New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice.
I think you are not unlike a lot of people — women, mostly, it seems — who decide they want something because it’s what’s conventional or socially expected or what they always thought they wanted. And when that something — a relationship, marriage, a baby, the perfect house — doesn’t come as quickly or as easily as they think it should, they get fixated on it. It becomes an obsession. And soon, it becomes more about “winning” than about the thing they think they want.
I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone, by any means. But I do think that, in a lot of cases, the actual desire for something gets lost in the obsession to “win.” It’s why we hear of so many woman who refuse to leave relationships that aren’t working — because they waited so long or fought so hard to “win” those relationships that the fact that the relationships aren’t good is just a minor point. Or, when women wait years for a proposal or for their partners to agree to marry them only to realize they don’t actually want to marry that person after all. They just wanted to “win.” And then when they do, they realize that the “reward” isn’t what they wanted.
So, here you are with your “reward” after years of waiting, and rather than feel excited, you’re … not. Rather than plan a wedding, you’d rather break your engagement. And you should. If you aren’t feeling it, you aren’t feeling it. But I say go a step further, and just end the relationship. What future do you have if there’s no passion in it? If the only passion you felt was the thrill of the competition to win an engagement and now that that thrill is gone so is the passion, it’s time to MOA.
Sure, your families and friends, and certainly your kids, will likely be disappointed. But that isn’t a good enough reason to stay in an engagement or relationship — not when you aren’t happy. The kids aren’t a good enough reason to stay together. You can co-parent very well without being romantically involved. You may even be better parents when you aren’t stuck in a relationship that no longer works for you.
As for how to tell your fiancé you don’t want to marry him anymore, be honest. Tell him you made a mistake. Tell him all this time you thought you wanted to marry him because you thought that was the missing piece in your relationship and your life and now that you are engaged you realize it wasn’t the missing piece at all. You’ve been waiting to feel like you are heading in the right direction and now you know you were simply on the wrong path. Tell him you love him and you love your family together and you want to work very hard to continue being the best co-parents you can be. But, for you, that means parenting as individuals and not as a couple.
You made a mistake. It happens. But there’s no reason you should have to spend the rest of your life — or the rest of your kids’ childhoods — paying for it.
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ktfran February 18, 2014, 9:51 am
I think this is my favorite response Wendy was ever written. Seriously. It needs to be published and distributed to girls everywhere.
LW, from experience, call off the wedding sooner rather than later. And if you really want to make sure you no longer want this relationship, postpone ALL wedding planning until you do know. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in that and it will be harder to get out.
MsMisery February 18, 2014, 12:53 pm
I wish people would be more aware that not everyone has to meet the same major milestones in life in order to be happy/successful. I am 31 and single and to some, that is a complete tragedy. I have no idea if I will ever get married. I have no real desire to do so. I wish more of society realized THAT’S PERFECTLY FINE, not just so they’d stop bugging me about it, but so that other people wouldn’t jump into stuff they weren’t ready for or didn’t want.
Copa February 18, 2014, 9:57 am
WWS. And, as someone whose parents “stayed together for the kids” when they were miserable together, please trust me when I say that sometimes it does more harm than good for all parties involved.
kerrycontrary February 18, 2014, 10:01 am
I think there’s a difference between 2 people who are miserable together staying together for the kids, and someone who doesn’t feel passionate about their spouse *right now*. Marriages and long-term relationships take work, and there are going to be periods (especially during times where you have 2 small children) where you aren’t feeling that great about your relationship, but maybe you do in 6 months.
kerrycontrary February 18, 2014, 9:58 am
I get what Wendy is saying, but I don’t agree 100%. Do I think the LW should call of the wedding for now? Yes, of course. But do I think she should just end her relationship because she realized she doesn’t feel any passion? Maybe not. They have 2 kids together, they’ve been together 5 years. Passion is bound to ebb and flow (especially with 2 small children in the house). If these two were married and the LW wrote in about not feeling any passion, would we advice the LW to file for divorce immediately without addressing the lack of passion in her relationship? I hope not. If everyone left their marriage the moment the passion was gone we’d have a lot more divorces. How about suggesting that they put off the engagement, but go to counseling? Try to find more time alone together without the children. See if they can re-kindle that passion for each other. Work on the relationship for 6 months, a year, 2 years, and then see where the LW stands and how she feels. I just think that ending the relationship and splitting up a family because she doesn’t want to get married is a little extremist.
GatorGirl February 18, 2014, 10:02 am
AmyP February 18, 2014, 10:15 am
Exactly. Nobody who has two little kids under 5 is running through the streets with their sweetie pie holding hands and tossing rose petals. That is the very, very toughest time for parenting (except maybe the teen years) and it’s a bit much to expect to feel passionate about your kids’ dad when you spend more time cleaning poop out of carpet together than holding hands. At that point, just loving him is good enough. Counseling and dating and just waiting are good ideas.
The only red flag I see is that they’ve been together nearly five years and they have two kids together, and he just now got around to proposing after a lot of pressure on her part. That’s really bad.
kerrycontrary February 18, 2014, 10:20 am
Yeh I always read about how marital satisfaction declines after children (though it goes up again eventually). Even though these people aren’t married they are living together with 2 shared children, I’m sure the relationship satisfaction has decline with the stress of 2 kids under 5. I think a lot of couples just have to “make it through” those years.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 10:24 am
The lack of passion isn’t the only issue though. She sounds more concerned about what other people will think and how to approach him than fixing the relationship. She didn’t mention once wanting to stay other than for the kids. And she didn’t ask for advice on how to fix it, but how to end it. It’s like she’s already given up. If she had asked anything different I’m sure Wendy’s advice would have been different. But, reading the tone of her letter, it’s like she just wants out.
Jenn February 18, 2014, 3:48 pm
Agreed. It’s time for counseling, not a U-haul. Five years and two kids is worth six months of trying to figure out what is really going on. Maybe LW is depressed, and needs help. There are way too many factors here that should be sorted through before that decision is set in stone, especially when it involves the lives of other people.
Passion does not equal love. Passion is not reasonably sustainable over a long period of time. Love is not a feeling. Love is a state of being.
TheOtherOtherMe February 18, 2014, 10:01 am
Great advice from Wendy. But one other thing to consider: sometimes having two kids under the age of five can be so draining that you have nothing left for your partner. This may be temporary, however. Many couples get their mojo back after the kids are a little older. So perhaps you need to decide if you truly are not crazy about your boyfriend anymore, or if you are just going through the tough toddler years — but still have the chance of re-capturing the romance.
AmyP February 18, 2014, 10:16 am
“Great advice from Wendy. But one other thing to consider: sometimes having two kids under the age of five can be so draining that you have nothing left for your partner.”
Guy Friday February 18, 2014, 10:06 am
Admittedly, I only skimmed the thread this started from, so I don’t know if this was mentioned there. I think Wendy’s advice is solid, but Devil’s Advocate: how do you know you’re not feeling the “OMG This Is Really Happening” panic? A lot of couples are all excited about the newness of the engagement and telling their friends and family and “Look at the ring!” photos . . . and then the enormity of it hits you and you realize you’re talking about committing your whole life to someone. And then you throw in picking the perfect venue and what flowers to order and what color dresses your bridesmaids wear and . . . well, you see what I mean. I’ve known a ton of newly engaged couples — including myself and my now-wife — who felt that same panic, who felt that this was the absolute wrong thing to do. But then you take a deep breath and the feeling passes and you realize what you were thinking about was fear and not reality.
So here are my two plans for what you should consider doing before breaking it off entirely:
1.) As some have said in the thread, tell your fiancee that you’re freaking out a bit and you’re hoping he won’t mind putting the wedding planning on pause for several months to kind of let you get your head wrapped around all of this. A lot of people think that engagements should be followed by immediate planning and a quick marriage and that long engagements indicate a lack of commitment from either or both parties. Neither of those things are necessarily true. I was engaged for 18 months before I got married, and it gave us a lot of time to plan the wedding at our pace.
2.) Assuming you can have your fiancee watch your kids for this amount of time, take a weekend for just you — not friends, not family, not the fiancee, but just YOU — and go take a mini-vacation. Don’t think about wedding planning or details; just sit and relax and think “Is my fiancee the kind of man I can see myself spending the rest of my life with?” If the answer is yes, see Step 1. If the answer is no, then go back and follow Wendy’s advice. But if you’re going to walk away, make sure it’s because you truly want to and not because the engagement itself is overwhelming you.
kerrycontrary February 18, 2014, 10:17 am
I think this is a really really good point. Everyone thinks that engagements are supposedly be 100% happy feelings 100% happy times. There can definitely be an adjustment period even if you discussed getting engaged beforehand and you’ve looked forward to marrying this person. I think that if the man is proposing, he has to kind of get everything settled in his mind beforehand. But for the woman, there can really be a period of “omg this is really happening”. You also feel like your identity is changing a bit, like soon you are going to be someone’s WIFE and you really think about what that means and where you used to be in your life and where you are now. It’s all kind of freaky! I haven’t had any moments of doubt or “should we be doing this” during my engagement, but the whole commitment of being engaged and about to get married definitely freaked me out….a bit.
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 10:38 am
WWS + WGFS = perfect advice.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 10:11 am
I like Wendy’s advice. What stood out to me in this letter is that LW is asking “How do I tell him I don’t want to marry him?”, implying that she’s already made up her mind. I think this is a typical “asking for permission” type of letter.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 10:31 am
I was just thinking today about the assumed link between marriage and parenting. A lot of the “stay together for the kids ” type of advice seems to be based in the idea that parenting is easier when the parents are a couple, and that this in turn is beneficial for the kids. But it’s not really clear to me why couple parenting must be superior. In fact, I think part of the reason why kids suffer when their parents separate is that too many people take the separation as a license to be an a**hole to the former partner and less of a good parent to the kids. When parents separate amicably and keep up their parenting as before, I’m not seeing much harm for the kids. There’s much more harm in the assumption that the end of a relationship is a license to be mean & become a worse parent to one’s kids.
Bittergaymark February 18, 2014, 12:17 pm
For starters, couples that stay together rarely rush right out into additional relationships and thus have additional litters of kids to simply validate each and every said relationship…
sarolabelle February 18, 2014, 11:02 am
I don’t even really know what passion even is. Early in my relationship with my husband I would get so turned on my just making out. Now, honestly, what is making out? We never kiss for longer than 3 minutes before it turns to something else yet before we used to make out for 20 minutes. Is that was passion is? Maybe everyone has a different definition. I don’t know but I did know I wanted to marry my husband when the thought of him marrying anyone else sickened me. LW, can you really handle seeing this man married to someone else one day?
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 11:41 am
You know what’s weird? That I actively think about how much I want you to come home from work on what seems like a regular old Tuesday, let’s say, and your husband arrives shortly after you and you stand there discussing whether you want to reheat last night’s dinner or order a pizza or something and then BAM something cosmic comes over you and you both go bananas all over each other and the passionate sex makes your brain explode all over the kitchen floor and you can’t move for days so you just stay there, curled up together at the foot of the fridge, like in a good way, you know? Is that so much to ask?!
Diablo February 18, 2014, 12:17 pm
AP, you nailed it. This is possible. (Ask me about me weekend. No, wait, don’t.) The only difference is that our kitchen floor is very cold hardwood, and no one really wants to know what’s under the fridge, so the couch is better, and you eventually will move after about 10 or 15 minutes. But the rest can be for real. Is it too much to ask that a marriage remain passionate? I see so many comments from people who say , meh, how can you keep up the heat of the courtship period? You can. I know many will disagree, but for me, the passion is very important to a successful marriage. I find that it doesn’t go away when life is busy or troublesome, it just gets logistically more challenging to actualize. (That is, sex frequency ebbs up and down for lots of reasons, but this doesn’t mean that the passion is lost.) I also don’t think i’m confusing passion for horniness, though certainly horniness can be a means of expressing passion. I dunno. Everyone’s entitled to make their own deal. I guess if it’s a good deal for you, then great. If I settled, then the life I’m missing out on must be pretty effing awesome.
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 12:21 pm
Hey real quick, tell us ’bout your weekend… Spill it!
Diablo February 18, 2014, 12:59 pm
M flew home from her business trip to the West Coast (which is apparently all green and flowery, not this prison of ice and cold) just before supper on V-Day. I made her venison steak and shrimp and then nothing happened on the kitchen floor. The following morning, nothing happened on the kitchen floor. Then, my friend had an impromptu “I have too many half bottles of liquor I need you all to drink up for me” party on Saturday night. The names of the cocktails and their ingredients have been changed to protect me from myself if i should ever be a part of said madness again. Then, Sunday morning, still no kitchen floor. Then we went to see “American Hustle,” in which Amy Adams was barely clad for the duration, inspiring still no incidents involving the kitchen floor. But, you know, SOMETHiNG happened someplace.
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 1:07 pm
I’m gonna need you to be more specific. (Or more “pacific” as I thought the word was until I was embarrassingly too old to not know the word “specific” v. “pacific.”) Ok, spill it. I am the kind of person who likes a lot of detail.
Diablo February 18, 2014, 1:13 pm
I was very specific: steak and shrimp, cocktails (my friend’s name is Kim – there’s detail), movie, Amy Adams. What more could I say? You want positions, techniques? I’m not running a seminar here. Let’s just say we know what we’re doing. Oh man do we know. I’ll tell you this: I got a foot cramp from curling my toes too hard at one point.
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 1:16 pm
Yes but did you see Her or American Hustle? Oh the latter, she was fully clothed in sad looking in Her. I still need to see American Hustle, Philomena, and 12 Years a Slave.
GatorGirl February 18, 2014, 12:24 pm
Yeah, I agree with you. When I was reading Saro’s comment I was like yeah, we don’t make out anymore either…does that mean we don’t have passion? But I don’t think we’ve “lost” our passion it is just manifesting in different ways right now (like the ebb and flow you mention). There was a phase where it was kitchen floor sex, and now we’re in a different phase; but I still feel passion for my husband.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 12:38 pm
I agree with Diablo you’re right. Except for the kitchen floor, we have to think of our backs first you know? 😉
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 12:46 pm
I think they should design kitchens with countertops at appropriate levels for forking. It would be custom fit to your and your lovers’ height/waist-level. And then there would be a retractable mattress that zooms out across the floor from under the cabinets at the push of a button and then it recoils when you’re ready to get up. *Or* you could just move to the bedroom, ok ok ok.
lemongrass February 18, 2014, 11:18 am
How young is your youngest kid? My son is 13 months and I am just now, after those 13 months plus my entire pregnancy, feeling a little bit horny. Like it has happened 3 times. I’m breastfeeding so that plus previous pregnancy plus caring for small children means that your body takes a long time to regulate itself. Your mind, the biggest sex organ, is already full of the kids and what did they get into?
I would tell your fiancé that you want to stop the wedding planning for now and focus on your relationship. Go to counselling, make sure that you are touching each other in a non-sexual way (holding hands, massages, cuddling) daily, getting out without the kids. Make it your focus to reconnect and give it 6 months. If it is gone, then leave.
mylaray February 18, 2014, 11:35 am
I agree with Wendy’s advice. The LW sounds aware enough that she pressured him into getting married and is now realizing she doesn’t actually want that. Anxiety and fears about being engaged/married are normal (I definitely had that), but this doesn’t sound like normal doubts. In her letter, she’s already decided she wants to end it. I think it’s true that passion dies down after having young kids, and while the passion may build back up, I think some of the advice would be different if she hadn’t used the word passionate. If you don’t want to work on your relationship anymore, why stay in it? I think counseling is a good idea though, especially because she has kids. Even if they end up breaking up, it could help to have a mediator to help with co-parenting and the transitioning stage for the kids.
ktfran February 18, 2014, 11:47 am
Ok, so I agree with others that the LW should put the wedding on hold and figure out what she really wants. ESPECIALLY since two children are involved. However, those of you who are happy you married, but maybe felt a little overwhelmed while planning the wedding and whose passion has waned after kids, maybe don’t really understand this feeling the LW is feeling. It’s not cold feet. It’s really not.
So, let’s say you’re going along in a pretty good relationship. You’re happy. He’s happy. You think everything is fine. It’s not great, but it’s fine. Then, you start talking about marriage because it’s the next step. And maybe the both of you are hoping that being married will help from being just fine to great. So, he proposes. He wants to fix what’s wrong. So, that’s his solution because why not? You’re generally pretty happy. So, it happens. He proposes. you say yes. Then, the enormity of what is about to happen hits. You’re suddenly, oh shit. This really is FOREVER. And even though things are pretty good, you finally realize that a marriage won’t fix it. That it’s not there. And that you’re friends who were too scared to leave. And on top of that, EVERYONE is telling you’ll that you’ll get over this feeling. It’s cold feet and nothing more. But it’s not cold feet. The engagement was the catalyst to realize something was wrong and it needs to be fixed.
And maybe this relationship can be fixed. Since there are kids, it’s probably worth the LW figuring that out. But don’t stay just for the kids. Or because it’s something you should do. Stay because you want it. Or leave because you want it. You’ll both be happier in the long run, as will your kids. Figure it out before it has the potential to get nasty.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 11:52 am
Very well said! I feel like there is just a large difference between cold feet/being unsure and what this LW is explaining in her letter. At least the way I read it!
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 12:46 pm
Speakin’ from experience! Loved your input, kt.
Guy Friday February 18, 2014, 12:56 pm
But, I mean, you don’t know that it ISN’T cold feet any more than we can know it IS. I think we’ve had a lot of letters here where people read it one way and the LW actually meant it a totally different way. And saying that cold feet can’t manifest itself in as severe a fashion as this LW has described isn’t true. *I* can speak from experience on that, because the cold feet almost destroyed my relationship. The only way I got married was because my wife and I agreed that we would never take marriage off the table through the engagement process, so even when we were on the brink of things going nuclear we knew we had a deal to uphold. I’m obviously not recommending the LW do THAT; that worked for my wife and I because we’re both incredibly stubborn, and we both knew in advance that we wanted to marry each other, but we came inches from walking away.
I agree though that you shouldn’t JUST stay for the kids. That being said, the flip side is that you shouldn’t NOT stay despite the fact that you have kids. I think it breaks down to where you stand on the “one-parent/two-parent household” debate.
Addie Pray February 18, 2014, 1:05 pm
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 1:14 pm
It’s definitely tricky to decide if there are real doubts or just cold feet. I’m a worrier and very anxious, so I can sometimes convince myself that I have doubts when I really don’t. However, I’ve also made the mistake of staying in a relationship too long because I kept talking myself out of my doubts and attributed them to anxiety. For this LW however, it’s seems pretty clear-cut because she doesn’t even ask the question about cold feet vs real doubts. It sounds more like she had some new, clear insight after the engagement that it’s just not right.
ktfran February 18, 2014, 1:49 pm
That’s the thing though, you kNEW you wanted to marry each other.
Honestly, for a lot of women, they THINK they want the marriage and that it will lead to happily ever after so they settle for Mr. Right Now. What they don’t get is that marriage doesn’t fix things.
Like others, I’m telling the LW she needs to figure out which it is. And it wouldn’t hurt to postpone the wedding. But it honestly sucks to listen day in and day out people tell you that you’ll get over it, it’s just cold feet. Sometimes, it’s not cold feet, but you go through with it because of pressure.
Do you know how many women have told me how brave I was calling off a wedding? Both divorced and married women. A lot. It really is a ridiculously hard decision. I went to therapy to figure it out, even though I knew it wasn’t going to work. But hey, like everyone said, I should want that, right? So, just go through with it.
ktfran February 18, 2014, 1:52 pm
I realize I’m totally projecting here.
The LW should really try and figure out what she truly wants before calling it off. She just needs to know that if that is what she wants, to not marry this man, that it’s OK. And it’s better to figure it out now than later.
TuskenTater July 5, 2022, 2:06 pm
I don’t understand why someone would freak out about FOREVER with someone, when clearly most people don’t believe marriage is forever. Sadly marriage and a covenantal commitment doesn’t seem to mean anything for some. From experience, you can change your own perspective and overcome any obstacle in a relationship, barring abuse, continual unfaithfulness, or abandonment. Yes, even a passionless marriage with kids can be transformed when both people are committed and able to change themselves.
Bittergaymark February 18, 2014, 11:59 am
Yawn. So cliched. There is even a Irving Berlin song about it.
You get what you want
You don’t want
What you wanted no more
To me this sounds like a mixture of cold feet and unrealistic too-many-chick-flick expectations.
I disagree with Wendy and many here. If you put the cart before the horse and pop kids out like you are in a fucking race against time — you actually DO owe it to them to give your relationship with the father a fair shake. Especially since your search for white hot passionate romance will only distract you from your kids at best. Put them at risk at worst.
rieux February 18, 2014, 12:23 pm
Yeah!! I hate today’s current attitude of “parents should sacrifice their entire lives to raising children and never have any time to themselves or any autonomy,” blah blah, but isn’t this “I don’t feel Mad Passion for the father of my children, so I’m going to go off in search of someone better” taking it all too far in the other direction? It just seems like it’s a bit late to jet off in search of the Great Love when you already formed a family with the Just Okay one. I already said this in the forum but I would vote for honesty without breaking the commitment: “I love you, but I don’t feel passionate for you anymore and I’m having doubts about getting married. Let’s postpone the wedding and work on our relationship and see where that takes us.”
rieux February 18, 2014, 1:03 pm
On re-reading this, I can’t tell if they already live together — I assumed that they did live together. I think my answer is somewhat changed if they don’t live together, because then the kids’ lives are much less directly affected by breaking up. Nevertheless, if it were me, I’d at least try to get to a point where I could marry and live with the father of my children, especially if I loved him (as the LW loves the father of hers).
scattol February 18, 2014, 12:35 pm
Yup, the time to throw the relationship under the bus was before having the kids.
Doesn’t agreeing to make kids pretty much means that you know you are in this for at least 20 years? Didn’t that sound like a big commitment then?
LW is allowed to not feel it these days but I think she should give a go at divorce bloggers and boards to find out how much fun it is to split a family and then co-parent paying for two sets of bedroom and furniture and the lots. It sure doesn’t sound like much of a party.
GatorGirl February 18, 2014, 12:38 pm
This is pretty judgy. Having kids together doesn’t equal a 20 year romantic relationship…maybe a 20 year co-parenting relationship, but def not romantic.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 12:51 pm
Exactly. Who knows what they agreed on? They didn’t get married when they had the kids and it’s not clear that there’s a lifelong commitment to be romantic partners here. There IS a commitment to co-parenting that, for me, just comes with being a parent (at least assuming they planned the pregnancies, I guess since they have two kids it was intentional), but that’s NOT the same as a commitment to being together as a couple.
scattol February 18, 2014, 1:07 pm
When you are having kids you are clearly making a 20 year commitment to raise them. That’s unambiguous. It would strike me that, as a potential parent, I would want do to this only if I am comfortable that I can accomplish that goal under the best circumstances I can provide and that means a stable family life for the kids to grow into. This implies that the you believe that the relationship has that much life in it when you make the decision to throw away the boxes of condoms. To me that decision to have kids is far more constraining, and frankly a bigger one, than a big party with a ballgown one random Saturday night.
Now mistakes do happen and men are also violent wife torturers and we can’t fault anyone from walking away from abuse or to not having seen it coming. But there is no indication that it’s the case here.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 1:23 pm
A stable family life doesn’t depend on the parents being a couple. It might be ideal for a lot of people if that’s the case, but it’s not necessary, and staying together won’t help the kids if the parents aren’t a happy couple.
GatorGirl February 18, 2014, 1:25 pm
Okay what….violent wife torturers? You lost me there…
Providing a stable and loving family life for children in no way means the parents have to be romantically involved. Period.
rachel February 18, 2014, 2:21 pm
So, wait, are you saying the only reason to end a relationship is if the husband is a “violent wife torturer”? Because..no.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 12:40 pm
Yeah having kids together doesn’t mean you have to stay together. In fact it’s NOT always better for the kids that you do so. Having kids together does mean that you sign up for 18 years of co-parenting. But, staying together just because co-parenting is hard? Do you think that kids benefit from having parents that don’t love each other? Personally I do not.
lets_be_honest February 18, 2014, 1:09 pm
Doesn’t agreeing to make kids pretty much means that you know you are in this for at least 20 years?
If by “this,” you mean married, you would be wrong. Sure, you are tied to that person usually, but not tied the same way you would be if you were married. Like, not even close.
Having children is a huge commitment…to being a parent.
rieux February 18, 2014, 1:25 pm
Well, but what if they were in fact living together & raising the kids as a couple before they got engaged? Then does it really matter whether they signed the paperwork or not? It’s still a family, not just co-parenting. I don’t think marriage is what confers the obligation here — it just formalizes it.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 1:32 pm
For me this depends on what their agreement was. I doubt they took marriage to be just a formality – otherwise it’s unlikely that the LW would have had such a response to the engagement. So yeah, I’m assuming that they were “bf and gf living together with children”. Definitely a family in my book (and they’ll keep being a family even if the parents break up), but not a forever romantic commitment that would lead me to say “work on it at all costs”.
rieux February 18, 2014, 1:57 pm
Oops, yes, I’m sorry. A family is still a family if the parents are divorced/single, I shouldn’t have implied that it was not.
I guess I’m just conservative on the issue of what you owe your children, even though I always think of myself as not being one of THOSE judgy people–maybe I am after all! I just know my parents wouldn’t have split up while we were still living at home unless it was absolutely positively necessary–and I’m very grateful they had that attitude, and I don’t at all understand the concept that marriage makes a big difference in terms of your obligations to your kids.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 2:08 pm
I just think that providing a stable home for the kids is possible without staying together as a couple. What matters to the kids is that the parents can co-parent effectively, not that they’re together. I’m sure there are people who don’t try enough to stick it out as a couple, but there are just so many who in fact try too hard, and actually harm their children in the process. I’m just not seeing how it would be possible to go on staying together and pretending happiness without the children noticing. When I hear that parents were trying very hard to stay together I always think that either they had a well-working marriage anyway or that they were in fact pretending.
I don’t think marriage makes a difference for what you owe your kids, but it does make a difference for what you owe your partner. If she’d promised her partner “forever and ever”, I’d take a different stance because I think there’s some value in at least trying to keep a promise (even though there are obviously limits to that, too). But she didn’t make that promise, making them effectively bf/gf, kids or not.
SasLinna February 18, 2014, 2:19 pm
Btw, for me personally I’d absolutely choose the romantic commitment first, parenting commitment 2nd route. Mainly because I believe it will reduce life complexity for me if I first commit to a romantic partner and then have kids (and I accept this somewhat reduces the odds I’ll have kids at all, making a relationship work is my first priority). My parents divorced and I saw how hard it was (even though they’re both ultimately pretty happy!). I’d rather not go through that. However, lots of people choose differently and still make it work, and the kids are alright, too.
GatorGirl February 18, 2014, 2:32 pm
Also, it’s possible one or both of the pregnancies was unplanned. Basically, families come in all shapes and sizes and there are a million routes to get to being a happy family. (IDK why I replied to you Sas…this is more of a general thought.)
lets_be_honest February 18, 2014, 2:37 pm
For real. It makes me sad people still think good, thriving families (or children, for that matter) must include mom, dad and 2.5 kids.
rieux February 18, 2014, 10:27 pm
@lbh – I don’t know if you meant me, but that is absolutely not what I believe. OBVIOUSLY there are a thousand ways to be a great parent and a happy family. Telling someone, “Try to stay together if you have kids together, whether or not you officially got married” is not a lack of recognition or respect for non-“traditional” families. The only thing I’m criticizing is the concept that getting married is the only thing you can do to confer an obligation on yourself to make a relationship work. By having kids, I believe they undertook an obligation. And by that I don’t mean obligations in the black-and-white, un-nuanced, YOU MUST FULFILL THIS FOREVER OR YOU ROT IN HELL sense. I use “obligation” to mean a thing that should have some weight in an ethical scale. “Passion” weighs in the scale for this LW and that’s fine, but the fact that she already reproduced with this guy should, too.
rieux February 18, 2014, 11:22 pm
Oh and I know this has been a big topic, so just fyi I didn’t downthumb you!
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:17 am
rieux, I literally meant nothing more than what I said, and it wasn’t directed at anyone but GG. I’m perplexed that comment has a downvote. It wasn’t meant to be controversial or pointed. I don’t really think anyone on DW thinks the only good families are mom, dad, 2.5 kids.
I think if you have kids with someone, yea, you should try your hardest to work on that relationship being a healthy one (that doesn’t mean you should necessarily try to stay together though), and I hope that people don’t just walk away from that relationship without any thought on the impact of the kids.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 11:23 am
LBH, I’m really confused why a lot of comments have thumbs down on this tread. haha.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:30 am
Right? So strange. Everyone’s basically just saying do your best, think of the kids, don’t make them miserable because you are, etc. How is any of this controversial?
Are there really people on DW that only think a family = mom/dad/2.5? Really?
LadyinPurpleNotRed February 19, 2014, 11:32 am
I’m liking the first part. Not that I think families are mom, dad, and 2.5 kids.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 11:37 am
I have no idea…All I’ve said is when you have a kid, you need to strive to be a successful co-parent no matter what, but that’s gotten 3 thumbs down. Sooooo…yeah. IDK, what evs.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 1:33 pm
Just because you were living together and raising the kids together, married or not, doesn’t mean you have to stay together if things aren’t working anymore. All that it means is that they owe the children to raise them the best they can, whether that be together or separate, married to each other or someone else, or not married at all.
lets_be_honest February 18, 2014, 1:45 pm
Whether she meant marriage or living together or going steady, the only thing you are “in” for 20 years because you had a child, is raising that child. That’s all I meant.
Ammie February 18, 2014, 6:49 pm
I agree. I said so on the forums, but I really think this could work just fine as an open relationship where they consider themselves to be dedicated partners in building and raising this family. No, it’s not *ideal*, but what’s ideal about slicing the children’s time with both parents in half by separating when there’s nothing wrong except a lack of desire to fuck each other anymore? Nothing’s gonna be perfect now, regardless of what they do.
I don’t know, maybe I’m being cold, but I feel like you can be friends, partners, and great parents while fulfilling your sexual needs on the side, so long as you’re honest with each other about it. Once you’ve got 2 kids, it’s not really as easy to me as “you’re not feeling it, so move on already.” Sure, in toxic situations where you’ve grown to hate each other, the kids are better if you separate. But that doesn’t sound like what’s going on here… it just sounds like she has an itch to scratch. And that’s easily solved, imo.
katie February 18, 2014, 12:49 pm
there is just such a huge realm of what “passion” could mean…. i dont think anyone can make any judgement on this (except for calling of the wedding, that is obvious) from just “passion”. we need more.
Moneypenny February 18, 2014, 1:25 pm
I totally agree with Wendy!
I can also relate to this advice working for other areas of life other than romantic relationships. For example, grad school, buying a house, living in a particular place, having xyz thing. For me, in college, it was being the best in my class. I feel like I need to check myself now and then to make sure I’m not making decisions in order to say/think I’ve won (or I’ve got xyz thing) but because I think it’s the best decision to make for myself. I know most people are goal oriented in general, but to understand the motivation behind wanting to reach that goal is key.
Bittergaymark February 18, 2014, 6:22 pm
I have to say, I would LOVE to see the responses to this if the letter had been this instead:
Dear Wendy. My girlfriend and I have two kids together. (Both under 5.) From the start, I have been bugging her to get married and she FINALLY said yes. Everybody is SO excited. Our friends. Our families. My fiance… Everybody but me.
I love her. But the passion, eh, is just gone, I guess. Oh, she also does NOTHING even remotely bad or annoying so I am not even going to bother to mention this — hoping all the commenters there will simply immediately project all of their own relationship issues onto this to hasten the green light to up and bail.
Yeah, see, what I really want to do is just run out on everyone… I think this is only like the best idea ever simply because I deserve to feel butterflies and watch sparks fly like a horny teenager.
Help! Tell me I am NOT making a HUGE mistake.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 6:26 pm
I would tell him the same thing. If you don’t want to be in the relationship don’t be. The gf in your description and the fiance in this letter should be with someone who wants to be with them. Forcing yourself to stay with someone because of what others think, won’t end well.
Bittergaymark February 18, 2014, 6:32 pm
No wonder so many kids today are so FUCKED up. Nobody puts them first. NOBODY. Hell, for that matter, nobody puts them second, third, fourth or fifth, either.
jlyfsh February 18, 2014, 6:36 pm
Staying together is just not always the right answer. And we’re never going to agree on this point. But, to me a two parent household where the parents don’t want to be together but stay together just for the kids is not always the best option. There are plenty of parents who screw things up, but plenty who divorce/break up and the children end up fine. Putting them first doesn’t have to be staying in a relationship youi’re no longer happy in, it means you give them the best life you can, at least to me.
bittergaymark February 18, 2014, 6:47 pm
Yeah, but for fUCKS sake maybe actually TRY to stay together. This LW has put about as much thought into her life as most do to changing their hairstyle. This is the most vapid letter on here yet. Not a SINGLE detail about why the match is bad and you are all just like, eh, fuck it. Dump him!
No wonder so many on here post so much pointless narcissistic relationship drama. Fairweather sailors all, it seems.
And newsflash, the world REALLY would be better off if more clueless breeders fucking realized it isn’t THAT fucking hard to NOT get fucking pregnant with partners you CLEARLY don’t give a flying fuck about.
tzvifl February 18, 2014, 10:15 pm
I don’t normally agree with BGM on much, but the science largely supports him in terms of the effects of divorce on children. I recommend this article – – summarising many of the studies that have been done that show significant lasting impacts on children’s long-term well-being.
These studies make a pretty strong case that “staying together for the children” is, in all likelihood, in their best interests – even if the marriage isn’t so great. (I know this letter is about a couple who are not official married, but it seems difficult to imagine that will make a difference in terms of the effects on their two children under five.)The arguments that you can parent just as well as singles as you can as a couple, or that if the mother does what makes her happy, it will make the children happier in the long run flies in the face of this evidence.
Of course, this is only about averages, and there will be exceptions, but for me at least this evidence would make me strongly think twice before assuming my family was such an exception. As a parent with children at home (which I am) I certainly would not leave my partner just because I “wasn’t feeling it” or wasn’t sure I was still in love with them. It would be different of course if things were abusive, or one or both of us were truly miserable, or we were unable to remain civil to one another.
Since none of these seem to be the case here, my advice to the LW is similar to what a number of others have suggested – postpone all talk of a wedding, seek counseling, and look for ways to try to re-ignite the passion in the relationship before considering MOAing. Yes, “for the sake of the children.”
SasLinna February 19, 2014, 2:57 am
The study compares children whose parents divorced with children from “intact families”. Meaning, the groups they’re being compared to contains all the happy marriages as well. But for parents considering divorce being happily married is often not a real option. It doesn’t help to tell them “Just be happy together!”. They have to choose between divorce and being unhappily married. I do agree that divorce can have bad effects though – in my experience it’s because people often handle divorce so very badly. And this is partly because of a feeling of entitlement to staying married that is being fueled by the “work on it” advice. I’ve seen this particularly with men in the older generation. They feel there wives owed it to them to stay married and therefore act out during the separation phase and after, with bad effects on the children. (Obviously there are also women who do this, the most common thing women seem to do is restricting contact to the father).
scattol February 19, 2014, 11:11 am
Thanks for the article, It’s much more convincing to have factual data than just guessing. Here’s another, more scholarly, article on the subject. http://www.pitt.edu/ppcl/Publications/chapters/children_of_divorce.htm The section “Types of Problems Experienced by Divorced Children” should put to rest the notion that children of divorced families aren’t impacted.
jlyfsh February 19, 2014, 11:16 am
it’s not that they aren’t impacted! it’s that sometimes parents staying together who don’t want to be together create a toxic home environment. if this LW stays with her fiance and begins to resent him, hate being married to him, etc do you really think the kids are going to have a great home life? i mean i get trying to work on your relationship for the kids sake. but, there comes a point where not staying married or not getting married is the best option for everyone.
and this comes from someone who was a kid with divorced parents. best decision ever for them and us. i know not everyone has that happen. but, imagine how awful some kids might have had it if their parents had stayed married. kids aren’t stupid. they know when their parents not only don’t love one another, but at times dislike or hate each other.
SasLinna February 19, 2014, 11:18 am
The study says conflict between the parents is the main cause of trouble.
SasLinna February 19, 2014, 11:21 am
And frankly, I can’t hear the “but divorce is bad” argument anymore. Conflict between parents is bad, separation from a parent is almost always bad, potentially remarriage is a complicating factor for children… Yes. But the idea that you can do better by your child *just* by staying married and in one household is stupid.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:22 am
Seriously. I can’t believe this is even being debated. Its almost comical.
jlyfsh February 19, 2014, 11:21 am
yeah i didn’t actually read it….oops! 😉 maybe eventually i will!
edit: i clicked on the link and i just can’t today 🙂
scattol February 19, 2014, 12:00 pm
Fine, I am not arguing that bickering parents should be tied together until their children are adults. But happiness is not just a feeling it’s also a choice and so is tolerating your SO’s quirks that suddenly became annoying. What I am appalled at is that this thinking that at the mere breeze of difficulty it’s off to the exits and be damn with the kids. It doesn’t sound like working things out is given a fair shake anymore.
jlyfsh February 19, 2014, 12:27 pm
we’ll just have to disagree there. i think plenty of people try to work things out. it doesn’t mean that they should stay together just because they have kids. this lw doesn’t even go in to detail. for all we know she did try and realized that she isn’t happy anymore. just because one person thinks that marriage should mean you don’t divorce if you have kids, doesn’t mean everyone has to.
Ammie February 19, 2014, 4:46 pm
Say they stay together and she doesn’t resent him, though. She says she loves him, she’s just not passionate about him anymore. Lack of passion, plus remaining love, means friendship, doesn’t it? So it seems easy enough to just hang out in the same house so the kids don’t have to split their time between parents, continue being kind to each other, and find their passionate flings elsewhere. If the time comes that they really do yearn for a life with somebody else, that’s another thing entirely, but this is just kind of “Meh, not really feeling like I want to rip his clothes off anymore when we get home.” That’s fine! I don’t think they should get married at all. But I don’t think there’s any need to rush a separation under these circumstances, when you’ve got kids whose lives are gonna be uprooted by it. Wait until something comes along that really makes that necessary.
SasLinna February 19, 2014, 11:16 am
“Studies involving between-family comparisons support the notion that separation per se is not necessarily as important to children’s later development as the quality of the parents’ relationship with one another. First, comparisons between two-parent and conflict-free, divorced families consistently have reported that children in the latter group have fewer emotional difficulties” (Gibson, 1969; Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1979; McCord, McCord, & Thurber, 1962; Rutter, 1979).
Quoted from that study.
katie February 19, 2014, 12:16 pm
yea i mean this is what i would say- my parents are divorced, but they are good friends still. like my dad stays with my mom in our house when he comes to visit…
in general the answer is always going to be that this -“the quality of the parents’ relationship with one another”- must always be above all else. if you are married, divorced, separated, dating, forever traing rain dance-ing, or whatever legally or not legally, the quality of the parents relationship with each other is going to be where the impact lies.
and this is news to people? geez.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:21 am
WHOAAAA, are you saying divorces impact children?!?!?! I’m completely shocked. Completely.
Bittergaymark February 19, 2014, 11:37 am
Well, LBH, absolutely NOTHING you’ve ever posted in this thread would seem to support that you possess any such knowledge.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:44 am
“It makes me sad people still think good, thriving families (or children, for that matter) must include mom, dad and 2.5 kids.”
That (and explaining that when you have a kid, you have to deal with them for at least 20 years) was my only comment.
Of course divorces impact children! I don’t think anyone in America would disagree with that. haha. The degree to which it does varies depending on how the parents handle themselves. That’s just a fact.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 11:52 am
I feel like this is one of those days where you type something and people read the opposite of what you’ve written.
John Farrier February 19, 2014, 11:53 am
Why would anyone have two children with someone but be unwilling to marry that person? Accidents happen, so I can imagine one kid. But two? How does that happen? How does someone say, “I’m willing to bring children into this world with this person, but not permanently commit to be with him/her”?
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 11:56 am
This is presuming she knew, when she had the kids, that she didn’t want to marry him, which is the exact opposite of what she wrote. She just now is realizing she doesn’t want to marry him. People are strange sometimes and, gasp, change their minds.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 12:05 pm
I mean it is possible to have two unplanned pregnancies. It’s not like your body shuts down after the first? And people change their minds too.
iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2014, 12:16 pm
Eh I actually agree. You get one accident. The chances of having an unplanned pregnancy is less than 1%. So to then have 2? No, you did that shit on purpose. And why would you have a second kid before deciding whether you’re in it for the long haul? That’s just reckless to me, and you reap what you sow.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 12:35 pm
Actually, the rates of “unintended” pregnancy are very high. “At least 37% of pregnancies in every U.S. state are unintended. In 31 states and the District of Columbia, more than half of pregnancies are unintended.”
iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2014, 12:40 pm
Unintended is different than an accident. Pulling the goalie can be considered “unintended”. And frankly you’re not making me feel any better. Because if you are actually telling me that 37% of people in this country aren’t smart enough to know how to wrap it up, or block it up, then may god have mercy on us all.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 12:45 pm
This is me, LBH, yelling at you, Iwanna. I hope god doesn’t have mercy on you, but on everyone else. So there.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 12:56 pm
Yes, unintended and an accident are different. But if you read the statistics, poor and under educated women are the most likely to have unintended pregnancies. Sex education in rural conservative areas is not good. GGuy didn’t even understand what a period was until I explained it to him at like 22. I think you’re being unfairly mean.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 12:59 pm
I think a nicer way of putting it would be some people are too risky when it comes to that, or just not thinking clearly. I assume everyone KNOWS how to wrap it up, etc., but think ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me.”
iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2014, 1:01 pm
Right and people that think that are called idiots.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 1:07 pm
I wouldn’t say people who make mistakes are dumb idiots…but I guess you could say literally everyone is an idiot then since everyone makes mistakes. But thanks for calling me a dumb idiot?
iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2014, 1:13 pm
Well I mean it doesn’t mean they’re an idiot for the rest of their lives with a big scarlet I on their chest. It just means they made an idiot decision at that time. I made an idiot decision yesterday for example. I had two margaritas with dinner and didn’t drink water. I essentially licked salt. I was really dehydrated when I got home. Then I went hottubing, which everyone knows just sucks the hydration out of you. So then I had crazy lizard skin and needed a water iv. It was really a series of idiot decisions. In that case, I know better, and it would be inappropriate for me to play the dehydrated victim. When you make dumb birth control decisions you have to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions, and you are not allowed to play the victim.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 1:26 pm
Where did anyone say she was the victim and not taking responsibility for her mistakes?
bethany February 19, 2014, 1:27 pm
It might be an idiotic decision or thought process, but we’re not idiots. Everyone has done something supremely stupid before and not really thought about the consequences to their decisions.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 12:41 pm
I think the point is is that ok, you fucked up once, fine. Learn from that mistake. To then go on to make the same mistake twice? That’s dumb. Apply that to anything though.
I don’t get why someone would continue to have children with someone they want to marry who doesn’t want to marry them though. I don’t get that.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 12:53 pm
Go downvote Iwanna! Not me. I was just explaining her comment. Jeez people.
lets_be_honest February 19, 2014, 12:56 pm
I could be wrong, but I think that stat might include people who want children, but aren’t actively trying to conceive? Like people who leave it up to god or whatever. A bunch of us were saying they would take the chance once they are married rather then set a specific month to start deliberately trying.
GatorGirl February 19, 2014, 12:58 pm
“An unintended pregnancy is one that was either mistimed or unwanted (51% of pregnancies). If a woman did not want to become pregnant at the time the pregnancy occurred, but did want to become pregnant at some point in the future, the pregnancy is considered mistimed (31% of pregnancies). If a woman did not want to become pregnant then or at anytime in the future, the pregnancy is considered unwanted (20% of pregnancies).” Their definition. Even so 20% are “unwanted” which IMO would mean accidental.
John Farrier February 19, 2014, 4:42 pm
Exactly. Having a child with someone means that you are permanently a co-parent with that person. If you’re not married to that person, then you’re in a permanent relationship that is impermanently defined. That should be a huge wake-up call.
Intentionally having multiple children with someone that you’re not married to is reckless.
John Farrier February 19, 2014, 7:01 pm
Wow, lots of downvotes!
Look, LW is a parent. Once you become a parent, your priorities have to shift. What matters now is not pursuing personal fulfillment, but creating a stable, nurturing home for those two children. LW isn’t saying that her fiance is abusive or that their relationship is toxic. She’s not even saying that they are incompatible. She’s saying that she’s lost her passion for him. Too bad. She and her fiance have to focus on what’s best for those two kids, not themselves.
jlyfsh February 19, 2014, 12:41 pm
Personally I’ve seen more than one person and more than one LW on here who thinks that children, marriage, some form of commitment whatever will magically fix things. The first one is an accident. You decide to stay together even though things aren’t perfect and eventually you’ve been together long enough happy enough and one of you wants a second kid, so you have a second child. More years go by and then you realize that having those kids, having marriage on the table, whatever does not fix the fact that your relationship is broken. I mean we could totally be off here and the LW could be an ass or just going through a rough patch. Or, I mean she could be a normal person who realized she wasn’t happy and decided that she needs to not marry this person.
Alex January 17, 2022, 12:42 am
Who on earth every said marriage was about only happiness??? It clearly says it is the vows – for rich for poor, in sickness and in health. Marriage is a commitment to stay with each other through thick and thin. This is because children need STABILITY to grow up in.
I feel sorry for the children in this case for have yet another useless snowflake of a “parent”. People nowadays are so darn selfish . My parents have been married 45 years – where they always happy – No!! But they stuck it out and they are content. Lust is not love!
Dear Wendy January 17, 2022, 11:44 am
This could isn’t even married and you’re talking about vows that make them stay together even if they no longer make each other happy. Please.
Ryan January 17, 2022, 10:51 am
Ridiculous response from Wendy. Let’s reverse engineer this thing. Had they gotten married BEFORE having kids, would she now be seeking a divorce after 5 years and 2 kids because she wasn’t “feeling” it? He’s not abusive to her; she’s not abusive to him; they’re not yelling and screaming at each other everyday. LIFE happened. They’re in a rut, maybe. EVERY relationship goes through this. So they look forward to their next vacation, or they start having a “date night” every week. They do something to keep the relationship alive. They don’t get divorced, or shouldn’t get divorced, because it’s not as exciting as it was when they first met.
Dear Wendy January 17, 2022, 11:42 am
You realize that people who have kids get divorced all the time, right, and that the existence of said kids isn’t enough of a reason to stay married? Yes, try to work it out, go to counseling, have a regular date night. But if all of that doesn’t work and it turns out the couple has simply outgrown each other or maybe was never a great match to begin with, they should move on.