Relationships - with or without children
For most people growing up, having a partner and raising a family is considered the norm and to a great extent is taken from granted. There is a perceived expectation that this is just how life is meant to be and those unable to have children or make a deliberate choice not to have them face a lifetime of dealing with pity or disbelief from members of not only their own family but from our society as a whole.
Many people in this position face being made to feel different, odd or ‘not part of our group’. There is no doubt in my mind that people without children can be treated differently not only by friends and family but financially too. How do childless couples overcome this and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives? Don’t get me wrong I acknowledge that there are people who do have children that find it incredibly tough going and unable to cope and this brings all sorts of issues within a relationship that is not so very different to couples without.
Some people believe that by having a child any relationship problems will disappear and life will become a bed of roses. This then becomes a huge shock when the novelty of having a child wears off and not only do the problems resurface, but new ones appear as well making the relationship impossible to sustain. In some cases this may lead to one partner having to bring up their child or children on their own. If a relationship is not working when it is just the two of you, then it is almost inevitable that it will not work when you bring a child in to the relationship. I urge people to ensure they are creating a life for the right reason and not simply to cement over the cracks in their relationship.
Not being able to have a child when you so desperately want one can ruin any relationship no matter how strong it is at the beginning. Wanting a child can very quickly become obsessional and you may find nothing else appears to matter or make sense without a child in your life. Other options such as IVF, fostering or adoption may not seem to be the right option for you. This can cause a complete breakdown of your relationship as you begin to shut your partner out and they then begin to believe that they are no longer important to you. These feelings can be the same whether you are male or female; it is not gender specific. As with all aspects of a relationship - communication is key. If you can keep the dialogue open, you may be able to reach a compromise that you both live with and still enjoy a fulfilled life.
If you have made a conscious decision not to have a child, it is important to have this conversation once you realise you have the partner you wish to commit to. If you leave this unsaid somewhere down the line you may well find that one of you just made an assumption that you would start a family and does not want a life without one. Just whether or not a relationship can survive this again depends on communication and compromise.
To maintain a happy and successful relationship it requires hard work, trust, commitment and compromise. It does not just happen. It involves sometimes putting someone else's needs above your own. It does not involve living in each other’s pockets and not having your own friends and interests. It means sharing, laughing and enjoying each other. It means supporting each other through bad times.
For those with children you may find that when they leave home and it is just the two of you once again, you struggle to find what you now have in common. You may find that you have grown too far apart for the relationship to continue, but before you throw in the towel try to take the time to get to know each other once again. Try to learn and accept the more mature partner you now live with and find some common interests as well as individual ones. You could well find that your ‘new’ relationship could be even stronger than it was before.
Speaking openly and confidentiality to a counsellor in a totally accepting and non-judgemental environment could allow you to express and explore any concerns or issues that are getting in the way of a happy and sustained relationship.
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