When it comes to dealbreakers in relationships, there's one that comes up a lot: children. A lot of people think that having children is a natural step that every couples takes. But that's simply not true for everyone, and that way of thinking can cause some major relationship problems.
"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 not everybody wants to do it — and that's very much OK. “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.”
Discussing whether or not you want kids can be a tricky, tense conversation, but also a really important one. And, if you actually talk about it with compassion, you and your partner can learn a lot about each other. "This kind of dialogue helps to understand what both partners want and hope for in life,” Zinn says. "Sometimes we don’t know what we really want because we just do what we think is next on life's checklist." Even if it feels awful realizing that you disagree on a major life issue, it's better to have the conversation than to jump into a big life decision just because you think you should.
But it gets really difficult if you ultimately find that you just don't — and can't — agree. If one of you is steadfastly for children and the other is steadfastly against it, what happens then? Do you have to break up? Here's what experts say you need to consider.
If It's In The (Very) Long-Term Plan
Firstly, think about the conversations you've had and how soon in the future you might want to have kids. "Do you break up? That entirely depends on how the above series of conversations go and how imminent having children is in the larger context of your relationship, Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "If both partners are young and kids are potentially five-plus years off for both of you, I can see a couple staying together, exploring this topic further and coming to a decision later on." So if you're 25 and think you might want kids at 35, a breakup is probably premature, especially if everything else in the relationship is going strong. Take a breath and try to see where life takes you.
If It's In The Short-To-Medium Plan
But if one of you want kids in the nearish future, you may need to be a bit more brutal with your calculations. "If kids are in your three- to five-year plan and your partner is dead set against being a parent, then parting ways might be the way forward," Martinez says. "You've got to ask yourself, 'If s/he doesn't change her/his minds about kids, do I want to go through life with (or without) kids? Do I want to go through life with (or without) my partner?'" There's probably not an easy answer, but it's what you need to consider.
Make Sure You're Look At All Of The Options
Finally, remember that there are other options. "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." Or if one of you doesn't want children because of overpopulation, consider adoption. Look at what the reason is that's keeping one of you from wanting children and see if there's a compromise.
When It's Not The Relationship For You
But there is a chance that there's just no way to compromise. They're called dealbreakers for a reason — and you're totally entitled to have your feelings about children be a non-negotiable issue. "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."
Just because one of you wants children and the other doesn't, it doesn't automatically mean you're destined for a breakup. Try to keep in mind the timelines you're working with, how much it matters to you, and what the reservations are. Sometimes, you just need to be really realistic — no matter where that takes you.