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Fiancee said he Doesn't Want Children

QUESTION: I've been in a relationship for five years and lived with my partner for the last three. We are now engaged, but he told me that he does not want to have children. We are going to counseling, and I have thought seriously about my own feelings about being a mother. Do you have any insight?

You've uncovered a potential marriage buster! The good news is that you're facing the differences in your own and your fiancee's visions for the future, before tying the knot.

This is one area that has no middle ground for negotiation. If your fiancee's vision of a future continues to reject fatherhood, and you want the experience of motherhood, you would be wise to reconsider your wedding plans, or at least delay marriage in order to explore fully your feelings about future parenthood. This is not a small difference between you, but representative of a major problem for future happiness in your relationship.

Your desire to have children, if present now, will most likely increase as you get older. Pay attention to your feelings! Do not negotiate away something as major as motherhood in your future, for short-term contentment or avoidance of immediate pain.

What are your fiancee's feelings about not wanting children based upon? If they are a reaction against his own childhood, he could change his mind if he resolves his feelings about his parents. But there is no guarantee that he will choose fatherhood, even if this occurs.

Continue to explore these issues in couples' counseling. It might prove useful to take turns imagining for one week that you are not going to have children, and another week, asking him to imagine having children. Take some time to experiment with visiting friends and relatives who have children of various ages. Ask your fiancee to talk with other men who have chosen fatherhood, as well as men who do not have (and may not want) children. Do the same with women you know. This will give you some idea of whether or not you individually want to be parents.

After having gathered information on other people's views, and experiencing your week of imagining your partner's position on parenthood, write a list of pros and cons. Include what you think you might feel about each of your pros and cons at age 30, age 40, age 50 and age 60. Include the child(ren)'s potential ages in your "parenthood scenarios" of how it might feel to have small children, middle children, teenagers, young adults and even the possibility of grandchildren! Be willing to entertain the best and worst scenarios of having and not having children together. Share the results of your reflections with your partner.

If you're still unsure of your decision, refer to my articles on the Making Healthy Families series to consider influences from your childhood on the creation of your own family. Consider what kind of family you would want to have together, and what the important components of family life would be for each of you. Also, review both of your own childhoods for past pain which might interfere with your desire or belief in your ability to enjoy or raise children. Determine whether your desire for or against parenthood is based mostly on fears that may prove ungrounded in your relationship, or on realities which you believe will not change substantially over time.

Children deserve parents who want them. And parenthood is truly an irreversible decision! You are right to be looking at this issue closely rather than treating parenthood like an experiment.

With all of this said, it would be an enormous loss to say "good-bye" to one another after the depth of bonding and experience of living together that has taken place. Perhaps it would be wise to delay marriage and take this next year to resolve the question of family without the pressure of wedding in the near future. Pressure to marry may cause precipitous decision-making that is not grounded in the reality of who you are and what you want from life.

This dilemma calls for nothing less than soul-searching! For, though it would be a terrible loss to surrender the relationship, compromising a part of life that may be essential to your own personal growth and development would take a far greater toll on your future happiness. And, losing too much of yourself to save a relationship would be the certain kiss of death to any marriage.

Becoming parents is akin to a spiritual journey which transcends words. It is a "calling," though ordinary, not for the weak of heart ... and well worth your conscious deliberations.


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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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