What To Do If Your Partner Doesn't Want Kids And You Do

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couple looking at baby, one partner wants kids and the other doesn't

You're in a relationship and it's headed in the right direction. You've been together long enough to know you are compatible. You share many likes and dislikes, you've traveled together and did not want to kill each other by the end of the trip, and you've met each other's families and seem to get along well with them.

You're becoming cautiously optimistic your partner could really be the "one."

Then your partner drops a bombshell: They don't want to have children.

The decision to have children is one of the most important choices that partners in a committed relationship with face.

The promise of being a parent is a large part of many people's identity. When you are in a committed relationship and expect you will eventually have children, it can be a shock and huge disappointment to learn your partner does not share your dream.

The decision to have (or not have) children will have a substantial impact on your lifestyle. When the children are young, much of the shared experience in the relationship is devoted to caretaking and parenting. When a couple does not have children, they have more time to define and pursue shared interests and passions like travel, rock climbing, and involvement in spiritual practice.

RELATED: Am I Ready To Have A Baby? 12 Questions To Ask Yourself First

Because of the importance of respecting each other's individual identities, as well as your identity within the relationship, it is imperative to address the topic of children before solidifying your commitment by getting married.

When should you bring up the subject of whether or not you each want to have children?

There is no question that broaching this topic is associated with a great deal of uncertainty. You may not be sure when it's the right time to bring this up, especially given that you might be worried your partner will think you're getting too serious too soon or that you're trying to box them into something when you're really just trying to determine whether this relationship is right for you.

If having children is important or essential to you, it's better to know your partner's views and preferences before you've gotten deep into the relationship. It's great when your dreams about childbearing match your partner's, but it's important to know if they are not into having kids so you can decide early on if this is the right person for you.

What to do if your partner doesn't want kids and you do

It's not helpful to assume you'll be able to change your partner's mind. It's not that minds can't change, because they certainly can. But if you are actively trying to change your partner's mind, chances are most of your interactions will begin to feel tainted.

They may become frustrated when you seem to dig in your heels, or they may feel badgered if you keep pressing the issue after they've already been honest about their feelings.

If you choose to pursue the relationship, it will be important to be able to tolerate the uncertainty that they might not change their mind.

Critically examine how important having a child is to you. If it is your #1 hope or dream, then you will likely be resentful if your partner does not "come around."

Try picturing a pie-chart, then think of all of the ingredients that make up your unique concept of a meaningful life, both in the present and the future. Draw a circle, and allocate each one of these ingredients a slice of the pie.

Because you might weight each ingredient differently, each ingredient might assume a different sized slice of the pie chart.

Although each person’s pie chart is unique, the ingredients typically include: career, partner relationship, relationships family, spirituality, physical and emotional health, hobbies and passions, and, yes in many cases, being a parent.

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How important is being a parent to you?

Take a hard look at the size of the slice that you devoted to being a parent.

Is it one of many pieces of your meaningful life? If so, perhaps other ingredients for a meaningful life are as important as having children, and you would live a rich, meaningful life even if that piece of the pie were not fulfilled. Or, is the parenting piece of the pie one of the dominant slices? If this is the case, it is likely you will lack fulfillment in life if you don't at least give childbearing a try.

In general, it's best to build a rich and varied pie chart so you have other ingredients to carry you through in the event one ingredient, such as becoming a parent, is not possible.

Nevertheless, if you know this piece of the pie is a central one, you have to face the tough realization that your partner, no matter how great they are in many, many ways, is not right for you.

It's also important to consider the fact that there is more to the issue of whether or not to have children that wanting to.

You and your partner should also discuss how you would each feel about adoption in the event there you have difficulty conceiving naturally.

You should also discuss how you feel about using assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization, which are expensive and often take a toll on the quality of one's marriage. How about the use of a donor egg or donor sperm?

Many couples agree they want children, only to find they have very different viewpoints of the lengths they will go to make it happen when they run into obstacles.

If your partner doesn't want to have children, they might change their mind later, but you cannot count on it.

If you have some doubt about your ability to be OK with not having children, you might have to make a hard decision. As painful as it is, you might choose to leave the relationship.

How long you should wait to decide when to call it quits depends on the other ingredients in your pie chart and how big of slice having kids takes.

But making the difficult decision to end the relationship might give you an opportunity to find a partner who will help you complete your pie chart in ways you had never dreamed were possible.

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Dr. Amy Wenzel is a clinical psychologist, author, and consultant who specializes in anxiety issues, couples/marital Issues, depression, and life management.