WRITTEN BY: Gillian Klawansky, contribution by Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist, PsychMatters Centre. Taken from Destiny Love Notes January 2014
Putting On The Baby Brakes
Gushing over kids in the hypermarket and shedding tears during nappy adverts? Face it: you’re broody. There’s only one hurdle – your unwilling husband. Where to from here?
Sure, you may have shared dreams of a big family when you were young idealists planning your happily-ever-after, but after the sleepless nights and financial strain that followed the arrival of numbers one and two, those dreams have changed – for him… It’s one of the most difficult challenges you can face as a couple. Now, instead of a growing belly, you’re incubating resentment. How can you persuade him to change his mind? Or do you need to accept that you and your man are on different paths?
When it comes to having more kids, couples often have differing views. “Factors that impact each partner differently include the responsibilities of parenting, values (influenced by life experiences and challenges), current and future needs of the family, financial stressors, work commitments, career choices, lifestyle changes, health considerations (which include you and your husband’s ages), your current child’s need for a sibling, timing and the added stress that comes with another child,” explains Joanna Kleovoulou, clinical psychologist and Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre in Johannesburg. “One parent may feel overwhelmed after having one child, especially if that child has special needs, is often sickly or is difficult.”
Counselling psychologist Nthabiseng Ramothwala emphasises partners’ individual upbringing. “People may grow up in big families, but have different experiences of this. One partner may not want a big family because he or she has experienced the lack of attention given to individual siblings, whereas the other partner may have come from a big family where no-one was deprived of anything. On the flip side, one partner may fear that a small family will lead to loneliness.”
It’s crucial that couples make an effort to understand each other’s viewpoints. If one partner feels the other’s obstructing their dreams, resentment is inevitable. Clinical psychologist and trained Imago Relationship therapist Sandra Brownrigg says: “A lack of communication leads to guilt and misunderstandings. Discuss the reasons for your feelings and whether they can be managed.
“Unfortunately, in a situation like this, there simply isn’t a middle ground. If you feel resentment creeping in, express how you feel to your partner.”
She also stresses the dangers of waiting for your man to come around. “Often we go into marriage thinking our husband will change his mind about a family. We think we can change people, but we can’t. We need to really hear our spouse’s reasons for not wanting more children. Is he immovable? Can you eliminate his concerns? If someone’s intractable, it can lead to blame and resentment from their partner.”
“Understand that resentment may be generating different underlying emotions and needs,” adds Kleovoulou clinical psychologist “Addressing these issue is important, so talking about your feelings in a respectful way is paramount.”
She suggests trying to identify what the resentment may be representing. Don’t go on the attack and unleash your anger on your partner: rather explain your reasons for wanting more children. Also, try to do this at a time when you’re both relaxed and receptive. “Examine your expectations about having a bigger family and whether they’re fair or unreasonable, address any misunderstandings and be open about this very serious decision,” says Kleovoulou.
In such a situation, emotions naturally run high so it’s important to remain calm. “When you’re talking to your partner, begin sentences with phrases like: ‘I feel’ and ‘I need’ instead of saying: ‘You’re selfish’, etc. Your partner needs to know where you stand. Communication shouldn’t be reactive. Stop, think, assume responsibility for yourself and try to respect his viewpoint, rather than making accusations.”
- Understand why you’re emotionally affected by this issue and how having another child (or not) would impact your perception of yourself.
- Remember that your partner isn’t your enemy and isn’t trying to hurt you, nor is he being selfish.
- Understand his deeper reasons for not wanting another child.
A Real Compramise
In such a black and white situation, there’s a risk that one partner will feel as if they’ve “won”. “A real compromise is a joint decision where you each take responsibility,” says Brownrigg. “You need to hear what’s actually said, not what you’re hoping will be said.” If you’re concerned that you’ve pushed your partner into something he doesn’t want, you need to examine how deeply you trust each other. “You need a relationship where you believe what your partner says, where you both send clear and honest messages and you don’t second-guess one another.”
When it comes to negotiating having more children, be honest with yourself. “Consider the following before accepting the situation as hopeless,” says Kleovoulou:
- Will the benefits of being parents again together outweigh the disadvantages?
- Is this a healthy relationship?
- Do you and your partner share the same values?
- Is he really a good parent?
- Do you work together as a team?
- How would your children feel about a new sibling?
- How would you feel if this relationship were to end over this issue?
- When neither partner’s prepared to compromise, divorce is unfortunately a possibility.
However, it should always be a last resort. “It’s important to decide what’s more important: the marriage or having more kids,” stresses Ramothwala. “You may destroy a good relationship based on a need to procreate.” Kleovoulou clinical psychologist agrees. “The impact of leaving a relationship is a big one and this step shouldn’t be taken lightly. Consider all the options and their consequences.”
Compromise is possible, says DestinyConnect Facebook user Paula Msiza. “I initially wanted six kids, but my husband was the second of five siblings and wasn’t keen on having a big family because he’d spent his childhood taking care of his younger brothers and sister. Marriage is a partnership and there are sacrifices to be made on both sides. We have an 18-month-old child now and my husband’s such a great father that having more kids doesn’t really matter to me any more. What matters most is that we’re able to create a loving home for however many of us live in it.”