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Reluctant Family

Reluctant Partners Support Group?

My wife and I have been trying to have a child and/or adopt a child,for almost a decade now. At various times, I have been more or less enthusiastic about the idea. I love my wife and support her desire to have a child. However, (and she is well aware of this), I am not prepared to have another (I have four from previous situations) of my own.

Yet, where do I find support? Where is the group that backs my decision not to have another child? I feel that if I am ever going to come back around to wanting to adopt that I first need to see and hear from people that are supportive of my point of view. If there is such a group, it is possible that reading about how reluctant partners were able to stand up successfully for their point of view might in fact have the effect of making me more open to the idea. (If that makes any sense). If nothing else, it will make me stop feeling like I’m always the bad guy, which is what I get from almost everything that I read or people tell me.

Can anyone help me?


You have a right to not want any more children, just as your wife has a right to want them. I would recommend marriage counselling.  You and your wife need to reach a decision, together, about children. I wish you and your wife the best of luck coming to a decision. I hope your marriage is strong enough to handle whatever that choice may be.

Posted by daniotra on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:00pm

You’re not a bad guy for being honest with your wife and yourself about not being ready. No child wants a reluctant parent, any more than a partner wants a spouse that is not appreciative if their right to reproductive choice.

The trouble usually comes from varied view points: from those who are tired of the process or have children already to those who have finally found joy in the freedom or failed to honestly disclose their level of desire before marriage.
It’s important for partners to prayerfully, honestly (and with the use of counselling) approach the idea of having a family with the same level of maturity that you intend to raise one.
Finger pointing causes villains and, quite honestly, few people want to live with one. Making a choice that one of you can’t live with can also lead to a broken family… just when you’re becoming a unit.
Ask yourselves:
Do either of you love the idea of being childless/having a child more than you love being with your partner?

Is there another area of discontent at the root of your trouble coming to an agreement on this one topic (lack of access to friends in the same boat or who are supportive of being child free, external pressure from friends/ family, lifestyle differences, money, loneliness, etc.) that could be solved with some creativity and a willingness to not cling to convention for conventions sake?

My husband expressed a desire for children before we married and knew I couldn’t have any. We were both thrilled to find someone on board with adopting, but chose to wait for my sibling to complete college (as we were young).

Over the years my husband became entrenched in our lifestyle of being active in my siblings lives, but living on our own and having room for separate offices and maintaining separate social lives. My health issues also became a source of fear for him. He didn’t know me when I was young and much more ill, so he became alternately too fearful and too lackadaisical about the situation. Having children became the last thing he was interested in by the time our nest became fully empty in our early 30s.

With a broken heart, I agreed to find things that were important to me outside the home. It was hard because I’d had years to enjoy my career, had completed a bucket list and felt prepared to be an older parent. My life had finally wound down to a family conducive murmur and, while I couldn’t adjust to my siblings being gone, he couldn’t adjust to the fear and having me home. We were at an end before we’d truly began, because we were so invested in our lives, we had forgotten to invest in each other.

Finally, I took time off to work on my health and marriage. We got used to each other’s bizarre schedules and unconventional lifestyles. We’d never had a chance to with our focus on children who didn’t even live with us. Then, my health failed again just as he started warming up to being ready to have a family. He’d never been a witness to one of my rougher longterm bouts and decide precipitously that we could under no circumstances have a family.
I was crushed.

I concentrated on getting strong again and doctors’ appointments, while becoming a more involved “aunt” to my friends’ children. I knew we couldn’t raise children if he wasn’t emotionally ready or freaked out by medical costs. I cried myself to sleep a lot and prayed, but faithlessly wasn’t holding my breath.

Then something happened. I wondered out loud at the plight of older foster children still longing for families, even though they are on their way out of the system, not for the first time… We considered my starting a branch off my current non-profit or even a new one… He was the one who suggested that maybe we could start our family more unconventionally by beginning with older kids and maybe adopting younger children later.

He felt that he had room in his life to have a child closer in age to what we might have had, had we started when our friends did. That way there would be plenty of other kids to hang with and we could go back to having teens & preteens with similar interests to our own around again. I jumped at the idea, because I was 35, at a stage in my life of getting back into my career and caring for a home where babies are SO beautiful, but diapers aren’t.
At first, I was gung-ho for a 16-17 year old (or 3), to help prepare for college and life. Now he’s into the pre-parental groove and speaks of family groups and preteen kids the same age as my neices like he doesn’t remember my siblings at that age! Currently, we are working on getting certified as foster/ adoptive parents. The over 8 age group we are looking at tends to be far less time consuming and risky once you are home studied than waiting for a baby (as in our 3 failed private adoptions during our early 20s).

In the end, it’s worth it to wait and find out who you are to each other before figuring out who you can be to a child. It’s important to find and rationally discuss the root motivations to both sides of the emotional equation. Most importantly, it’s necessary to be flexible in finding what works best for you and your very unique, combined viewpoint. The true depths of your own and each other’s hearts may surprise you both and leaves no room for villainy.

Posted by Myri&AJ; on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:51pm

It sounds like you need to look into groups that are people who have chosen to be “child-free”. That is a big decision for some couples as they navigate the myriad possibilities to build a family. Sometimes one is ready or willing to be child-free and the other is not. Sometimes reaching out to other child-free couples you may know is helpful—you can ask them questions and get a sense of their lifestyle and see the pros and cons. There is one child-free bulletin board here: Many of them came to childfree after infertility and/or adoption did not work.

After that it becomes a big ticket item that hopefully you guys can come to some middle ground on. I always thought if I were child-free I might take neices and nephews on special vacations or have a weekly date with them. I also considered hosting a Fresh Air Fund kid (inner-city kid that stays with you for a few weeks in the summer—suburban locales are great since you can do lots of outdoor activities, you do not have to be in the country). I guess what I am saying is you kind of have to make a case for an attractive childfree life, that still fulfills some of your wife’s nurturing/parenting desires.

There has also been a lot of discussion about the reluctant spouse here: It is not always the man either!

Good luck… I am sorry you feel like the bad guy…

Posted by babydreams on Jun 20, 2013 at 4:03am


So my first reaction is that you have been” trying for 10 years” to have a baby or adopt and yet you are NOT ready and DON"T want to be doing this.  What a horrible waste of time and energy.  Who wouldn’t be angry and resent this?

Do you think your wife will be happier trying for the next 50 doing what she does not want to be doing either?  Really it is not something to seek support with the idea of the one with the most votes wins.

As daniotra said so well…you both have a right to do what is right for yourselves.  So the question becomes what is most important to you?  I’d really highly suggest you make a decision now so you don’t spend the rest of your life in a frustrated limbo like this.  If what is most important to you is childlessness…you separate, divorce or stay married but live in separate homes…but you need to act - not go on ” beating a dead horse” as they say, in hopes your partner will change.

If on the other hand a partnership with your wife is the most important…you most likely need to work out some compromise and move on…? either living separately so you can have a fair amt of space, or adopting an older child so the child’s time in the home is short and sweet. Or if your wife is fine with it you don’t have kids but do some of what baby dreams suggests. Or you commit to some time span of childlessness, then move forward with adoption. But whatever it has to be acceptable to both.  If it isn’t you’ll just stay mired in the same spot trying to convince one or the other of you to do what feels alien to what you want and need.

I would continue looking for others who may be in a similar situation, or a counselor, or a peer counselor or a good friend who can just listen while you try and understand and become clearer about your own feelings.

I do know more than one couple that has separated over this issue and gone on to (with a great deal of relief) follow the paths that feel right to them.  Occasionally a person’s feelings change…but this is so rare I wouldn’t wait for this.  Whatever your choice you need to embrace it…not just go thru the motions resenting it.  Do what you feel is right for each of you.  Usually better times will come no matter the decision when you free up so much trapped energy. Hope this is so for you both.

Posted by Happy Camper on Jun 20, 2013 at 6:04am

Happy Camper has the right idea. Teaching at my siblings school & being involved with several after school program’s kept me busy, involved with kids and having far too much fun to notice that children weren’t a permanent fixture in my home. Kids were so central to my life that I suspect it felt like respite care when they weren’t! There are plenty if non profits that would love to have your wife participate. Try for a variety of programs, volunteer & work opportunities.

Posted by Myri&AJ; on Jun 20, 2013 at 12:31pm


You are not the bad guy for not wanting children, but your wife isn’t wrong to want children, either.  The problem is there is no way to compromise, you cant have half a kid, you either have children or you dont.  You need to deal with this as a marital issue as a previous poster suggested.  If you don’t want children, don’t have them, and certainly don’t try to adopt them… And if that is how you feel, it is long past time you had a long conversation with your wife.  It isn’t about either one of you convincing the other, it is about you each honestly expressing your wishes, thoughts and hopes.  Maybe you can come to an agreement on a course of action together, maybe not.  Whatever the outcome, it would be better than her pushing for children and you resenting her for it.

Posted by jszmom on Jun 21, 2013 at 4:38am

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