My husband doesn't want kids: how do I cope with his choice?

Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
My husband doesn't want kids: how do I cope with his choice?
"Happiness Can Be Found" ~ Harry Potter Printable Art from
Sweetpages
My husband recently told me he definitively doesn’t want children. I knew he’d been leaning that way over the past few years so we’ve been waiting. Silly me, I’d always thought he’d eventually change his mind. If I’m honest my heart is quite broken. I’ve always looked forward to being a parent. How do I move from wanting a child to child-free?

You can talk about kids before getting married until you're blue in the face, but you just never know how someone will feel later in life, or even just a few years later. My partner and I have talked about our child-free preferences at length to make sure that we're as informed as we can be, but you still can never be 100% sure. I'm so sorry that it's coming as more of a surprise for you. I'm actually going to pull some advice from our infertility archives instead of our child-free archives since the mindset here is actually much closer.

The biggest choice to make is whether you're okay with not having children or if it is a deal-breaker in your relationship. It certainly can be a deal-breaker for some (as seen here, where they even wrote a song about it!). From your question, it seems like you're planning to power through and make the best of child-free life with your husband. But still, make sure that's something with which you're willing to live.

Grieving the loss

Assuming you're aiming for a happy child-free relationship, you're first going to be dealing with grief — the loss of the idea of a child. That can be devastating whether it's by choice or not.

Although not a perfect analogy, this post has some sage advice for dealing with motherhood (and Mother's Day in particular) while being childless:

I’ve started becoming a recluse on Mother’s Day weekend. I’m of an age where it’s assumed I am a mother and am generally given a cheery “Happy Mother’s Day” by every retail clerk with whom I come into contact (yes, even though there are no children with me). The issue is that I am not and I, in my over-abundant need to be truthful, feel uncomfortable allowing it to slide with a simple “thank you.” But I don’t really want to break into tears and shout that I don’t deserve this particular salutation…

It’s rough, though, because mourning the loss of what isn’t, and will likely never be, is something that’s hard to explain to others, and harder still when it’s been going on for years.

Until I can get to the point where I can appreciate my childlessness or see the Universe’s higher purpose for not giving me children, Mother’s Day will be difficult. In the meantime, I can only hope that I can continue to hold my tongue when some well-intentioned retail worker wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day.

Sometimes knowing that others out there are grieving the same can bring you some solace. Here's the full post:

Moving forward

This reader shared her story of how she moved on from anticipating children to becoming unwillingly child-free. They examined every aspect of their life and looked for all opportunities for increased happiness. It's a great view of how things can be turned into opportunities even when they are hard. Here's a snippet…

We both knew we wanted to stay married and our dog is amazing, but everything else was evaluated with a fine-toothed comb. The question became "What do I need to do to be happy with the life I have now, assuming no children of our own will come?"…

We love kids even though we don't have any of our own, so we're making it a point to spend time with the kids in our lives. Between us, we have eight nieces and nephews and two great-nieces. We do our best to go to softball and soccer games, to take them to breakfast, to spoil them (within reason), and do fun things with them when we can…

We want to travel more. We want to spend weekends going to conventions and Renaissance Faires and car shows, which all cost money and which we often avoided because of the cost.

Read more here:

Additionally, you'll want to start reframing your mindset on what "family" means to you. So many of our readers carry the banner that friends are the family we choose and that a family can be any kind of unit or community. I love that. Here are two posts I definitely recommend reading to get you in the right head space:

Best of all, you can still totally be a fixure in children's lives! Finding children to mentor or being involved in your family's children can be super rewarding. Don't forget that there are so many children who need the kind of attention that you could bring to their lives:

Telling your community

Once you've made peace with your life as it is (if you can and want to), you have the option of sharing it with your friends and family. I say option on purpose. I don't support that idea that you HAVE to tell anyone of your child-having status at all. In my case, I share it only selectively as a self-care measure. Not having children for whatever reason is a touchy issue that you are allowed to avoid talking about if you choose. But if you do decide to share the news, here is some crowd-sourced advice on telling your community about the situation:

I hope that you can find some peace in a life that you can love no matter what decisions you make.

  1. Obviously just my opinion but… I don't think many marriages can survive the amount of resentment caused by this situation. I firmly child-free, and if my partner changed his mind and decided he wanted them, I know I would be miserable knowing I was holding him back, and knowing that every time he saw a cute kid, he'd be silently resenting me. Obviously you know best whether or not you can handle it without resentment brewing but… it's a pretty important thing to be on the same page about and it really sucks when someone does an about-face.

    18 agree
    • "I don't think many marriages can survive the amount of resentment caused by this situation."

      This is my personal opinion too, though as I said in a comment below, only the original writer can make that decision. I have a friend whose first marriage ended in an awful divorce partly because she wanted children and her now-ex didn't, though it wasn't the ultimate deciding factor. It was for the best, though since she is now very happily engaged to be married to her current partner. Sadly, she still mostly likely won't be able to have children due to battling a chronic and metastatic form of cancer for almost a decade now so her ex has just about robbed her of the opportunity to have children not just during her marriage to him but for probably the rest of her life as well. This is a fact that she has already accepted for a long time now.

      6 agree
  2. I feel like you have to decide whether this is a dealbreaker for you or not. Your husband told you that he doesn't want children, but you need to ask yourself some questions before making a final decision. Are you willing to stay with your husband even if that means never having any children? Can you picture yourself living and embracing a childfree lifestyle? Would you still pursue parenthood if it meant sacrificing your marriage and either finding a new partner who shares your desire for children or choosing to raise children by yourself? Only you can decide what is right for you. Just make sure that decision doesn't result in a life full of sadness, regret, and resentment, especially if you opt to stay with your husband in the end. I don't think it would be fair for either of you to stay married if y'all's life goals were to be completely incompatible with each other.

    6 agree
  3. When deciding if this is a deal breaker or not, do consider the possibility that the marriage may not last. If so, would you resent your partner mid-life for having missed the opportunity to have children? Would you regret your decision to stay with him?

    I have seen men change their minds with a new younger partner mid-life. They were equally adamant that they were not going to have children. This option is open to men much longer than women.

    If you decide that the relationship is important enough to take this risk, try to find a way to accept not having children and eventually being happy with that choice. The articles above are excellent. I have friends that struggled with infertility and have come to accept it and are happy in the lives they've made.

    5 agree
  4. My marriage ended six months ago because of this, it was complicated and everyone's situation is unique so I won't go into it. I have no idea if it needed to end, if I made the right decision, or what other issues were also contributing, so I'm in no place to give advice about whether to stay or go or how you should move on. Here's the advice I would give you 6 months out:

    -GET A THERAPIST. GO TO THERAPY.
    -Relish the love and support of your friends but don't listen to their advice – everyone's situation is so unique and none of them really know everything about your marriage
    -Do self-care, not just because it's necessary but as a small practice session of what your live will look like if you a) chose to be child free or b)whether you want to still be in your marriage
    -Try and eat, sleep, and exercise – but know it's okay if you can't.
    -Except sleep, go on sleeping pills if you're not sleeping
    -Let yourself sulk sometimes, weep sometimes, and just grieve. You deserve it.

    I hope you come out of this happy, healthy, and where you want to be – wherever that is.

    10 agree
  5. I'm so sorry for you. Hugs.

    My best friend was in this situation. After therapy and soul-searching and so much talking about the issue, her husband changed his mind. From what I recall, his not wanting kids stemmed from a desire to be free to travel and life goals, not some horrible childhood trauma. Maybe try to get to the bottom of WHY he holds this position. Does he even know, himself?

    (He left her shortly after the birth of their second, so she is now a single mom of two kids under three. So definately listen to his and your deep gut feelings on this. To echo others, it's the kind of issue that just might be impossible to compromise on, and really breaks your heart.)

    1 agrees
    • I'm trying to be respectful here, but it seems like you're implying that people who don't want children haven't put any consideration into why they don't want them or that their decision is stemming from something terrible that's happened to them.

      I can only speak for myself, but I also don't want children, not because of a "childhood trauma", but because I want to spend my life doing this I enjoy, like traveling.

      I only get one life and I don't want to spend it raising kids because then I won't be able to do that. This is a life choice that I've spent a lot of time thinking about.

      Most child free by choice people also have.

      5 agree
      • I completely agree with you. In fact, I would venture to say that most childfree folks have put more thought into procreation than lots of people that have children.

        1 agrees

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.