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This weekend, my daughter turned one month old. This is a fact that still seems amazing to me in that it was, quite literally, the fastest month of my life — especially in stark comparison to the last month of pregnancy, which everyone knows inches by in a slow and painful waddle to the delivery finish line. (Seriously, how can time pass so differently?)
And as I indulged in a good old-fashioned I-can’t-believe-my-baby-is-growing-up cry, my husband couldn’t help but add fuel to the postpartum fire.
“Just think,” he said with what I can only describe as an evil grin. “That’s the last baby you’ll ever hold. The last newborn you’ll ever get to watch grow.”
I glared at him, my tears drying up almost instantly. Because the truth is, while my husband seems to be 100 percent sure that we are sailing out of baby land, I’m not so sure. Which leaves us at a difficult impasse — I want another baby. But my husband doesn’t. What’s a disagreeing couple to do?
Talk it out.
Obviously, the baby matter is something that should be discussed early in the relationship game if one of you knows that you would like to have children. “One of the most critical issues to discuss is whether you want children or not,” says psychologist Dr. Rachel Needle of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida, especially if marriage is on the table. “Marrying someone and hoping they will change their mind is not a good idea,” she cautions. However, the discussion can be an ongoing one, she says.
Just say no — at first, at least.
In a case like this, if you are the one who doesn’t want children, you’re going to have to disregard the advice of Nike and not “JUST DO IT.” It may be tempting to feel like you have to “give in” to having a child for the sake of a relationship, and while that may be possible, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, cautions Dr. Rachel. “A partner should not ‘give in’ to having a child if they do not want one,” she says. “This could potentially lead to bigger issues in the relationship in the future.”
For example, Dr. Rachel points out that in one study, 100 percent of couples with a husband who didn’t want to become a parent were divorced by the time their kids were six years old (Cowan & Cowan, 2000). “It is critically important that each partner decide independently that they want children with their partner prior to committing to it,” she says. “This does not mean that people can’t or won’t change their minds regarding this issue, but it is important that they do so on their own.”
Is it a deal breaker?
So you’ve talked it out and hashed it out and still can’t agree — what comes next?
“There is no middle ground about having a child or not having a child,” Dr. Rachel admits. And while there might be a “middle ground” in terms of how many children to have, there is just no way to compromise if one partner wants a baby and the other doesn’t.
But, should you still disagree, all hope is not lost — although you will both have some heavy decision-making to embark upon. Basically, the partner who wants kids has to decide if his or her desire for a child is greater than the desire for the relationship or vice versa, says Dr. Rachel. “This is something that should really be explored over time, so as to avoid feeling cornered into a decision that one is not comfortable with and then potentially feeling resentful, angry, or a number of other emotions at a later time,” she explains.
Visit a specialist.
It may be helpful for a couple in this situation to visit a marriage specialist who can help them explore each partner’s motivation for having or not having a child. “If a couple wants children, for example, because it is the next step and what they are ‘supposed to do’ after being married for a year at age 34 or to ‘fix’ the relationship, they should certainly reconsider as once they have a child this will likely backfire,” explains Dr. Rachel. “Relationship satisfaction is extremely important, especially in raising a child as well as how satisfied partners are in the relationship prior to having a child, because having a child introduces a number of additional stressors in to a relationship.”
Leave it open.
Finally, if a decision still cannot be reached, it may be best to leave the discussion for another time, suggests Dr. Rachel. “The lines of communication should remain open regarding the issue of whether to have children or not,” she says. “People do sometimes change their minds about issues such as having children. So the discussion can certainly be re-opened at a later date.”
Did you and your partner disagree about having children? Tell us how you resolved it (or not) below by leaving a comment.
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