often feels like being poked in a bruised area, since we would have welcomed a few kids.

    So I would echo what others here have said: Broaden your thinking. Children may never be part of your life. Of course, had you had children, they may not be part of your life due to estrangement, death, distance, etc. What other interests do you have that you could cultivate outside of work? It sounds like you’re feeling lonely and cut off from a community.

    1. Yes about adoption! It is so hard honestly, so unnecessarily hard. I feel like there are so many ways that our world is opening up to different lifestyles but it feels like those old tropes still hold on.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wait? What? Wendy, are you really saying somebody hesitant about becoming a dad at 50 as they don’t want to work until 70 doesn’t have a legitimate concern? C’mon!
    In a society that largely over inflates the depth and meaning of everybody that ever procreated — nevermind that an insane number of today’s parents are laughably abd relentlessly lousy at the job — it is all to easy to feel defensive about NOT having children.
    And in a world as fucked up as today’s — is it really any wonder so many middleaged people struggle to find meaning in their lives?
    And not finding a partner can JUST happen. As some of you will find out.
    PS — I am so sick of smug “happily” coupled women thinking they are some truly enlightened group as they are so well adjusted because they have no issues with commitment and blah blah blah… meanwhile, I can routinely get so many of their committed husbands to blow me off grindr.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      I didn’t say that not wanting to work until one is 70 isn’t a legitimate concern, but I just don’t believe you desperately really want kids if that is the reason you aren’t going to have them even if given the opportunity.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I mean, most people are going to work until 70 anyway. What a luxury to not have to!

      2. I agree with Wendy. If you truly want kids, you won’t let age stop you. And in a lot of countries, people work until the very end.

        I used to think happiness would come from marriage and kids. (I could’ve written that smug remark when single!) I now realize that happiness truly comes from within. My life was seriously so much more simple and easy when single and childless.

    2. dinoceros says:

      I mean, if he is dead set on not having kids because of his age, then he doesn’t have to have kids. Nobody is forcing him to. He’s the one who essentially said his life had no meaning without kids, so working into one’s 60s or 70s (like most people do) seems like an odd priority. But yeah, if retiring in his 50s is more important than having kids, then hopefully he won’t be as unhappy as he thinks he will be by not having kids.

      Also, like a billion people just said that people might not find a life partner. So why are you bringing it up smugly as though you’re the first one to think of it?

      Anyway, I don’t really understand the comment he made about working into his 70s. If he’s financially stable enough that he can retire in his 50s, then he’s probably doing very well for himself, and I’d assume that his income combined with a partner’s could afford a child without him working THAT much longer.

  9. I haven’t had the chance to go through every comment, so maybe someone already mentioned this. As you get older more and more people in your dating pool may be single with kids. You can be a good influence, even a father figure to some kids. Don’t rule that out!

    Of course, you need to work on the issues Wendy pointed out before you even think of blending with a family or playing Stepfather. But it’s not like there’s no hope for you to ever be a father. Just not a young bio dad. The right family might be out there and you may be able to be a great dad.

    Wishing you the best

  10. I kind of hope this is my ex in 10 years.

  11. Northern Star says:

    You’re really hard on a middle-aged guy who never found a life partner or had children. If this were me (and I thought it WOULD be me until a few years ago), knowing that my situation was largely a result of my own choices wouldn’t do anything to make the pain of the present a “lie.”

    He’s in therapy, which is more than you can say for most people with a problem. Hopefully he speaks with his therapist about this melancholy and they come up with a plan to reconnect with his friends and pursue other interests.

    1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

      Yeah, I was kind of surprised by the tone too. I mean, I read the letter as this guy being INTELLECTUALLY conscious that his view of his life isn’t rooted in reality but not EMOTIONALLY conscious of it, and that’s where his struggle is coming from. In that respect, I didn’t take his first paragraph as bragging, but rather as saying “I have a lot of things that most people strive for, and I know I’m in better life shape than a lot of people my age, and yet I can’t shake being this unhappy.”

      I think the advice is good though. LW, you’re in your 40s; you’re not dead. Some of the best things that happened to me — where I went to law school, where I work, meeting and marrying the woman who is now my wife — were SO far off what I expected my life to be like that I’d have told you that you were crazy if you bet me they’d happen. And, yet, here I am. I’d suggest taking a breath, taking some of the pressure off yourself, and just living life for a bit to see if something comes to you. Take a second in the day to notice the things people rush by and ignore, like a great sunset or the taste of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee just the way you like it. And, yeah, pets are amazing; I can’t begin to tell you how much my dog has changed my life. But a watched pot doesn’t boil, and so take your eye off of it for a bit and see what spills over!

  12. uhhhwhatsagoodname says:

    Yes to nurturing friendships! As a queer person, I’ve lost a lot of my birth-family after coming out. Instead of pining for the family that disowned me, I decided to create my own “chosen family” in the form of deep, meaningful friendships. LW I don’t know if you identify as straight (although you only mention wanting to be with women) but I think this very queer concept of chosen family can apply to you too. Look for open-minded people child-free or not and invest in those platonic relationships. I know many folks that are partner and childless but are the loving aunt or uncle to their kids with friends and find love and meaning that way. I think having love invites more love so perhaps you’ll find a partner through that avenue one day too, who knows.

    Also, 100% agree to dog ownership. My dogs truly saved my life and also allowed for me to be more social. People love to flock to people with dogs so I think that may open a lot of doors for meeting people.

    Best of wishes, I’m only in my 30s and still partner and childless myself (which I think for me is okay for now but one day I’d like a family too). We still have a lot of life to live, and a lot of opportunities to find love in many forms.

  13. Another reason the LW and other childless men feel sad and a failure is that when they pass away…. They won’t leave a legacy behind…..They won’t spread their genes… They won’t keep their surname going etc. ….They won’t leave anything behind…. Wendy, what do you think?

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      I think that sounds nauseatingly patriarchal, but, yeah, I’m sure there are men who feel that way.

      1. And if you don’t have kids, who do you leave your things to when you pass away? Who do you leave your house and money to?

      2. Ele4phant says:

        I realize this is old, but felt compelled to respond anyways.

        What do you do with your earthly assets if you have no children to leave them to? Whatever you want man.

        Are there other young people in your life you care about (nieces/nephews/mentees)? Leave it to them.

        Is there a cause you care about? Make a bequeath to a non-profit.

        Have an endowment or scholarship set up in your name.

        Donate it all so your name is on a plaque somewhere for years to come.

        Honestly I don’t understand the desire to leave some “legacy” behind – most of us truly are not that special and will basically be forgotten in any meaningful way within a few generations anyways. Most of our genes and surnames aren’t so special that the world will be any different if they end with us. But if you must there are so many ways to leave a “legacy”, a memory of you that will persist after your death even if you don’t have children.

        Get creative dude.

    2. If you feel like that, try to rise above it and be a better person. My husband’s boss has no kids of his own, but his wife had two boys from her previous marriage and they adopted another kid… he’s Dad to all three of them, and the one who’s most interested in his company is going to run the ops side as his dad gets ready to retire, essentially taking over the business to keep it going. My husband runs the sales side, and gets a lot of support and praise from this guy that he doesn’t get from his own dad (dead/gone) or his stepdad.

      1. Tbh, you don’t really have control over this stuff anyway. My dad’s dad had 4 kids – 2 boys, 2 girls. One boy died before having kids. My dad had 2 kids, but I’m not having children and neither is my brother. Our name ends now. Who cares? I have cousins with other last names. The family will go on. My parents act like grandparents to my cousins and their kids. My parents also tutor kids in the projects to give them a better shot at life. This is what you do. You deal. You give to others.

    3. My dad and uncles had all daughters. Their father only had one sibling, a sister. Once the uncles and their wives (and me because I kept my last name) pass away, our family name is done. Nobody ever seemed too concerned with it. Maybe their more evolved than I give them credit for, especially since was come from a small city.

      Also, my last name is extremely uncommon. I just did a search and something popped up where there was “114 incidents” of our last name across the U.S. in 2014, whatever that means. 15 of those was probably from my family and my extended family.

    4. dinoceros says:

      I think there are much more important and meaningful things to leave behind that your name or genes. Doing meaningful work (paid or volunteer), creating (art, music, whatever), sustaining relationships with family and friends are wonderful legacies to leave behind. I suspect that person in their 80s on their deathbed will look back much more fondly on the good they did and love they gave than whether someone has their last name.

      1. Yeah, not to mention, a great way to leave a legacy is to start a fund or foundation or scholarship in your name, to benefit others after you’re gone. “What is a legacy? It’s planting flowers in a garden you will never see.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    WWS, except the part about having biological children at his age. More and more studies are finding an undeniable link between fathers over 35 and an increased risk of genetic abnormalities, infertility in the child, mental illness, and many other lifelong health problems. (I’ve attached a link to a comprehensive study that lays out a lot of the current knowledge)

    Does this automatically mean children of older fathers have a host of problems? No, but it does mean that men should start considering this when they get past 35 the same way that women do. If you really want to have biological children and can find a willing partner go for it, but be prepared that you could pass that child serious issues and be honest with yourself whether or not you are capable of and willing to care for a child with special needs.


  15. wobster109 says:

    I’m going to cut LW some slack on the avoidant attachment thing. He didn’t make it up. It’s a psych term, and like a lot of medical terms it’s not part of everyday conversation. As Dr. Psych Mom explains (http://www.drpsychmom.com/2014/06/30/attachment-theory-and-other-ways-to-understand-why-your-spouse-was-put-on-this-earth-to-make-you-crazy/), it means someone who thinks emotions are silly and avoids difficult conversations. This is measurable: an avoidant attachment person will have higher levels of cortisol in their blood during arguments or difficult conversations than a securely attached person.

    LW, although it may make you harder to deal with during fights, it does not mean unable to commit to a relationship, and you shouldn’t treat it as a prediction or an excuse. Lots of avoidant attachment people get married and have kids. Lots of them also learn how to communicate with their partners. They get good at this through cognitive behavioral therapy, which is fancy psych speak for practice.

    Like anything else that you practice, it takes time and hard work. There is no easy answer.

    If you truly want a kid, I think you should redo your math. You are 49. 49+18 is 67. You have to work an extra 2 years past retirement age. It’s not that bad. The kid can go to a state school using a combination of scholarships and student loans. Student loans suck, but they’re not some death sentence.

  16. And if you don’t have kids, who do you leave your things to when you pass away? Who do you leave your house and money to?

    1. Nieces and nephews, siblings, second cousins once removed, or instruct that the whole lot be sold and the money given to charity. Really, most people I’ve known have had zero interest in inheriting and living in their family home. Even if they did, by the time their parents die or move into an elder-care facility, they already have their own home, likely in a different town, even a different part of the country or world. We live in a highly mobile society.

    2. If you’re fortunate enough to have money to leave, leave it to a charitable foundation in your name. Or create a scholarship or something.

    3. dinoceros says:

      Yeah, money can go a lot of different places. Home and things are most likely going to be sold by whoever you leave them to (with the exception of a few heirlooms, I assume, if leaving your things to a family member) anyway.

  17. Debbiedebs says:

    I feel say as a 35 yo woman. I read one comment repeating that you chose this path and you and I know we wish it were a choice. If it were that simple we wouldn’t feel this way we would just choose to not be single. Hello. Anyway, I feel you and know you’re not alone. I don’t know what the answer is other than yes, acceptance and if you equate children with a purposeful life like myself, try to open yourself up to other pathways. Warm up to the idea by
    becoming a big brother or volunteering at group home for orphaned children. Power to you and I’m with you on this summer Friday night from somewhere in the states

    1. anonymousse says:

      There’s a huge difference between 35 and 50. If you’re single, childless and unhappy at 35, there are so many things you could do to change your life. You’re really young and have plenty of time left to make the life you want. Inaction is a choice. Waiting for things to change without doing anything to personally change them won’t give you the results you want.

  18. Geez what an out of control presumptuous dipshit of an answer. Let me say i think you choose to answer questions like this persons because always wanted to be a doctor of psychology and never was smart enough to get one so its clear why your pissed off

    1. Zach, you’re the one who sounds angry, out of control, and probably not smart enough to have achieved what you wanted in life.

    2. anonymousse says:

      Ha ha, I think your comment is an out of control presumptuous dipshit of a comment, Zach.

  19. I’m not familiar with the disorder that you have, but I feel it’s unfair for people to redefine it as commitment phobic. It has clearly affected your life and your decisions and choices.
    I think people need to remember that for people (and to risk being called sexist, possibly especially men) to bring their problem to the table on here should be respected.
    I understand your feelings of wanting to become a parent, I knew I wanted children from being a teenager. However I also know a lot of people who dont want children, I must admit this concept fascinated me at first. But in all honesty after having children, one of whom has had countless problems, I have on occasion found myself wondering if they are right. Realistically no I probably wouldnt do it differently but I’m saying dont idealise, just be you.
    Like I say I dont know why you have this disorder, is it due to childhood experience? Sometimes emotionally intelligent people may put off having children as they dont want to pass on their problems.
    You’re doing great you’re taking the time and effort to address what’s bothering you, try not to put pressure on yourself for all the what ifs. There are so many possibilities of what could happen in the future.
    You sound like a very responsible person to be already considering the financial futures of possible children, if your baby mum to be is younger than you there really is no reason why you cant have your own children, men have this at their feet time wise. I’m currently dating a 52yr old who has a 5yr old, please stop worrying

  20. Anonymous says:

    My initial post here posted under anonymous, but I still say that somebody not wanting to try for biological kids north of fifty is simply being honest that they missed out on that. And being self aware. Raising kids all through your retirement sounds if not impossible — unpleasant. And what happens if you do have a child with special needs — HELLO, the risks go WAY up north of 50. How do you provide for that? Say, a lifetime of care… When you will be dead before the kid even hits 25?
    The LW really got unfairly piled on here.

  21. thirdchapterandcounting says:

    Wow. This answer was… worth registering to post a response.

    I’m pretty sure the original letter was not about whether the letter writer wants children so badly that he needs to pursue having them late in life. He answers that question himself — he says he’s decided, he does not. So the exhaustive unpacking of whether you ‘believe’ he really wants kids is profoundly beside the point. He’s grieving because, as many people do at midlife, he needs to come to terms with the fact that the life he’s built is not going to match up with his youthful idea of what a ‘valuable life’ would look like. Specifically, he’s mourning an alternate life in which he resolved his crucial problems earlier and built a relationship and a family at the traditional age. The fact that he doesn’t want kids-at-any-cost now, at 49 and single (and likely still grappling with attachment problems), does not negate his sorrow. How to dissipate that grief, get unstuck, and build a definition of a worthwhile life that he can still achieve… that was the question. This answer is as much about the columnist as it is about the man who wrote the letter. Working full-out at child-rearing plus a busy life is exhausting and frustrating for sure, but some of the anger here seems misdirected. This is the first time I’ve run across Dear Wendy and I haven’t explored the archive… hoping this was a rare miss as opposed to the customary tone.

    In the event that you read this, Letter Writer, there are lots of helpful things you can be doing but I wanted to say one thing I think is particularly important. Your grief is real, and it does need to be processed. But please don’t let doing so become a smokescreen to avoid grappling with the lifelong issue that brought you to therapy, learning to build a durable relationship without sabotaging it. Sometimes focusing on the thing we can’t undo is painful, but also more comfortable than looking at the thing we can still change. Don’t wait longer.

    And just in parting, three other things:

    1 — if you don’t have any mature, childless friends, you need to get some. Of course you can keep your friends with families, but the understanding gap is real — you need some folks who are not living that life.

    2– when you get past some of the sadness and shame that’s making it hard to spend time with those kids of your friends, give some thought to all the important people who helped you become an adult, but weren’t your parents. Part of what you’re longing for may be fed by emotional investments in those young people who are part of your extended tribe, if you will.

    3 — finally, if you’re not already, do try and do some focusing on the value of what you have: the freedom, the financial independence, the space to build a new relationship in your life as your capacity increases, and the good life you have to share with her. It sounds horribly trite, I know, but learning to appreciate what you’ve got can make a huge difference in happiness over time.

    Good luck to you.

    1. “Child-free,” please, rather than “childless.”

      1. Child-free seems a poor choice of words. It strongly implies that the person is lucky and happy not to have children, which, obviously, is not always the case.

    2. Thank you for your nice answer. The rest of the answers were very harsh. I am in exactly this man’s position and although it came from my choices there is a grief that needs to be grieved.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Life really sucks when you really are all alone, especially for many of us good single men that never met the right good woman from the very beginning that were really hoping to settle down and have children as well. I was married at one time and was very happy until she cheated which i really thought that i had finally met the right good woman to have children with, especially when i went out for so many years before i met her. Now at the age of 65 which makes it very obvious that i will never have children, and to see how very extremely lucky and blessed that other men were when they met their loved ones since it really does bother me. It is as if God punished many of us men for no reason at all, especially when so many others have their life so very complete.

    1. It’s not ‘punishment,’ it’s simply a happenstance. Yes, it’s sad and we are allowed to grieve it, but there isn’t some plot against you or the rest of us whose lives didn’t turn out how we wanted or expected.

      1. Let The Truth Be Known says:

        To Sandra, Wendy the idiot shouldn’t really wright articles like this in the first place since there are many of us single guys that were really hoping to meet the right good woman to settle down with. And now that we have so many very entitled women today that are so very greedy selfish spoiled picky and very money hungry which these moron’s are only looking for the best and won’t settle for less. And guess what which these very pathetic women are really too blame and not us at all either.

  23. malin karlsson says:

    Wow, Wendy who ever you are, this response here wasn’t very nice. I agree about some things such as this man claiming how he doesn’t want to have children even if he could and it does seem like he has friends with whom he could choose to hang out with but doesn’t, but I could relate to quite a few of those things, myself being a woman of 34. In my case I have wanted to find a good relationship badly but havenät been able to and for that reason I also don’t have kid’s. I don’t have the ersources or money to become a single mother on my own I feel and at this stage have given up on findig a man to have it with. In my case, I wanted to still be friends with my few frends who had partners and families but they became less and less interested in hanging out with a single woman with no kids so these days I don’t really have friends left. I do feel depressed when all everybody is ever talking about is partners, family and kids and what they do on ther holidays. This is a real problem and when you say that you are sure you yourself would feel plenty of meaning without these things, that’s only an assumpion you have. You have NO idea what life looks like for a person with no kids or partner, yet you THINK you do and you sound extremely cold and mean in this reply. You have just reinforces my opinion of how mothers seem to become so full of themselves and their own struggle that they stop having empathy for absolutely anyone else. Maybe don’t have a place like this if you can’s offer any empathy for anybody else?

  24. Another very dumb article written by a very brainless, clueless, and worthless woman that needs to get a real life.

    1. If I may, you’re being a tad tautologous with the use of brainless and clueless. Change ’em up if you want to keep a shred of credibility when you abuse women in the future.

      1. Anonymousse says:

        I love your comments, Ange.

      2. Awww shucks 😊

  25. Fern D. R. says:

    I’m a 41 yrs. old U.S. Army Veteran. I’ve had several relations before the war, but lately, after the war, it’s been even more frustrating to keep a relationship. I have been diagnosed with delayed-onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I tell my dates on the third day about it and it doesn’t seem to get a fourth date or any further dates. I used to get angry, but now it’s expected for any woman to just disregard Me after the third date. It’s been since 2013 since I had a relationship and now I don’t have anymore reason to continue dating anymore if the results are the same in the end. I just wanted to know if I can live life without a wife or kids? the fact that my life was spent serving a country that would throw away everything for free stuff, makes Me wonder if I made a mistake. and because of that mistake, I have to live a life alone and be just another person waiting for nothing. there a women who have a certain taste for a cup of tea and it seems I’m no woman’s cup of tea, LOL =)

  26. Reading this helped give me insight into myself. I am in a very similar situation, with similar feelings, and have an attachment issue as well. It took a very long time to find a therapist who recognized that because all my past ones missed it. If you know what the problem is, that’s half the battle right there. There is hope, the fact you are working with a therapist says volumes about who you are and how brave you are to work on yourself.

    Something I do through experiments to give myself perspective. What if I had gotten married, had kids, and ended up in a marriage that wasn’t fulfilling, with the wrong person? I’ve had enough abusive relationships in my past. Or what if I divorced, and watched what happened to my kids and the person I love as everything unraveled? What I mean is, from the outside looking in on other people’s lives, it may seem like a picnic and they are living this amazing, incredible life. But the reality could be very different. Having these thought experiments can offer insight. The mind can have a habit of aggrandizing things that may not have become what we imagined. Before moving across the country last year, my doctor said, “Wow, I envy your freedom. You have no attachments and can literally go, travel, and pursue anything you want.” She is married with kids. This comment really blew me away because I never thought anyone would be jealous of my loveless, unrooted, childless life. I sat there thinking I was a loser, and she offered a perspective I had never considered.

    Have you asked anyone how they might view your life? What if they aren’t judging you in the way you think? It depends on how you look at it. I’ve lived an extremely adventurous life and could I have experienced all that if I was married with kids? Maybe! Maybe not. Who will ever know? I’m sure there are things you’ve done or experienced that you would never change, either.

    You still have a lot of life ahead of you. Not everyone experiences the life journey in the same way. We need a more forgiving culture and society. My life was interrupted more than once by years of illness and disability that prevented me from achieving a lot of the things I had dreamed of. I’m in remission now, but it doesn’t change all those lost years. I’m rediscovering myself. Maybe this is a time to rediscover yourself. There is something called a “late bloomer” however you want to define that. You’re not less of a man (or a human) for not getting married and having kids. Life purpose is what you make it, and perhaps as you go along, you’ll discover a different kind of life purpose.

    Love and accept yourself for who you are in this moment and every moment. Especially when life isn’t perfect and you feel irrevocably defective. That’s when you need to love, accept and approve of yourself the most. There are a lot of social norms that are shifting and changing in our ever evolving society. Being single and childless in the past meant failure. Today? It can mean independence, rediscovering yourself, healing yourself, exploring other purposes, or creating something amazing. If anyone tells you that you aren’t where you are supposed to be or haven’t achieved what you were supposed to achieve. Well, who the hell are they to dictate anything about you or your life? It’s yours, my friend. Don’t allow other people’s projections, opinions, or beliefs to infringe on your inner truth. Good luck! You’ve got this.

    You never know what the future may bring.

  27. It was just too bad that God unfortunately created so many very rotten and evil women everywhere these days when many of us single guys will try to start a conversation with a woman that we would very much like to meet to have a serious relationship with, and then to have them curse at us for no reason at all when we will just say good morning or hello to them. And i know other single guys that had the very same thing happened to them as well. What in the world is that all about anyway when there are many of us that really do want to have a wife and family to share our life with instead of being single and alone today? A lot of gay women everywhere these days as i can see, and real men haters. Very obvious why so many of us guys can’t find love at all, even when we really try which i can see why. Not our fault.

    1. They curse you out for no reason at all?! How incredibly unfortunate for you! You’re just sitting there, minding your own business, not being creepy at all, and these evil women start cursing you out from nowhere, just because you say hello to them. They’ve never even met you before and have no idea that you intend to form a serious relationship with them when you interrupt their day to start a conversation with them. A complete stranger! So unlucky!

      1. Yeah, what is that all about anyway? And did you read the other part of my comment when i said i know other single guys that had it happened to them as well? So how in the world can many of us find love today since the great majority of the women these days aren’t really that nice to meet anymore? It is not our fault at all. This would have never been a problem had many of us guys been born back in the old days when most women were very old fashioned and real ladies at that time, which made love back then very easy to find. Very big change in the women today though unfortunately. Gee Wiz, now i know why our family members were very lucky years ago when they met one another back then.

      2. If it was so easy back then for men and it’s not now how about you and all your other sad men friends git gud and stop blaming women for your creepy game. You said yourself you’ve been trying and getting nowhere so we can’t be that bad. The biggest difference is we have options now and clearly the market has spoken.

      3. Wow! And dating apps don’t work for you either? Trying to pick up women on the street, their place of work, while they’re shopping is a bad move. Lots of ways to naturally meet people through hobbies, sports, volunteering, church, political and social groups. If you’re hanging out with the guys having the same problem as you, then all of you likely giving off strong creep vibes.

  28. Seriously speaking here since for so many single men that were really hoping to find love which is very difficult for them to live without a wife and family, especially when their friends and family members were very extremely lucky and blessed when they did meet the love of their life and have children as well. Most women today prefer the very rich type of men with their very big bank accounts since those type of women are very horrible as it is since they’re just real gold diggers looking for a meal ticket. And the other type of loser women just want a man that is over six feet tall with six pack abs as well, and must have a full head of hair and keeps himself in very excellent shape as well. And that is what makes most of these women nowadays very pathetic too since they just can’t accept the man for who he really is anymore. Back in the old days which it wasn’t all about looks and wealth that most women today are really looking for, and back then both men and women in fact were struggling just to make ends meat to get by which they both accepted one another for who they really were at that time. So it is the women today that are really to blame why so many men are still single today without no wife and children that many of them would have really wanted.

    1. If you don’t have anything to offer a woman in a society where women can be selective in ways they historically couldn’t, just say that.

      1. 💥

      2. Truth. Bomb.

      3. Copa And lets not forget how real lady like that most women were back in the past compared to the very mentally disturbed women that exist today unfortunately. Very obvious why so many of us single guys can’t find love today, even when we really try.

    2. Anonymousse says:

      Copa nailed it.

      Look deeply in the mirror. You’re the reason no woman will date you. It’s not just your hairline and waistline, it’s the way you have become embittered towards women. No one I know wants a meal ticket, we want to be treated with respect and dignity.

      We actually don’t need losers to subsist anymore, it’s actually the fact that we are independent p, can have jobs, bank accounts, etc and don’t need a meal ticket that women can choose better, more evolved men, who actually respect women. I’m sorry you seem to not understand that.

    3. God, that’s depressing. Who’d want to date someone who views women so negatively

  29. Well everyone needs human contact at one time or another, so being single and alone all the time is certainly no fun at. Especially for many of us single men that have no wife and family that we would’ve preferred.

  30. HeartsMum says:

    “What I do buy is that you regret that finding meaning and purpose takes effort and sacrifice. I buy that you’re bitter than “attaching” to another person — committing in heart, body, soul, and finances — isn’t always convenient. It takes compromise. And effort. It can be a lot of work” from Wendy is not mean, it’s facts!! LW can get some credit for writing into Wendy & leaving the echo chamber that various commenters clearly spend a lot of time in. LW can (in my mind) get credit for not getting married to whoever and popping out some sprogs with her, then being surprised at how unrewarding and what a hard slog parenthood can be. But I feel what he really wanted (and the other gormless commenters) was a cardboard cutout of a family so he did not have to look too hard at what he wanted, for himself, and who he really is. I often feel heteronormative thinking is the toughest prison to escape for those supposed to benefit most from hetero norms.

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