For Australian writer Shelly Horton, the idea of compromising on having children, isn’t one she’s willing to entertain. But, seeing friends come to a compromise as to whether they will have children has changed her mindset – is it possible?
Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences with love – from the woman who cheated on her husband with a work colleague, one woman’s temptation now the love of her life is finally single (although she’s not), and the woman who forced her husband to choose between her and his girlfriend.
Can you compromise on whether or not to have children?
When I first came across this issue, it was a strong ‘hell no’ from me.
As an advocate for childfree by choice couples, I figure if you don’t want kids and your partner does, no amount of love and compassion will be able to find a middle ground. You either have kids or you don’t.
Back in the dark ages when I was dating, I had a boyfriend who called off our relationship before it got too serious, purely because he wanted kids and I didn’t. We both figured it’s a deal breaker.
Another long-term partner, who had children from a previous marriage, even said, “If you really loved me, you’d have a kid with me.” That was the nail in the coffin for our relationship. I felt pressured and didn’t like the ultimatum.
But recently I found a friend and her fiancé who are approaching the dilemma differently. One half of them dreams of little bundles of joy, while the other prefers to keep their lives filled with fur babies and overseas holidays.
Yet to them it’s not a deal breaker, and I was fascinated by how they settled on a compromise.
Now, while I am an oversharer, they are not, so excuse the made-up names.
My kind and stylish friend, let’s call her Emma*, is madly in love with a wonderful guy named Peter*. They laugh, they travel, and they adore each other’s quirks.
But when it comes to the topic of starting a family, Emma’s got her foot firmly on the “no” pedal while Peter is revving the engine with an enthusiastic “yes!”.
Rather than head straight to Splitsville, they sought the help of a psychologist and came up with a compromise that makes them both happy.
Emma has frozen some eggs as a safety net. Even though she doesn’t want kids, she’s smart enough to know her fertility is waning and if she doesn’t harvest some eggs her choices are taken away from her.
Then, as a couple, they have agreed that for six months after they get married, they will not use contraception and try for a baby. If she falls pregnant, Peter will give up his job and become a stay-at-home dad.
On the flip side, if after six months they don’t fall pregnant, Peter will accept a childfree lifestyle and enjoy the perks of lavish holidays.
I was worried there might be some regret with either outcome. But the fact they are working through the issue with a professional, and are discussing it openly and often, it has given them the confidence to get married.
I guess it made me realise that although I am black and white about no kids, some people as less rigid.
Emma says her psychologist, who specialises in relationship dynamics and compromise, told them both the key to finding middle ground lies in open communication, respect, and a willingness to explore alternatives.
She says they have learnt everyone is different, and your relationship should not be put in a box to match society’s views or your family expectations. The decision can only be influenced by the two people in the relationship.
She suggests couples facing such a significant crossroad should consider setting aside dedicated time to discuss the matter openly and honestly.
Keep it a judgment-free zone and make sure both partners feel seen and heard.
Be prepared to dig deep to uncover the reasons behind each person’s stance. Understanding the underlying motivations can lead to a more empathetic conversations.
Look for areas of overlap or shared goals that can bridge the gap between the two options.
Peter has raised an option with Emma about weekend respite fostering or volunteering with children. Emma is open to both of those ideas.
So as they wade through this massive decision, I have found their love and dedication to finding a compromise inspiring. I think they have put more thought into what it takes to be a parent than most couples I know.
Compromise can be messy and unpredictable. It’s not always a walk in the park. But hey, nothing worth having comes easy, right?
If you’re currently navigating a major life decision that has the potential to rock your world, take a deep breath. Remember compromise is not a sign of weakness, it’s an opportunity to find a solution that works for both partners.
I think their marriage will be stronger thanks to the work they are putting in now.