Frank Discussion With Dr. Kaye
Rebecca from Indiana
Q: My husband and I have been married for almost 2 years. This is the second marriage for both of us. We’ve had some problems and have separated twice. We went for counseling for a short while. Things are just okay now. The problem is that my husband wants me to have a baby. I already have 2 children from my first marriage and I don’t have a desire to have another one. When we first married, I kind of liked the thought of another child, but I’ve since changed my mind and haven’t told my husband. I know that he will be very upset, and he might leave me. I can’t seem to identify a compromise. My reasons for not wanting another child revolves around the expense, our marital problems and that I want to finally concentrate on my career (I’ve just recently received a Bachelor’s Degree). The children I have are plenty and I want to focus on them. How do I tell my husband my decision or do I just have another baby to please him?
A: Rebecca. Yours is a tough situation that may not have an easy solution. If you married with the implicit agreement that you would have a child between the two of you, then you must really respect that that was a part of the deal. I’m not saying that you must comply, only that you shouldn’t indict him because he wants to experience that part of life. If he chooses to leave the marriage to seek having a child with someone else, then there’s no moral imperative that dictates that he must stay with you. Your decision to change your mind should also be respected. You have some very understandable reasons why you would shift your focus at this time. However, it doesn’t mean that he has to stay with you. There may be no compromise here. You may need to decide which painful choice is more bearable. – Bryce Kaye.
Frannie from Brighton, Co
Q: Me and my Husband have been married for two years and have two children. I am a stay home Mom, but in my opinion I think when my husband is home that the duties dealing with the children should be split 50/50. And I don’t ever get to do anything without the kids because my husband won’t watch the kids. So my first question is: Do you think the duties of the kids should be split 50/50 when he is home? And my second question is: Should he be able to go out and do stuff without the kids if I can’t?? Please help our marriage is falling apart because of it!!
A: Frannie: Let me first give you a qualified “no”. It is not ALWAYS the case that a 50-50 time split on parenting is best when both parents are home. It can depend on a number of factors. Probably the best way of approaching this issue is to look at the distribution of discretionary (free) time within the relationship. Think of discretionary time as a resource. You can spend this resource doing fun stuff that you like and have chosen for yourself. Discretionary activities are not for the mutual benefit of both parties. For example, if your husband plays golf, goes out with the guys, spends time in leisurely reading, then all of that is discretionary time. However, if he is business meetings, is reading technical journals in preparation for a business move, or is going to the doctor, then all of that are responsibilities to maintain self and family. I would suggest that you approach the problem from the stand-point of discretionary time. Who’s getting more of it? You both can do a strict accounting of how much time you each spend in discretionary activities during a typical week. That will determine if there’s any unfairness in the distribution. THEN you can approach him about shifting some of the discretionary time to you while he takes the kids. Unless you go at this methodically as I’ve described, there’s a tendency for people to go with their gut feelings about why they’re psychologically entitled to more. Good luck. – Bryce Kaye
Clar from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Q: I am ready to have a baby and my husband is not. We are both twenty-eight years old and he already has an eight year old son. I am so ready for a child that I don’t know if our relationship will last if he can’t open up to my needs. What should I do?
A: Clar. There’s no magical answer for this one. You may need to remind him of any agreement that the two of you had when you got married. Was there an implicit agreement that your marriage would involve having children together? If so, you may need to hold him to it. If not now, then when? If the two of you had an agreement, then an indefinite “I don’t know” shouldn’t be accepted. Life is short and you won’t be fertile forever. However, if there was no common vision when you married, you do not have a moral claim with which to confront him. Instead, you can only be honest about your agony and you should (privately) consider your option of a separation. Don’t threaten him with separation but impress upon him that you do fear for the marriage if you are left without a child of your own. The decision about whether to risk for another marriage is an existential one. There’s no right or wrong answer although most people in your circumstance seem to choose to stay in their current marriage. Good luck. – Bryce Kaye
Caroline from Fairfax, Virginia
Q: My husband and I have been in a thirteen year long loving relationship, and have been married for nine years. Here is the problem:
When we first got together, I was just eighteen and I married him at 21. Prior to marriage we discussed our goals and expectations of our marriage. At that time I did not ever want to have children which was exactly how my husband felt. I was happy with the idea that it would be just the two of us. At about age 27 my feelings started to change. I am a teacher. Therefore, I have always loved children. I just never thought I would want to be a mother. Now, I am obsessed with wanting to have children. My husband still does not want to have children. I feel as if my life would somehow be incomplete and I would be full of regret if I never experience motherhood. I have tried discussing this with my husband and he cannot change his opinion. I feel like my life will be filled with regret if we don’t have children. My husband is a wonderful man, an excellent husband and a fantastic lover. I do not want to divorce him. I feel like he is my soul-mate. He thinks that this issue, if left unresolved will drive a major wedge between us. He feels like he will never be ready for fatherhood. He also feels (as I do) that we will wind up divorced if we cannot come to a mutual understanding. I do not want a divorce. -I love my husband wholely. What do I do? How do we come to closure on this? Can I learn to live with a decision not to have children? Have others experienced this problem? Help!!
A: Caroline. Yes, others have experienced this with very much the same agony as you. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong outcome here. You have a right to change your mind and he has a right to remain with his original desire, consistent with your informal marital agreement. Neither side has the right to invalidate the desires of the other. However, the fallback position to no agreement is no child because it does take the two of you to create one. You asked a very important question. Can you live with a decision to not have children? Of course you can! It would carry pain but so does a lot of other things in life. – And we learn to live with them. Personally, I hope that your husband changes his mind. But if he doesn’t, you’ll need to judge the prospect that you can jettison an unusually fulfilling relationship for the not too certain likelihood that you can raise a child with another. Good luck. – Bryce Kaye
Dennise from El Paso, Texas
Q: Hi. My husband, 22, and I, 20, have been married for 14 months and have a 2 year old son. We have already been separated twice. We’re originally from Texas and lived in New Mexico and both separations have resulted in my son and I returning home. I am currently living in Texas. The reason of our separations was a variety of things which include fighting over petty non-important issues which result in verbal abuse on both parts and pushing a shoving on his part. Before our son was born, my husband was very attentive and loving towards me and now it seems as if he could care less about my feelings. To him, I feel as if his priorities are, our son and himself in that order. I feel ugly, unwanted, and unloved. I know we love each other dearly but I don’t know if our relationship can work. Our families know our situation, somewhat, and I’m just afraid of what they will say if we so reconcile. I’m attempting to get ourselves professional help but its difficult because we live in two different states. what do you think?!?? Thank You!
A: Dennise. I think that you need to follow through with professional help but only if you’re going to live together. Flip a coin if you have to. I don’t think you can do much for a relationship at long distance. If you do get back together, you will need to do a lot of planning to spend time together AWAY FROM THE CHILD. That may take grandparents so plan accordingly. – Bryce Kaye
Elaine from Santa Monica, California
Q: I have been with my husband for 11 years (married for six of them). We have a 2 year-old son who we both love very much. However, it seems that the relationship between my husband and myself has been on a downward spiral since our son was born. What was once small disagreements and tiffs have become more and more. These are sometimes regarding our son but more often than not they are about general things, usually quite trivial. He says I moan at him all the time, which I don’t dispute. He says that I will never change. Three months ago it came to a head and he told me it was over between us. He moved into our son’s bedroom and has slept there every since. He said he was leaving, although he has not made any attempt to do so as yet. I don’t want to lose my husband and believe that our marriage can work, but I need him to work at it with me and not turn his back on it. I guess what I’m looking for is a way to get through to him that the life we have together, with our son, is not a bad one. We just need to iron out a few things. We are both British and although I am open to counseling my husband definitely is not. Please help me get my husband back.
A: Elaine. I strongly suggest that you try to start up a dialogue with him about what he misses in the relationship. Try to avoid putting him down for being impractical or for not shouldering his share. It’s may well be that since your son came on the scene, he may be missing some of the emotional exchanges you and he used to have when it was just the two of you. It may not actually be your “moaning” that is the most crucial factor but rather the absence of fun. See if you can get him to reminisce with you. If you can, the use that at a springboard for working to restore what was lost. Hope this helps. – Bryce Kaye
Kathy from Benicia, Ca
Q: My mate of 4 years is leaving the home because he can’t stand to be around my kids. I don’t know what to do. He says they don’t listen to him. They don’t always listen to me either. They are 12 and almost 14. I think the not picking up after themselves and the arguing amongst themselves is common with most pre teens. Opposite sex or not. My mate just has no more tolerance for the messes and not listening. He has two kids of his own a son 20 and a daughter 24. I think he forgot or he just wasn’t around enough when his kids were being raised. They aren’t that bad. I’ve stood by him to support his thoughts and feelings. I agree with his philosophy etc. but he wants to move out because I insist that he not lock himself in our bedroom while the rest of the family fixes dinner, eats, and touches base with one another in the evening. What can I do? I’ve tried it all twice. Help Please.
A: Kathy, if your mate is unwilling to do some family counseling with the kids, then you need to be more accepting of his right to retreat. It would be nice if all of you could get along. However, he’s not their parent and many blended families do not work with a lot of cohesion. I would recommend ridding yourself of your insistence that he join with the rest of the family. However, I would also suggest that you gently explore if your mate has feelings of jealousy. Sometimes there can even be a sense of competition for your priority. If your mate perceives that he is relatively unimportant to you when the children are around, then he would naturally withdraw in sullen resentment. Try to see if this is going on. Being a man, he might not even be aware of it. If he is jealous, you both need to work on firming up and enhancing what’s private in your relationship separate from the children. – Bryce Kaye