To (not) be fruitful and multiply

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Monday, August 06, 2018

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THE question of whether or not to have kids can be enough to drive a wedge between couples, and with a major professional and career-oriented shift being seen among women, some husbands are struggling to cope with their fierce desire for children not being shared by their wives.

This situation could have several outcomes — including divorce — but increasingly more men are venturing outside of marriage to satisfy their need for heirs.

But are they justified in going outside if their wives don't desire children?

For Laura W, a 32-year-old married corporate manager who doesn't see children in her future, the answer is yes.

“I told my husband from the onset — from dating days, in fact — that I didn't want children as I wanted to focus on my career. He obviously thought that I would change my mind, because a few months after we were married he suggested that I stop using birth control. It's now a contentious issue in our household, so contentious that I've told him that I would fully support him getting a child outside, and I'd be a wonderful stepmother.”

It's also an aye for Gloria O, a 43-year-old pharmacist and graduate student whose husband just found out that their years of “infertility” were just a ploy, as she had quietly been on birth control.

“No doctor would agree to tie my tubes since I didn't have children yet, and even though I insisted that motherhood would never be a choice for me. For years I led my husband to believe that I couldn't get pregnant, and all the while I was taking birth control pills. Children would set my career back decades, and ultimately I want to migrate and not be hassled with children. When my husband found out he was devastated, but we managed to work through it, and I've told him that if he wants a child, I will support him having one with a woman who is willing.”

But for his part, it's not a willing woman that's presenting a problem for 45-year-old Dennis B, it's the reluctance of his 40-year-old wife to support him going outside the relationship, even though “she has been saying for 15 years that she's not ready for kids yet”.

“I don't believe she has a right to be offended,” Dennis said. “The truth is that we are going up in age, and I think she's just using delay tactics, and in the meantime I dream of fatherhood.”

And while some people like Dennis believe this desire to go outside should not offend the wife who does not desire motherhood, relationship counsellor Wayne Powell said that this action is just another case of double standards.

“There seems to be this double standard in relationships regarding what is okay for men to do but not okay for women. So in the case where the woman in a committed relationship doesn't desire children but the man does, the man feels he has all right to go outside of the relationship and impregnate another woman. But say it was the man who didn't want kids and the woman did, would she be similarly justified to go out and get pregnant for another man? Surely she would be seen as a loose woman who was disrespectful to her partner,” Powell explained.

Powell underscored that this is why it is important that before couples say “I do”, that they explore all the tough, important topics that may impact their relationship — such as finances, children, religion and areas that they may or may not be able to make a compromise on in effort to avoid painful and uncomfortable situations such as this one.

“Before people seriously commit to a long-term relationship the topic of children should be discussed. If having or not having a child is a deal breaker, then this will be a source of conflict in the relationship and if no compromised position can be reached, then it would be best they go their separate ways,” Powell encouraged.

He said that sometimes what happens, even in the case where this information is known beforehand, is that men act selfishly, because they know that it is likely their wives will forgive them.

“What usually happens is that the man will go out and deliberately get another woman pregnant and either the wife/girlfriend would find out, or he waits until the baby is born before he shares the “good” news with her. Many women will not despise the poor, innocent child and will eventually come around after a short period of distress,” Powell said.

In situations where the woman is incapable of producing children, Powell said the husband should never believe he has the right to go outside the marriage either. Instead, he suggests an alternative.

“If the woman for medical reasons can't have a child or is maybe at risk if she does, then the couple can have a mature conversation on the option of adoption or foster care. Neither the man nor the woman would be justified in going outside of the relationship to begin a new family unless, of course, this is a mutual decision,” Powell advised.

All Woman asked a few people to weigh in on whether the decision by a man to parent children outside of his marriage if his wife does not want children is justified:

Vanessa, 34, housekeeper:

I think that the man should not have a child outside of the marriage because one, that is adultery, and two, he should have known what he was getting into. I would want him to ask me for a divorce if he can't do without a child.

Carol, 26, PR consultant:

Marriage is an important commitment. You made a decision to weather the storms and work through the tough days. I think that the baby talk should be held before marriage and if the woman goes back on her word after marriage, then whatever she gets she gets.

Emily, 36, business owner:

No, no and no again! It cannot be justified for a man to go outside of marriage and have a child. If a woman was to do that she would be called so many names, but people would just want to say he is still your husband and the child didn't do anything. I just know I would be on my way out.

Jerome, 30, business owner:

Well, I know that I love children and so I would want a wife who is like me in that regard. If she switches up on me, of course I would go out and get a kid. We both would have to hurt. If she wants to leave after so be it, at least I wouldn't be the only one feeling betrayed.

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