Deciding whether or not they wanted kids led this couple to break up (and they wrote a song about it)

December 21 2012 | offbeatbride
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.
Photo from We've Got to Break Up.

Musician Jonathan Mann and his girlfriend Ivory recently decided to end their relationship — and one factor in the decision was whether or not to have kids. Rather than tell friends one by one, the pair wrote a song about the end of the relationship. As the song says, "There are just some things no relationship can survive." The video, which was originally featured on Laughing Squid, can be seen below:

The video is an interesting glimpse into how the decision about whether or not to remain child-free or to have kids can impact a relationship — what do you guys think?

  1. This is incredible. My best friend's father and step-mother broke up for similar reasons, but they're still married. It's been like ten years now and she has babies with someone else.

    • I'm intrigued into asking more…is it just not wanting to go through the divorce process or do they still have some sort of a relationship?

      1 agrees
      • They talk on the phone often, but they aren't dating. He moved to Pennsylvania two years ago to live with his family. They've filled out all the paperwork themselves twice, but it hasn't gotten submitted. The first time, a younger sister intervened after everything was signed and the second time, the wife found out she was pregnant and everything else took a back burner. It's hilarious though because legally, both of her kids are his kids because they're married.

        • "It's hilarious though because legally, both of her kids are his kids because they're married." Is that true? I always assumed paternity would trump marriage? From what I understand, she had the children with another guy… but because she's married, the children aren't legally the father's?

          4 agree
          • Very true. A friend had a baby with a guy other than her husband after they had filed for divorce but before the divorce was final, and even though they went to court to remove his paternal rights before the baby was even born, the hospital made her put her (soon to be ex-)husbands name on the birth certificate.

          • In some cases at least, the law does lean towards giving the husband parental rights even if he is not the father.

            My mom was still married (but had been separated for a long time) when she had me. If she had wanted to, she could have tried to get child support from him. (She didn't, they were still friendly, and didn't actually get divorced until I was 7). It's a big gray area though.

            1 agrees
          • I think it depends on the state. Where I am if a mother is not married, her child has no legal father unless he consents to be on the birth certificate, no DNA test required. If the mother is married the husband is the father. It might be one of those things that if everyone is in agreement on what to do, it's not an issue.

            5 agree
          • I think paternity only trumps marriage if the origin of the child is being contested in court. In any contexts, most states assume paternity for your legal spouse, no matter what.

            3 agree
          • It's hilarious because of the way they talk about it. There's no way she'd ever try and get child support from him and he's fine with the whole thing, so it's not something to be wary of. The actual father could've had it changed, but after the older one turned 3, it apparently wasn't an option anymore. Pretty sure that he just never wanted to pay child support, but that's another story.

            1 agrees
          • I have an ex with this issue. The husband was legally required to be the father listed on the birth certificate, even though they had been separated for a couple years before the baby was born, and they knew who the dad was.

        • Paternaty laws change from state to state. In my state, an unmarried couple has to have the father sign consent form, and supply his social security number to be put on a birth certificate. If he does not sign the forms, then the mother has to have a paternity test to establish paternity for the birth certificate. If the mother is married, the state recognizes the husband as the father unless someone legally contests it.

          • This is quite eye opening. I live in the UK and here you have a set number of weeks to register a birth. The person registering the baby can either be the mother or father if they are married (and they can give the details of their spouse) whereas if the couple are not married then both must be present. You can obviously lie and put the wrong mans details on there, but I'm shocked to hear hospitals insisting on putting husbands names on certs despite impending divorces etc.

            1 agrees
  2. I'm not a fan of the song itself, but I like the idea that they can break up amicably enough to write a song together.

    11 agree
  3. I too ended a perfect relationship because we disagreed on having kids. I knew that one of us would be pressured into caving, and that person would always resent it. I'm happily married now, with a child, but I still think about that ex-boyfriend, and what a great husband and friend he would have been. He still hasn't forgiven me for ending something that was so awesome.

    9 agree
    • I know of a couple who was like that. After they broke up the guy got someone else pregnant. So he ended up being a dad anyway. Maybe he just didn't want to be a parent with HER, and changed his mind with the new woman. Maybe it was a total surprise. Who knows? Still sad for the long term ex to find out about him having a kid though.

      10 agree
      • You know, and that's totally understandable. I know several people who broke up because they wanted kids, just not with each other, and just not at that time.

        3 agree
    • I'm in a weird situation that could turn out similar. My boyfriend already has a young child from a previous marriage and he first told me he wanted more kids. Now, he's saying he doesn't want more kids. For my part, I'm not ready to have kids this year or next, so I'm content to leave it on the backburner and not end a perfectly good relationship prematurely. But that difficult conversation is coming… and I have no idea what will happen.

      2 agree
    • This is a sad situation, and one that I find myself a part of, as well. I ended what I considered to be a wonderful relationship with someone I loved more than most things in life because, after 5 years, he still insisted he would never get married or have children with anyone, let alone me. It was a hard decision, but made for the sake of my future happiness. I am now married with two beautiful little ones, to a wonderful husband and father. I did recently learn that my ex is also married which, I must admit, burned me a bit. I thought all along he was against that sort of domesticity, but it turns out he was simply against it with ME. Either that or 5+ years later he just matured and had a change of heart. But I can't help but wonder if the problem wasn't marriage itself, but rather marriage with ME. I don't want him back or anything to do with him as I am content in my life, but it hurts a tad regardless.

      2 agree
  4. I saw this video online a few weeks ago and it made me really sad, simply because it's not that they don't love each other, it's just that they want different things. I once ended a 5-year long, living-together-for-serious relationship for the exact same reason. At the time the guy was so heartbroken (as was I) that he told me we could have kids, but I replied that forcing him to live life "my way" wouldn't be fair, and we couldn't trust his promise made under duress – what if we had gotten married and he changed his mind again? It just wouldn't have been fair for either of us.

    Knowing how painful the decision and making this whole video must have been really broke my heart. But, I applaud them for highlighting the fact that neither is "wrong" and that you can't force someone to live your personal life dream if they don't share it, especially if it's a person you care about. Also that it's so, so important to discuss what "the deal-breakers" are in a relationship to hopefully avoid heartache.

    1 agrees
    • Don't you think she looks a lot less sad than he does? She keeps struggling not to laugh and smile towards the end. I guess that's not an accurate indicator but still, she looks better about it than he does, but then I guess he has lost the woman he thought was the mother of his children as well as his lover.

      2 agree
      • I don't think we can make judgments about who is more heartbroken or who has more reason to the most sad in this situation, especially based off the video. Emotions can manifest in wildly different ways at different times for the same person.

        She is losing not only her lover, but the person she maybe thought was going to be along for the whole ride of her life – that is not any less heartbreaking than him believing she might be the mother of his children.

        Breaking up just sucks.

        2 agree
      • I thought that she actually looked a lot more sad. She looked kinda dead the whole time, like she was trying really hard not to think about it too much else she might start crying. Either she has a really good deadpan face, or she was really upset.

        1 agrees
  5. One thing that going through that whole experience made me wonder was: How early was too early to bring up the "where do you stand on having children?" question. For me it was something I wanted to get out of the way IMMEDIATELY. My feeling was that if a guy didn't want kids ever it wasn't worth scheduling a second date, because that was a deal-breaker for me. Just like some folks won't date a smoker, I didn't want to date a person who never wanted offspring. But I got the impression that a couple guys were really weirded out by it, regardless of how they felt about family. I wanted to be like, "DUDE. I don't want to necessarily have YOUR kids, and I certainly don't want to do it soon. RELAX."

    Happily, I met a dude who is on-board with procreating and is awesome in all other ways as well, so we got married.

    1 agrees
    • I am similar, I could never date someone without having *those* conversations first. Thankfully my man and I had them before our first date. We were communicating by text for a few weeks before it (we met months before through mutual friends) and began asking each other practically everything. Life goals, most embarrssing moment, first kiss, all those kinds of things. This was one of them. I knew that I could never risk my heart for someone who didn't want the same things I did. I also needed to bring up the fact that I have PCOS and that can make it difficult to conceive a baby naturally, and I didnt want that sprung on him later.

      Naturally that doesn't mean that people don't change, either of us may one day decide differently, but I couldn't start something knowing we wanted different things.

      2 agree
    • I am the same, but the opposite. I always lay it out early (within the first few dates) that I DON'T want kids. Ever.

      1 agrees
      • Heh, I laid it out there on my first date with my now-husband. It's not something I wanted to wait to mention until after I had gotten really into him, because it's such a big thing to me. Thankfully, he felt the same ;).

    • While I never mention it totally on a first date, I am also not subtle or secret about it. Like if kids come up I am like "Ugh, ya, me and kids, not so much. I pretty much don't ever want to be responsible for one of those long-term." And I would never lie if asked.

      1 agrees
      • I'm with you on this. Waaaaaay back with the dinosaurs when I dated (i'm not even sure I did date exactly!) I would say I wasn't into it when it came up but not really need to bring it up. Most of the time when I was on date like things I didn't really relaise it anyway and I never dated with the single intention of finding a serious partner, sometimes just a shag, sometimes just a laugh, sometimes wait and see and in teh case of my husband because I thought he was after my roomate and couldn't understand why she kept not showing up when we arranged going out together!

        3 agree
    • When my now husband and I started dating we were sixteen. The fact that he didnt believe in marriage, didnt want kids, and hated organized religion (Im Jewish) didnt seem particularly relevant because the odds didnt seem high that we would stay together past high school graduation. But then we did. So somewhere shortly after our 2 year anniversary we had a long talk about what our visions of the future were now. And here we are coming up on our fifth wedding anniversary with a gorgeous, energetic toddler. Sometimes, the things people want change when they find the person they want to have them with. But of course, sometimes they dont. Just providing a different perspective.

      8 agree
    • I have always been SUPER upfront w/potential dates regarding children. I learned the hard way that if I didn't address the big stuff as soon as possible, that it could end badly. I've "scared away" a few people with it, but in the end, wouldn't have been compatible with them anyway…so it works.

      1 agrees
  6. This song touched a strong nerve with me. I never wanted to have children but for my husband it was essential I think. We talked about it a lot when we were first serious and he never pressured me but he made it clear that it was something he really wanted at the same time. So, I am now the mother of two boys, 7 and 8. I decided that my love for him was stronger than my desire not to have kids (obviously not everyone's valid choice)and I would regret losing him by not having them more than I would regret having them. I would walk through fire for my children (and with post-natal psychosis after them it kinda felt lile I was doing at times) and I do not regret it for a moment. It has been incredibly hard though and the sad irony is, although we are still married and intend to stay that way forever, my marriage (as I envisioned a marriage anyway) has been over for many years.

    1 agrees
    • This is a very interesting comment. I think that most people can say they don't regret having children once they are here.
      I do have a question, and I hope I can work it properly. Do you imagine getting your reationship or marriage close to what it was once your children are grown and leave the house?

      1 agrees
      • I doubt it Jessi. We got so very far apart and loss so much of our connection I don't think it can ever be the way we had both imagined a marriage. We are working hard on strengthening our bond as friends, parents, team mates and all the other roles that we have together. Trying to restore some intimacy and trying slowly and carefully and often painfully to design a new way of marriage for ourselves that will allow us to live complete full lives as humans and take care of each other (he is very very dear to me) as well. Our children both need us perhaps more than some kids and we live very far away from any family so they would have nowhere else to turn for family connectedness without us. We have almost no close social ties so our little unit, although broken, is all we have and it is very precious to us.

        1 agrees
        • I'm sorry you have few social ties. Things can get kind of intense, but also boring, with just the 4 of you all the time. I hope that, even as you reach within your marriage to do repair work, both of you reach out to find some community. It might help in ways you don't expect.

          1 agrees
          • Hi Michelle,

            I do reach out as often and in as many places and groups as I can. My husband an I are offbeat even in an offbeat community, just sort of out of step with the world somehow, and now we live in suburbia and it hasn't proved to be a very friendly place. He has learned to cope with that by not needing anyone. I keep trying as I came from a very social family and miss that and I want my children to have a family and I will do whatever I can to make that for them. I am getting more confident now and am reaching out places I would never have tried before and hoping that I can find some sense of community there for my boys.

            1 agrees
        • This is in no way any of my business and if you're not comfortable answering, I totally understand and respect your decision, but I currently feel like I am going through the same way with my SO– that loss of connection and growing apart while living 5 feet from each other. It is, admittedly, frightening.

          So my question is how/why/when did it happen for you, and what would you have done differently to avoid it?

          1 agrees
          • It is a very frightening thing Wondering and I am happy to talk to you about it. I just wrote out the whole story to you but think maybe some of that stuff shouldn't get shared on a public forum now I am starting a new professional career. Would you be up for discussing it offline? I could always leave out the details I guess. Let me know what you prefer.

        • I obviously don't have any advice for you, but I truly hope you and your husband will work things out together. I wish you all the love and best of luck in the world.

  7. My partner and I went through a scary time in our relationship where he was really unsure about having kids. I've always known I've wanted kids and when we first got together he seems to be on board, but I think he started to get really anxious about his capabilities as a father and all the personal sacrifice that comes along with parenthood. He's an incredibly generous person but he's also someone who really needs his down time. We both knew that if he decided he didn't want kids it would be the end of our relationship. I feel insanely lucky that he processed a lot on his own and came to the conclusion that in spite of his fears he did want kids. We are expecting our first baby in a month and I've never seen another person (man or woman) be more excited about a pregnancy and a baby. We were just talking the other day about the struggle we had a few years ago and how scary that was and how much it would have sucked to have broken up over it. But if he had not wanted kids in the end, it would have been the right decision, as much as we both love each other.

    • That sounds a lot like my relationship with my husband; he was an only child who never dealt with babies and wasn't even sure he wanted them to start with. For better or worse, I got pregnant unexpectedly before we were married, and eventually he got excited about being a dad. (Once he had read up on what to do if I gave birth unexpectedly.)

      Like with many things, it could have just as easily gone badly — but it worked for us.

    • Hi Adrienne,

      I'm wondering how he changed his mind. My partner and I are currently struggling with this. I have known I wanted kids since I was a kid, and she never wanted children until she was with me, and is now struggling, not knowing if she wants them or not… We love each other deeply but like you said if she decides she doesn't want them I don't think I could sacrifice having kids for the sake of our relationship, but neither would I want to force her into something she doesn't want… How did you handle this period? Did you leave him alone to think about it? Talk about the benefits/try to assuage his fears? How did you talk about it/not talk about it? How did you get through this time or what turned him around? I'm not trying to convince her at this point, I guess I'm just struggling with a way to support her without being pushy or falling apart. We've both been walking around on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop for the past few days. Any suggestions would be helpful.

      1 agrees
  8. I totally dig the song.

    My (now) husband and I were both negative/ambivalent about having kids when we got together 6 years ago. But we agreed up front that might change. We also agreed that if either of us changed our minds in the future, we would just do it.

    Fast forward 3 years, to HIS mind changing.

    Fast forward farther almost 6 years and I have a 20 month old son. I wouldn't change anything.

    People are all different, and it's fascinating to watch how we navigate this conversation with each other.

    1 agrees
  9. I seriously applaud this couple for clearly having an important and difficult conversation and making the best decision for their relationship. And also for communicating with their friends about it and being able to say that they will figure it out and their friends shouldn't choose sides or anything. I have friends who planned to have kids and are probably going to fall on the childless side and others who planned to be childless and now have a kid. I always assumed I'd have kids but I totally admit I've had some times where I really, REALLY questioned that. My dude always assumed he wouldn't have kids but once we met he realized he wanted kids and is very definite about that decision now. So we plan to have kids and see what happens as that may or may not work out how we intend.

    1 agrees
  10. I liked this video because it seems they were honest with one another.
    I have been set against having children. When my husband and I were dating he always thought he would have kids because he was brought up in the world where thats just what you did. Got married, had babies. I was too, but I can never envision myself as a mother. After several in depth conversations we decided we both don't want kids. We understand that things can change and we have agreed to have an open dialogue about those changes if they arrise.
    We both love our 3 nephews like crazy, but its nice to head home to the child-less condo 🙂

    3 agree
  11. Wow this song is so great. My now husband and I had the same thing. We broke up and were apart for two years because I flat out believed that I wanted to have kids. (to make up for a "mistake" in the past that I hadn't forgiven myself yet for.) And to his credit he tried and tried to WANT to have kids, but realized that it really just wasn't in him, and we had the talk. And decided that we needed to end the relationship.

    Fast forward two years in which i learned that I valued love more that my screwed up idea that i needed to have a child, and then realized that I was cursed with true love for my old ex and nothing else would do. We got back together. In the mean time he had gotten a vasectomy which really made me feel a whole lot better because the decision was made, we would not have kids. And then a year after we get hitched I had to have a hysterectomy. So yah we're both incapable of having kids and it really is the best thing that we are together. All through the stress of being told they needed to take out the lady bits I knew that I didn't have the extra stress or sadness over loss of fertility. I had already made that decision.
    So this post really touched me, in the "Ya! Been there! Someone else gets it!" kind of way.

    6 agree
  12. One thing, I can understand wanting to stick it out awhile and see if someone changes their mind. My first boyfriend and I flip-flopped. Initially, I couldn't imagine being a mother and he wanted kids. By the end of our three year relationship, he thought kids were a "bad idea" and my biological clock had kicked in big time. The 2nd & 3rd guys, though, I clarified that expectation within a few weeks.

  13. I find this to be a difficult discussion. My uncle didn't want kids ever. Then he got married to a woman who already had a kid, and he was okay with that (the kid spent half the time at his dad's). And now they have a child together, and he's absolutely enamored. I guess what I'm saying is someone may THINK they don't want kids, but they completely change their mind when the time is right in their life. But sometimes, the decision to not want kids is a permanent one. It's hard to tell if you would flip-flop or not in this situation.

    I thought that while their situation is sad, I'm glad they were able to write a song and make light-hearted it. The fact they can break up peacefully shows a lot of maturity.

    3 agree
  14. This story and video totally broke my heart. Once upon a time I didn't want kids but my partner definitely did. I came around in time (we are now married with one, and I want all of the babies). But I always worried I would lose him over the issue if I didn't have kids. If he hadn't wanted them, I'm not sure if I would have ever really wanted them. And I think it's easy for men to think, "She'll come around" because that's the conventional wisdom and often it does happen that way. If you really love someone, it would be so hard to let go if there is even a shred of a hope they may come around.

  15. Kudos to them for breaking up amicably. I didn't want kids, at least not until I graduated and established a career and the whole shebang, but once my spouse broke the news that he had progressive infertility, all bets were off and I had to re-prioritize. I wind up getting pregnant after a few weeks of trying. Go figure. My fiance and I now juggle between going to school full-time and being full-time parents to our daughter. I wouldn't change a thing though — my daughter has been an incredible blessing and is the apple of my eye.

  16. I think my favorite part of this video is when they said (and I'm paraphrasing here) Invite us both to parties, it will be awkward, but we'll figure it out.
    That's totally true, and tough for everyone to figure out.

    5 agree
  17. That is actually pretty amazing … Just put it out there in open and make it as clean and honest to the people around you. Kudos to them!

  18. I'm in a similar situation with my husband. He wants kids, and I don't. When we got married 3 years ago, he was a student and I was working minimum-wage, so kids were out of the questions. I thought that, by the time we could afford it and/or I turn 30, I would be ready. And we are now at the point where we both have great jobs and I'm 30, and I'm becoming more and more certain everyday that I want to remain childfree and focus on my career. My husband wants 2 children, no more than 2 years apart in age (he has a sister who is 14 years his senior, so he wants to do the opposite of what his parents did). He says he will never leave me and respect my choices, but who knows if he will think that way 10 years from now? Unlike women, men have no "expiry date" for babymaking. I have to wait and see how this mess will turn out, and focus on my career so I'm at least financially independant.

  19. For those going through this with their partners… oh man, do I sympathize, and I hope it works out for the very best. I was in that situation for years. Couples therapy can be really helpful.

    Many of us imagine futures together, enjoy our current lifestyles, and make assumptions from there. But our delicate little realities can get blown away like gossamer. The biological clock might smack you down (happened to me), or you might get in a bike accident and severely injure your brain (happened to my husband). So it goes.

    My husband loved me enough to end up somewhere unexpected, with a baby boy. I loved him enough to end up somewhere unexpected, running endlessly through hospitals with our toddler at my side. Our son has been integral to my husband's ongoing recovery and to my ability to cope with all this. The nurses told me repeatedly, "That's the best therapy he's getting" when I'd bring our son to the hospital every day. So… life's weird… people and circumstances change…

  20. My fiancé and I both deeply expressed on our first date that we NEVER wanted kids, and this idea was bluntly supported by us both for a while. We both had strong desires to pursue our own lives, and lives together. We agreed we would be the best uncle and aunt to all of our upcoming nieces and nephews, and that would be plenty! At the end of the day, we would be the ones traveling and spending as we pleased, with a strong relationship that wasn't shared with children.
    A few months ago, his plans drastically changed. He wants to have kids, and the sooner, the better! And non negotiable. He can't imagine his life without his adorable offspring and now wants more of a Susie Homemaker than a free spirit (which is me, I'm not a Susie!). He says something in him just switched, and he can't go back. He's apologetic and realizes this is potentially a deal breaker for our otherwise pretty perfect relationship.
    I've tried, believe me I've tried, to get on board with this whole family idea. There are some days I think it could work, I think I could do the "mom" things he wants me to do. But I'm rightly worried that I'll wind up hating my kid(s) and him, and ultimately myself, for giving up the things I really wanted. Reading some of the earlier posts about loving him more than loving my ideals of freedom really struck me. That's where I'm at. I know children aren't something to take lightly, but I'm contemplating the option of being without him forever, or being with kids and with him forever.
    There are still a ton of dynamics we would have to figure out pre-kid, if we get to that point. I just want to know that I could be just as happy and fulfilled with kids as I think I'll be without them.

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.