If you want children and your partner doesn’t, it might seem as though things are hopeless — like there’s nothing more you or your partner can do. But what should you do if you want kids and your partner doesn't want kids? I asked 13 relationship experts this very question, because it’s not necessarily as simple as just getting up and walking out. In such a tricky situation, it’s best to really explore all of your options before making any concrete decisions. From there, you might be able to make a choice that really resonates — and feels right.
All 13 experts had slightly different takes, and though some said it’s best to walk away from such a scenario, most offered helpful hints as to what you can do to try to work through such an issue. For starters, it’s necessary to look within yourself and really analyze your reasoning behind wanting kids in the first place. In some relationships, it might be worth asking yourself if you’re really willing to give up your relationship for kids — and in others, it’s wise to figure out if you can give up your dream of children for a relationship. No matter what, stay true to yourself and the rest will follow. Here are 13 things you can do if you want kids and your partner does not.
1. Get Professional Help
"This should be discussed early on," psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. "Exploring all possibilities with an expert will help a couple make healthy decisions about the relationship." But if you didn't discuss it at the beginning, and now you're in an LTR, if may be time to find a professional to help. In that setting, you can explore your options. If it's a nonnegotiable, you won't get very far, but at least you'll be in a safe place to explore it. Then you can decide what to do next, having really looked at all of the options.
2. See If You Can Compromise
"If you and your partner don’t agree on children, it’s time to consider all the possible compromises and deals you can make," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "For instance, you can agree to meet in the middle, and adopt a teenager. You’ll forgo the first dozen or more years of child-rearing, and have a child, but only for a shorter amount of time." This might not be what you really want, though, and if it's not, don't go down that road.
3. Work Through It Together
“The first thing you should do is find out exactly what your partner’s actual objection to having kids is and why they feel that way," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "Is it something that is reasonable or just an irrational fear? If it’s a reasonable fear such as a financial burden or that they might be a horrible parent?”
“[If] it can be worked on by setting out short-term goals for savings or more space for when a baby arrives,” awesome, he says. “If it’s more psychological, then perhaps professional help is in order. I have a friend who went through this, and he and his wife took classes at the Big Brothers Big Sisters to better understand children while actually making a difference in a young boy or girl's life. This can turn into a truly profound experience and can really be a game-changer for some." Worth a spin.
4. Realize That ‘Not Now’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Never’
"If your partner does not want kids, while you should honor it, I would also say that if your evolutionary clock is ticking, you would be putting yourself at a sacrifice if you negate your own desires to procreate," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. “By all means, respect them and love them, but love them from a distance. They should be with someone who — at least at this time — is not desiring to change the relationship dynamic, and children do change the dynamic.” But this isn’t always the tack you have to take.
“Do not assume ‘not now’ or ‘as of now, no’ means ‘never,’” Paiva says. "You must weigh the pull of love — which is very chemical and can be experienced with another person — or the pull of evolution, which is a tad harder to ignore." If you are ready to be a mom and your partner is far from parenthood, it is OK to move on.
5. Understand The Details About How Your Partner Feels
"Surprisingly enough, the difference between fighting and working it out usually is to understand the details of what your partner feels about the issue," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. This could be based in various issues — it could be a financial problem, a timing problem, a fear problem, a disruption problem, a scarcity problem, a family problem. For example, if it’s a scarcity issue, your partner might think to themselves, “I’m afraid that, when we have children, you'll give all your time and attention to them, and have none for me,” Tessina says. Or if it’s a family issue, they might be thinking, “As long as we have to live so far from my family, I don’t think I have enough support to be a parent,” or, "My own childhood was so difficult, I’m doubtful that I can give my children the support they need. I’m afraid I'll be inadequate as a parent."
"Each of these problems has solutions — as long as you clearly understand what’s in the way,” Tessina says. “The key to working out agreements about having children is to understand each other. Instead of reacting to each other, seek to understand your partner’s point of view, and to express your own feelings and thoughts.” You might even wind up getting what you want in the end — but your partner has to be heard too.
6. Ask The Difficult Questions
"There are so many assumptions about having children," Janet Zinn, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. "More often than not couples assume they will have children after marriage or, if not married, they believe it’s a way of solidifying the relationship.” But that isn’t always the case. “When one partner wants a child or children and one doesn’t, it’s a great way to see how they envision their lives and their futures.” You can ask yourselves questions, and see where the answers take you.
For starters, it’s wise to ask yourself why you want kids. "This kind of dialogue helps to understand what both partners want and hope for in life,” she says. "Sometimes we don’t know what we really want because we just do what we think is next on life's checklist,” she says.
7. Accept That This Might Not Be The Relationship For You
"This is very hard, and one I see in a lot of couples work, and obviously a lot of couples that break up," psychologist Nicole Martinez tells Bustle. "If one person wants children, and is capable of having children — if they have only pictured their life as happy and fulfilled with a child, then this may not be the relationship for them.” On the other hand, if it’s not about that, maybe you have a chance with your partner.
“If the couple realizes it is societal pressure, that they can have a great life together of travel, activities, love and fun without children, a different kind of relationship might actually suit them just fine,” she adds. It’s all about what you want — but if you’re hell-bent on having kids, and your partner is not going to come along for the ride, acceptance might be the way to go on this one.
8. Talk To Your Doctor
"Kids should be a nonnegotiable," Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. If you want kids, you have to honor that — no matter what. But if you want biological children, you may want to have a conversation with your OBGYN and not your boyfriend or girlfriend, she adds. “You need to be realistic if your dreams are possible, and how much they cost in terms of money and time — and emotions." If you can have children, go for it — with or without your partner.
9. Consider Your Motivations
"You need to consider what it is about having children that is so important to you," clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. "Are you motivated to nurture a living being or spread your DNA? If it's the former, consider a much-needed alternative, like adopting an animal companion. If it's the latter, share this feeling with your partner. Your heartfelt words may win him or her over to your way of seeing things." And if both parties are open, you never know what might happen.
“A very serious word of warning, however: If either of you is ambivalent about having children, don't do it," she says. "Creating and raising a human life is a very serious and life-long endeavor. You likely have visions about what your bundle of joy will be like, but the truth is you have no idea what kind of individual human being that baby will be.” Any ambivalence is a huge problem when it comes to something as big as baby-making.
10. Uncover The 'Why'
"Yikes. This is probably a deal-breaker," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "My only advice, other than to leave, would be to have a conversation about why one doesn't want kids and why one does." It's possible that the reason is more complex than it may appear at first glance.
"Sometimes people avoid life milestones out of fear — fear that they won't be a good parent, fear that they will miss out on their own individual happiness, fear that they can't afford it or handle it," she says. "Cleansing those fears could potentially be the first step in a change of heart." If you can talk it out together and get to the bottom of it, you might find a way to move past it.
11. Explore The Issue Sans Agenda
"I have seen couples where one did not want kids," Shlomo Slatkin, who founded the Marriage Restoration Project with his wife, Rivka, tells Bustle. "When they worked on their marriage and explored the issue without an agenda, many of the blocks that were in the way disappeared." It can be hard to let go of an agenda as specific as this one, but — try. “There is usually an unconscious or deeper emotional reason for such resistance and until it is explored, the situation is not likely to change,” he says.
12. See If This Is Something That Can Change Over Time
"If your partner doesn’t wants kids and you do, again, you need to determine if this is a definitive thing or something that could change over time," Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, tells Bustle. “If it can’t change over time, you need to decide if you can be happy without kids or if you would be giving up something that is vitally important to you.” Daniels adds that it’s wise to do what other experts have suggested, and talk to your partner about their reasoning.
“Another key thing to do is broach the subject as to why your partner doesn’t want kids,” she says. “Perhaps they are scared because of a bad childhood. If this is the case, maybe you can help your partner work through those issues and get to a place where they decide that they can have kids with you.” If not, it’s OK to admit defeat — and let go.
13. Look Within Yourself
"If your partner does not want kids, you have to look deep within yourself to determine whether or not you would be happy with not having children," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "Self-analysis is often hard and tricky because most people do not like holding a mirror up to themselves." That being said, that mirror may be just the thing you need to uncover how you really feel.
“It is also important to note that many people experience an ‘a-ha moment’ during self-analysis,” she adds. “If, after analyzing your feelings, you determine that you will only be happy that you do want kids, then it is best to end the relationship and move on to find someone else. When you cannot imagine the thought of [not having] babies, kindergarten and snuggling with kids, your happiness factor will suffer with your partner and you will grow to resent them. Your growing resentment will poison your relationship.” And no one wants that.
“On the other hand, [if] you determine that your current partner is more important to you than having kids, and that you can be happy not having them, then your staying in the relationship will be able to continue as is.” In other words, you may realize that you don’t want kids as much as you want your relationship.
“Your decision should not cause resentment to hasten the end of your relationship, she says. "However, with the prevalence of other relationship-ending components, it is a period of deep reflection time, so that you do not ever feel that you chose wrong.” Once you give yourself enough time, you’ll know what you need to do.
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