Adapted from a recent online discussion.
He's backing out on promises to face his fears of parenthood
Bait and Switchville: My husband and I have been married for a year, together eight years. He has recently decided he doesn't want kids now or maybe ever. This was the one qualm I had about marrying him, that he was twitchy about the idea of spawn.
During our engagement, he told me he wasn't as afraid of the idea of kids as I thought he was. At the time, he was saying he had fears but that he'd deal with them.
They've gotten worse. His dad was totally uninvolved with him as a kid, and Mom let him get away with it.
My problem is that I'm ready, like yesterday. My expectations of parenthood were explicit.
So, what do I do? I feel like I was duped into believing he would come around. We talk about it (a lot), but it's not going anywhere and we're both feeling defensive, hurt and angry. Ethically, I would never engineer an "accident," but I'm starting to feel like it might be my only hope. I love him and don't want to leave, but this is a deal-breaker for me. Thoughts?
Carolyn: An "accident" is a betrayal, not a hope. You are not entitled to choose parenthood for someone else. It's bad for him, bad for you and cruel to the child, who has no say in being used as your pawn.
To be fair, if we classified your idea as two wrongs in search of a right, yours would be the second of the two wrongs. Your husband pulled a horrible bait-and-switch on you by providing false assurances that he'd confront his fears.
That's why I think your first move has to be to find a way to forgive him — or, if you can't, to admit that, both to yourself and to him. If you don't deal with your anger now, it might defeat the purpose of saving your marriage — even if he eventually warms to having children. The marriage won't make it if its foundation is broken.
Forgiveness likely will come from understanding his reasoning, and whether he lied to you or to himself when he minimized his fears. And, as it happens, understanding him — uh-gain — is the natural starting point for exploring — uh-gain — whether your husband is set against kids.
Some people who declare they don't want kids really mean it, and see it as disrespectful when their partners lobby them to change their minds.
There are others, though, who have doubts, not convictions, and might be open to kids if they had a better understanding of parenthood — not just of the day-to-day rigors, but also specifically of ways to avoid repeating their parents' mistakes.
Your ability to read your husband's doubts, and be sympathetic to them, and to figure out the most realistic and respectful approach to them, will not only help you figure out whether it's hopeless, but also might make him more inclined to reconsider.
In what might be the longest preamble to "get some good marriage counseling," I'm simply arguing for approaching this not as a lobbyist for child-rearing, but instead as his mate, someone who's willing to set anger aside and think clearly for the four interests represented here: yours, his, the marriage's and the potential child's.