Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.
A reader writes: My husband and I have been married for two years and are both in our early 30s. He recently told me he isn't sure he wants children any more. We always spoke of having children, but now our marriage is struggling and his brother, who has two kids, is going through a nasty divorce. I've asked him numerous times to attend marriage counselling with me, but he refuses. I go on my own, but feel like all the responsibility to make this marriage work is on my shoulders. We need to see some major improvements soon, as I don't want to waste time with someone who may not want the same things as I do. How much more time should I give this marriage?
Keep your goals clear
First, as painful as it is, thank your husband for being honest with you. Many men in his situation simply pretend to go along with their wife's maternal desires.
The kids/no kids debate is a deal breaker. I've known women who have gone without kids in your situation, and the vacuum in their lives is palpable. Plus if the marriage ends in divorce in your early 40s, you will be deeply angry at yourself.
As for your course of action, be swift. Give yourself two months before someone moves out (and by all means start dating right then). If no resolution is reached, wait no more than four more months before you file for divorce because the legal process takes a year. In that time you two can try to work it out, but keep your own maternal goals clear and don't get pulled into his drama.
You two have a shot at an amicable divorce. Go for it: There's a man out there ready for kids. And if not, you're a strong woman - you can have one by yourself.
- Karla Mulder, Toronto
A baby deserves better
The marriage is struggling and the husband unwilling to take part in counselling: That tells me that having a baby should be the last thing to contemplate at the moment. A baby deserves better than parents with a shaky marriage.
Deciding whether or not to have a baby should come after resolving the issues between the two partners. It's not a good idea to count on the baby "resolving" the difficulties.
If the marriage can't be fixed and this woman really wants a baby, she should start over with someone else. But first she should look at what part she played in the unhappy first marriage.
- Patricia Shapiro, Ottawa
It's already over
I hate to be the one to tell you, but your marriage is over already. If your husband claimed he once wanted children, but no longer does, there is something already very wrong with this scenario. The fact that he is uninterested in making your marriage work underscores the fact that he's given up.
Keep going to counselling - for your own benefit - and you will find the strength to move on. It's not too late to find someone who shares your dream of kids. I know, I met my husband at 34 after being engaged to the wrong guy(s) three times. We have two great kids, plus a solid marriage.
- Susan Pederson, Calgary
The final word
What a lousy deal, to know in your bones that some heavy emotional lifting is required to save your marriage, and your husband won't even pick up his end.
It reminds me of the housework paradox, when one partner finds herself (and male readers, forgive my feminine bias emerging here) becoming infuriated by the encroaching filth of the household, and the other partner protests that since it bothers her more than it bothers him she should be the one to clean it up.
Cow manure. A partnership is just that, and when two people find themselves mired in the muck - be it physical or emotional - one doesn't just lean back and sink deeper while one's partner kicks and screams to get out.
Your husband's diffidence about attending counselling with you is part and parcel of his new-found reluctance to have children. Both are symptomatic of the same 'tude, to wit: I don't wanna. Your husband, whether he is willing to admit it or not, is signalling a desire to disengage from the relationship.
Should you "thank him for being honest with you" as Karla suggests? Sure. But you both need to acknowledge that your current problems have nothing to do with having children, per se. There is the baby and then there is the bathwater.
The metaphorical baby in this instance is not the actual baby under discussion. Wait - let me start again. Let's say you both agree not to have children right now ("bathwater," safe to throw out). That's not going to change the fact that your relationship is seriously floundering ("baby," what you should really be worried about).
That was an incredibly convoluted way of saying I agree with Patricia. But do I agree with Susan, who claims the metaphorical baby has been flung into the culvert long ago? I'm not sure. I've recently heard from a counsellor who tells me that even the most indifferent of couples, pens practically poised over divorce agreements, have been yanked from the brink by the insights gleaned in counselling. You might mention this to your husband - and if he still don't wanna? Decide whether or not you do.
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.
Next week's question
A reader writes: How do I deal with two siblings who are not treating my parents well? They hardly visit, never offer to help and when they do speak to my parents, are abrupt and mean at times (my sister often yells at my mom). What can I do?
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