Before you make a huge commitment like marriage, chances are you and your partner will speak about all of the big deal-breaker issues—your morals, where you want to live, your future plans, and, of course, whether or not you want children. There is endless advice on the importance of talking through these pivotal life points and making sure you’re on the same page. What isn’t spoken about is the elephant in the room—that sometimes, people change their minds.
This isn’t to scare you into thinking that your partner is going to pull a 180 as soon as you get married—far from it. The truth is, changes rarely happen on big decisions. But sometimes they do—and perhaps the biggest change that can happen is about whether they want children.
What do you do if your partner changes their mind about having children after you’re married? Here’s what to keep in mind.
Take a Deep Breath and Try to Start a Conversation
If you have been set on a view toward children—whether that's having them or not—and felt sure your partner felt the same way, a change in their attitude may feel like a huge gust of wind knocking you off course. That’s totally normal—that’s totally expected. You’re allowed to feel thrown by this. But, as soon as you can, try to take a step back, a breath, and have a conversation with your partner.
Even if you want to freak out or meltdown, that’s just going to create bigger problems—although you’re totally entitled to do that later. But, if you can, ask them why they’ve changed their mind, and what their thought process is. Although the initial announcement may feel like a shock, give them some time to talk through it and see if you can understand where they’re coming from.
Have some respect for your partner's honesty—it’s not their fault that their mind changed. It happens. It may be an unfortunate, destructive truth, but they’re at least being honest with you, so start the conversation there.
See If Their Mind Stays Changed
If you were thinking about having children soon and your partner has changed their mind, it might just be cold feet—that's not unusual. With any big life decision, especially one as monumental as having children, it’s totally natural to have moments of panic and doubt. That’s why talking the issue through is important, but it’s also helpful to check in periodically and see if their mind is still changed. That’s not to say you should put your life on hold for months and months, just long enough to see if it was a temporary shift or a permanent one.
Assess the Impact This Will Have
If you feel like your partner has really changed their mind, you have to decide what this means. If you were on the fence about children, if your life situation has changed, if you’re feeling a little different than when you got married, then it might be that you’re open to the shift. But maybe you’re not.
If this change in their thinking means that you two are on completely different pages, then that’s something that is so important to be honest with yourself about. If you have always imagined having children and built a life on that, then your partner deciding they don't want them anymore is going to feel like a betrayal and require a rethink—similarly, if you never wanted to children and your partner suddenly wants to thrust this life-altering responsibility on you, that might not be something you're OK with.
Do What’s Right for You
As hard as it is, you need to do what’s right for you. Even if you’ve married this person, even if you started a life with this person, that doesn’t mean you need to stay with this person if the foundation you built your relationship on is no longer there. You might feel like your partner is a bigger priority than having kids or not having kids—and that's fine. But you might find that how you feel about children is a bigger priority than being with this person—and that’s also fine.
These decisions are too big for a compromise that might leave you feeling empty, confused, or resentful. You don’t want that for yourself—and you don’t want it for your relationship. If your relationship now has this huge inequity built into it, where one person is giving up something so important to them, then there’s every chance that will drive a wedge. So if you don’t think you can stay with this person without their change eating away at your relationship, you might have to move on.
It’s easy to think that what we imagine our lives will look like when we’re younger or before we get married is set in stone—but life gets in the way. People change. Sometimes you change with them, but sometimes you don’t. If your partner changes their mind about something as integral as children, make sure you protect yourself and do what feels right for you. They changed the ground rules, so you’re allowed to do the same.