It is not uncommon that the level of interest and investment in having a child differs between couples. After all, we are rarely on the same page for numerous decisions that we face as a couple. But this one has greater meaning for most couples as our decision about creating a family with children deeply and profoundly affects us and our envisioned future. As a result, this impasse can create intense feelings of anger, betrayal, loss, and guilt in both partners. To bridge such an impasse you will both need to delve deeply and share your thoughts and feelings. Only then will you be able to generate new ideas and plan for your future together.

My first suggestion is not to panic.

Second, instead of trying with force and tenacity to change your partners mind, try rather to understand the reasons behind his thoughts and feelings. For example, try to validate your partners fears instead of trying to argue him out of them. Perhaps he is feeling too old to become a parent or  he believes that relationships inevitably and permanently deteriorate after the birth of children and he doesn’t want to lose his close relationship to you. Talk about how you can both try to ensure you don’t begin to travel down a similar downward spiral if you do have a child. (For example, agreeing in advance to hire a babysitter regularly for a weekly or biweekly date night or to go on an adults only holiday once in a while are two ideas that might provide reassurance to him.)

Probe gently for any other concerns he may have, e.g., money, space considerations, even how you will juggle an addition to your family when you both feel overwhelmed and tired already, and address each of them thoughtfully. Try to listen carefully and avoid the temptation to have an angry, resentful, or anxious knee-jerk reaction. The angrier or more anxious or hurt you are, the less of an open mind you can bring to any discussion. Try to calm your understandable emotions until you are able to hear the feelings (overt and underlying) that is he expressing. Can you turn the tables around and put yourself in his position to understand his feelings better? Do you actually share any of his fears or concerns? For example, if you both see your relationship as a top priority, acknowledge to him how important your relationship is to you, as well. Your partner will also need to listen to you share why having a child means so much to you.

See if you can find other couples to talk to who have been in a similar predicament. Can you learn something from their experience? We all have blind spots, particularly when we are in an anxiety-evoking situation, and sometimes others can suggest solutions that haven’t occurred to you. Be patient. Give yourself some time to sort out conflicting feelings. Men, in particular, may tend to withdraw rather than talk and share as their partners often prefer to do. He may need space to process his feelings on his own, particularly if he feels intense pressure from his wife, and this may take some time. Setting aside some specific times to talk (perhaps two or three times weekly) that are time-limited (perhaps 30 minutes) so both partners know when and how long they each will have to talk about the matter can help. And remember even in the midst of this stressful relationship experience to try to recapture the love and joy you used to experience in your relationship if at all possible as a reminder of your unity and strength together and the reasons you began your relationship together.

It is important that the decision you come to ultimately feels right for both of you, however, and that will take many thoughtful discussions in which you both are active participants in listening, sharing, and reflecting on what you hear from each other. In order to feel like a team, no one should feel left out.

If you feel that this is not something you can manage well on your own, consider getting in touch with me and I can help you both discuss things calmly and practically.