What to do when one of you wants children and the other doesn’t

Ray asks: I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for two years. At the beginning of the relationship, we had discussed that I didn’t want children, and he had said that he too didn’t want any. After all this time he has changed his mind and has decided that he wants children. I have given this a lot of thought and tried to compromise into agreeing to have children too. But I feel suffocated by the idea of it, and the only reason I’d be doing it would be to keep his wishes. He still wants to stay together. And says that down the line we’ll figure it out. I am sure that I will not be changing my mind or feel differently about this. And I cannot expect him to give up such a huge thing. We really love each other, and it would be difficult to breakup. But is breaking up the only solution here?

Hi Ray –

You are asking JUST the right question about this issue.  There are so many concepts that couples fight over that are easily resolvable.  But kids is a gigantic one, and there might not be an answer to it.

The problem is that there isn’t a lot of room for compromise.  I’ve known people who were willing to adopt and raise children, but just not give birth to any.  Okay, that might work.  But when one person strongly wants children and the other strongly doesn’t… I don’t see a way past it.

Here’s the problem – for many humans, children are the meaning of their life.  If one of you really loves cats and the other doesn’t, there are short-term solutions (the cat-lover could volunteer to care for cats at a shelter, for example), but not a real long-term problem (I’ve never heard of anyone on their deathbed regretting not having raised enough kittens!).

But children are a different matter.  People do become bitter and angry over not having become a parent.  And others do for having to raise kids they didn’t want or plan.

And there’s another part to this.  If you two married, each of you believing you’d be able to bring the other one around to your way of thinking, you’d be setting up with possibility of a really hateful relationship, each resenting the other about this issue forever.  And it sounds to me like both of you are really good people and deserve better than that.

So it does sound to me like you need to have a VERY difficult talk.  And one from a place of blunt honesty and absolute love.  Working to give each the best life possible.

Which may, or may not, include keeping this beautiful relationship going.

Wishing you strength and wisdom,


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