Angry parents
When couples don’t agree on having kids and when one of the partners wants children and the other doesn’t, resentment occurs. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dear doctor,

My husband doesn’t want to have children but I do, what can I do now?

Answered by Racha Hijazi, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Medcare Camali Mental Health Clinic


Dear Reader,
Having children has always been viewed as the natural result of marriage. Therefore whenever a couple doesn’t have children, they are confronted with many questions; why haven’t you had children yet? When are you planning to have children? There must be something wrong if you don’t want children.

The family and societal pressure to have kids is huge. However, more people worldwide now are deciding to be childless or to have fewer number of children for many reasons including financial considerations or having other priorities in their lives. Not wanting to have children does not necessarily indicate a flaw in the person or in the relationship. Contrary to what we may believe, couples who agree to not have children are as happy as couples who have children. Yet, when the couples don’t agree on that decision and when one of the partners wants children and the other doesn’t, resentment occurs. Resentment can destroy relationships down the years and leave you in regret for not addressing your needs.


Talk, don’t blame

To avoid that, open communication is key between partners. Approach the topic with curiosity and with an attempt to understand your partner’s point of view. Avoid turning the discussion into a conflict and exchanging accusations. Seeing a therapist may help couples sometimes approach hard conversations like this. Although more liberal people tend to refuse having children to maintain some freedom in their lifestyle, there are often underlying fears or concerns behind this decision that may be well addressed in therapy. We will list here some of the relevant factors that maybe pushing your husband to refuse venturing into parenthood.

Are you doing well together? Sometimes people think of having a child as means of strengthening the relationship. However, if the foundation of the relationship is not solid, parenting will only bring more stress to it. Does your partner have concerns in this regard?

Commitment is scary for some. Many people have cold feet when approaching such a life-changing decision. They feel that children will trap them in the marriage. We have all heard of stories of miserable couples who decided to stay together for the sake of the children. Is he afraid of being more committed or taking the marriage to the next level?

Team work makes the dream work

Revisit your visions and values together. What are your life goals? Would your partner like to be surrounded by family as he grows old with you and dedicate his time to that family or are you both career driven and view that as your priority at the moment? Does he still have things he wants to achieve before having a child?

Is your partner afraid of financial strains? Bringing a child to this world entails a significant financial commitment over a long period of time. Is your partner worried about such a commitment? Would there be extra resources or income to support your decision? Will you be able to prioritise certain needs and drop or postpone some others to make space for childcare expenses?

Look into your partner’s history. Is he afraid to repeat certain unhealthy family experiences he personally suffered from? Are his past experiences making him doubt his ability to be a good father? Listen with empathy and suggest an action plan. Maybe individual therapy can help or attending some parent coaching sessions together. Share your own fears in this regard as well and how you intend to challenge yourself into becoming a better parent. Show support. Parenthood is intended to be a partnership where you will be there for each other.

Commit to relationship maintenance

Loss of intimacy or social life may be also a concern. It is widely believed that having children will impoverish your romantic relationship and affect the level of intimacy between partners. With that said, there is also a belief that the couples’ social life will suffer as couples are tied down with baby sitting and responsibilities. What efforts as a couple are you willing to take to maintain a healthy and satisfying level of intimacy in your relationship after having kids? Are you willing to still dedicate time for each other, to go on date nights or vacations to reconnect? Will you receive support from family or others in child care?

Other reasons would include fear of body changes or health issues. Does your partner believe that pregnancy and breastfeeding will change your body permanently and he would be resisting or fearing that change? Is he afraid of any health complications or possibility that the child won’t be healthy? Are fertility issues a concern? Is he afraid of possibilities of needing to go through IVF? Fertility treatments can be stressful and expensive.

Allow your husband to clearly articulate his fears. Keep and your calm and listen to him. It will make him feel understood and it is possible that you can come up with plans or ideas that may calm these fears and polarise his decision. Give him time to rethink after your discussion. Don’t wait for an immediate answer. This is a big life decision, and you don’t want to end up with an unsupportive partner in parenting just because he felt pressured into taking that decision. Check with him from time to time on how he is processing the idea. Avoid giving him deadlines and be supportive.

Try to get him involved with babysitting for children of friends or family once in a while. Let him experiment with his feelings and skills.

Do what works for you

And finally, sometimes people change their mind even if they had agreed to having children at the beginning of their marriage. If your partner refuses to reconsider the issue after some time, it is your right as well to reconsider your priorities in life and do what feels right for you. Reconsider if your biggest priority is having children or staying with your partner. And remember, the wellbeing of a child in a family depends significantly on the wellbeing of the couple. Couples who make that step when they feel ready for it, do better as parents.

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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.