Tell Me About It: I’ve changed my mind about not wanting children

My partner and I agreed early on that we would not add to the population, but now I am doubting the decision

Illustration: Chad Baker via Thinkstock

Illustration: Chad Baker via Thinkstock

Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 01:00

Q I’m 38 and have been in a relationship for the past 12 years with a guy I have a lot of fun and connection with. We met when we both felt that the world was not a great place, and so, very early on, we agreed that we would not add to the population. However, now that I am nearing the time that fertility might be running out, I am beginning to question my commitment to no children. My partner is adamant that he is not interested in being a father and neither is he interested in getting married; he says why fix something that is not broken. He has a very full life, with lots of hobbies and interests and says he is fulfilled. I’m beginning to fantasise about getting pregnant by “accident”, but am then horrified that I could consider such deceit. I know that time is running out and don’t know what to do.

 

A It sounds as if you have changed in the past 12 years, and the connection you had with your partner has evolved. Perhaps you have discovered that you are less pessimistic about the world. The biological clock is also ticking, and your partner does not experience this as you do. It is an important time in your relationship, as what happens now and how it is dealt with will have an effect on the rest of your time together.

You had serious discussions at the beginning of your relationship and an agreement of sorts was hammered out to clarify the boundaries of the relationship. This connection and boundary has served you well over the years, but now you find yourself ready for change or at least for discussion about a change of lifestyle.

Your partner sees things working well and feels that the original agreement has provided you both with a good life for a long time. He has a good point, but most relationships have to face the question of how to proceed at various points, and the ability to have that discussion is essential.

Both your positions need to be fully heard and discussed before any outcome is considered. This is very difficult, as it can feel like a win/lose scenario, where one of you has to give in to the wishes of the other. This could lead to resentment and a grudge being harboured for a long time. Perhaps the bigger picture needs revisiting – do you both agree that this is a life-long relationship? What are your life aims and philosophies? How do you accommodate difference and disagreement? How should you have this discussion and what would help it to be one where both of you feel listened to and understood?

Patterns in relationships can become very stuck, and arguments can follow a familiar path – perhaps where one person goes silent or withdraws or where the argument goes underground only to erupt periodically over time. This issue is too important to allow habit to govern the process and the outcome.

If you introduce deception by a surprise pregnancy, then the trust and connection that has been a cornerstone of the relationship will be severely challenged and you will be introducing a child into a troubled relationship. Are you prepared to carry the responsibility of that?

If it is important to you to have an answer to the question of family, then it is up to you to put this issue on the agenda and to follow the discussion until some conclusion is reached. Your partner deserves the truth and the respect of being treated as someone who can face a challenge.

You have to look at how important it is for you to have – or consider having – children. Is it something that you might want to consider with someone else if your partner is adamant that it is not for him?

The difficulty is that the future is not known – if you leave your partner in the hope of finding another relationship that can support a child in the time frame allowed to you, it may or may not happen. This is the reality of the choice, and one that you must face with courage and clarity. If you choose to stay with your partner and he is clear that there will be no children, then you must follow your choice fully and not let regret follow you.

 

Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. For advice, email tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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