A major issue for both men and women in finding the right relationship is whether or not children will become a part of it. If your vision centers on creating a family with children, as mine did, learning that a potential partner can’t conceive or has chosen not to have children –– or being that person –– can seem an insurmountable obstacle. It did in my life, but I found it wasn’t so.
There is a cultural expectation that a woman will have a child. Being childless by choice (childfree) is gaining acceptance for both women and men, and postponing motherhood until late in life has resulted in more women becoming childless by circumstance.
When I was 26, I was married to a man whom I adored and who treasured me. Children were central to our vision. We talked about names, how to raise them, what our values were. Then after surgery, my husband and I heard the doctor tell us, “I’m sorry, but you can’t ever have children of your own.” We were stunned.
Suddenly, life didn’t seem worth living. After a time, we could barely talk to each other. I considered suicide, but came to realize that life on any terms was more attractive than death. Burdened by my husband’s pain, I suggested we divorce so he could find a wife who could have his children. At first, he was horrified by the idea. Finally, he agreed.
I walked away from everything I thought was vital to my happiness. Amazingly, I experienced a lightness and spaciousness of being freed from limitation. I had the possibility of creating a completely different future for myself. By deciding that it had to be a life that would not have been possible if I had children, I opened a vast field of opportunity that had previously been beyond my imagination.
By the second year, I had a steady partner who was charming, creative, sexy, committed, years younger, and didn’t care if he had kids. I loved him and felt loved by him, and supported in my lifestyle. I was delighted with my choices and happy with my life as a single woman without children. I had miraculously found my way out of the depth of despair and into joy.
Over and over, events develop that have demonstrated to me that we cannot know what the future will bring forth. When we are willing to live in the present and walk bravely into the mystery that unfolds before us, we can create and recognize opportunities that are often beyond our imagination.
Through the healing work I did, and now teach, in the Hoffman Process, I learned how experiences in our early years, especially birth through puberty, create false beliefs, mostly unconsciously and without our consent, about how we have to be and what we must have to belong, be loved, worthy, safe and successful. Finally, I came to understand why my ex-husband could not release his belief that he needed his own, biological children, and I could. The irony is that he never got over losing the relationship even though he had kids, and I became happily childfree.
Since children or no children can be such a critical issue, it’s important to consider how, and when, to introduce the topic into a new relationship. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Know yourself and acknowledge the limits of your situation
If infertility is your issue, would you be open to having children through adoption, surrogacy, or step-children? If you have chosen to be childfree, how firm is your resolve? If a potential partner is infertile or chooses to be childfree, is that a barrier to a relationship? Is it a preference or an absolute?
I have friends who ended loving, supportive relationships because their partner didn’t want children, and then later chose to be childfree or found themselves childless, regretting the relationship they ended. Others gave up their dream and always regretted it. Only you can make the choice that is best for you.
2. Recognize what you want from the relationship
Take the time to consider what kind of relationship you are looking for now. Do you want a long-term commitment or are you more interested in being in the moment and seeing where it will lead?
3. Bring it up early and be truthful
A great question to introduce the topic on an early date is either, “ What’s your dream?” or “What is your vision for your life?” And be ready to answer the question truthfully yourself. If children or no children are critical to the vision for either of you, it will become part of the conversation. Listen closely, be open to exploring, and respect each point of view.
At one time I wanted children desperately, but now I can’t imagine motherhood ever being a part of my life. My life took another path. I moved through the maze of what were, at times, conflicting and confusing options to create a life of adventure, creativity, satisfaction, and passion. It just wasn’t at all the life I imagined it would be. In some ways, it was better.
Kani Comstock is the author of Honoring Missed Motherhood, Director of Coaching Programs and a Process Teacher for The Hoffman Institute. She speaks and holds monthly workshops on missed motherhood all around the country. Find her at http://www.missedmotherhood.com/ or share your story with her on Facebook and Twitter.