My wife never wants to have children William is 35 and hoped for children when he got married seven years ago. But it turns out that his wife is adamant that she doesn't want them. They both have good jobs, but how, after feeling a sense of depression and betrayal, can William learn to accept life without children, or leave the woman he loves to find someone who wants them?
People get married for two reasons. One is to commit themselves publicly to each other; the other, if the woman is young enough, is to start a family. And I must say it seems pretty weird that the subject of children never came up before William and his wife tied the knot. It's a bit like booking a mountaineering holiday only to find, while you lace yourself into your spiky shoes and gather up the grappling hooks, that your companion's idea of the vacation is to loaf about at the bottom in a tent, gazing upwards.

No wonder William felt depressed and betrayed when he discovered his partner wasn't prepared to fulfil her part of the bargain.

Of course her reasons for not wanting children ought to be examined. Is she petrified of birth itself? If so, she might be able to have a caesarean under anaesthetic and miss out on it altogether. Did she have an appalling childhood and as a result does she hate and fear children? Does she have a phobia about small things in general? Or is she alarmed about losing her identity? And, most important, has William suggested that if she has their child, he will give up work and stay at home looking after it while she works her socks off in her chosen career?

I would have thought there were all kinds of strategies he could offer her: that they could buy in help to look after the child, or that, if after a year she really hated it, he would promise to leave her and take the baby with him.

It is far more usual for the wife to want children and the husband to feel threatened by the idea; far more usual, too, for a wife to have an "accident" and for a child to be introduced into the family whether the husband likes it or not. But one of the reasons that most couples want children is not just because they want any little old person to care for and nurture - godchildren, nephews and nieces are no substitute. They want to produce living evidence of their affection for each other. Clearly William's wife doesn't feel about him this way and it is this, were I William, that would drive me quietly to riffle through the Yellow Pages under D for Divorce Lawyers. In the back of his mind, surely William is wondering, unless there were a very good reason for his wife not wanting children: is it children she doesn't want, or is it his children? Does she love him as much as he loves her?

If he believes that she does, then he'll have to accept that he's in a situation he will be unable to come to terms with. Like most of the human race he has to live with the fact that part of his existence is excruciatingly uncomfortable and painful and that life is only a bed of roses if you count the thorns as well.

And if he has any sense he'll catch on to the fact that when you're trapped in a crack in the rocks, it's much more comfortable to relax and keep quiet rather than wriggle and struggle, wondering about going or staying. When he gets too uncomfortable he can console himself with the fact that, unlike his wife, he will never be too old to have children. He has no clock ticking away and if he ever gets too fed up with his domestic situation he always has the chance of not only a new love, but a new and first-time family as welln

What readers say

Happy to be childless

I found myself in the same painful dilemma as William and am glad that I stayed in a marriage which has brought us both so much fun and warmth.

I still find being childless very hard but am also happy for what is. Our marriage works, perhaps like any other, because we have realistic ideas about what we can reasonably expect from each other and derive some of our emotional support beyond the relationship in friends, family and outside interests.

This is not how I saw my life turning out but I have tried to let go of one vision in order to embrace another.

Only William knows whether he can, or wants to do this.

Jane Leng

West Sussex

The baby destroyed our relationship

I was 40 and my partner 37 and we had been together for 11 years. I had never wanted children - he was desperate to have a child. Our relationship had reached the point where he gave me an ultimatum - either we tried for a baby or we split up. In the end I loved him enough to put aside my very negative feelings and agreed to try (he, presumably, did not love me enough to give up the idea).

Now we have a wonderful six-year-old son whom we both love passionately and who is indeed the light of our lives.

Sadly, and ironically, because of the strains involved in having a child, particularly in these circumstances, our own relationship deteriorated, probably beyond repair, which is a source of great sorrow to both of us.

Think carefully, William - having children does not necessarily make your life complete, a fact with which my husband will readily agree.

Rosemary

Middlesex

A child was not the answer

Six years ago I left a man I loved because he didn't want children. However, good our relationship, I knew that, on its own, it wasn't enough for me.

I went on to have a relationship with a man who would have made an excellent father. However, there were difficulties in our relationship which we couldn't resolve; wanting children, on its own, wasn't a good enough reason for us to stay together.

If you left your wife you would have no problem finding a woman to have children with. But you might not find the same quality of relationship you enjoy with your wife. If you stay with her, you will either have to find a way of coming to terms with childlessness or be eaten up by resentment.

I don't know what you should do. But if you choose the first option - or simply take a long time deciding - you have one very important thing on your side. Time. A lot of women would envy you that.

Helen

Manchester

Next week's dilemma: my husband's a gambling addict

Dear Virginia

We've been married 23 years and have a 15-year-old daughter, and my husband has admitted he has a problem with gambling. Last year it became too much and we agreed that I would take control of the finances and give him only a certain amount to spend each week. Recently I've discovered things missing - he says he "lost" his very expensive watch, and a very charming silver clock that belonged to my mother has disappeared.

I have accused him of selling these things for gambling and he got furious and said it was bad enough being kept on a small allowance each week and that it was impossible to live with someone who didn't trust him, and that I just wanted to control him. I feel terrible. What can I do?

Yours sincerely,

Patricia

Comments are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will receive a bouquet from Interflora.

Send personal experiences or comments to me at the Features Department, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL; fax 0171-293-2182, by Tuesday morning.

If you have any dilemmas of your own that you would like to share with others, please let me know.

Comments