My husband doesn’t want kids. I feel tricked

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers a new perspective on your problems and challenges


My husband doesn’t want kids. I feel tricked

My husband doesn’t want kids. After eight years of marriage, he has just told me that he definitely doesn’t want children. We’ve occasionally joked about it; what we’d call them and whether we’d want a boy or a girl. But over the last year, we’ve been talking about it seriously; at 37, I’m ready for kids. But suddenly, apparently, he is not. I feel rejected, tricked and angry that he has not even considered my feelings. We are married and he never mentioned that he didn’t want children. How can I broach the conversation and get him to consider how I feel? Annalisa

Broaching the conversation is not the hard part here – you’ve already proved that you can talk and even joke about this. The challenge is how open you can be to where the conversation might lead – specifically whether you can accept that perhaps he has already considered your feelings, and yet he still does not want children.

When you say this has happened suddenly, I wonder whether it is one of the following: your husband has genuinely changed his mind, he does want children in theory but he is panicking about what that might mean in practice, or he has never been keen, and has only now plucked up the courage to be clear. In parallel, I’m concerned that when you say ‘consider how I feel’, what you really mean is ‘do what I want’.

The evidence about marital arguments is clear – discussions end on a similar emotional note to where they started, unless you start with a harsh attack, in which case the outcome will invariably be worse. Please put all of your love and caring into finding a way to be soft in your initial approach – remember that your objective is to bring you closer as a couple.

It is tricky to be creative when you are feeling hurt, so I’m going to give you some possible scripts: ‘I guess it must have been hard for you to say that you don’t want children. Please would you tell me more about what you are thinking?’ ‘I loved joking with you about having baby Hercules and I’d really like to understand what might have changed’ or even ‘I’m feeling scared and cut off from you. I’d love us to feel closer, so please can we talk about this?’

I imagine that the underlying fear, for both of you, is whether this is a deal-breaker. There is a sense in which he is asking: ‘did you marry me for myself, or so that I could serve this purpose for you?’ And your question might be: ‘what does our marriage mean if we don’t have children together?’

I would urge you to consider the latter question anyway, and read Dr David Schnarch (see ‘More inspiration’) about keeping love and intimacy alive in committed relationships. He regards marriage as the container and motivation for growth. The key is that you both value the other’s interests on a par with your own; if you talk your partner out of what he or she wants so you can have your way, you lose.

You can, and people do, have a happy marriage with or without children; and a happy marriage is what I wish you both.

More Inspiration:

Read Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love And Intimacy Alive In Committed Relationships by David Schnarch (WW Norton, £11.99)

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

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