I Want Children, They Don't: Can The Relationship Work?

Updated April 10, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
“Taking the step of having children can be a very big step to make in a relationship. Talking through your points of view on that subject are important to hopefully get on the same page. Having a professional navigating you through those complex questions can be helpful to work towards common ground.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC

Relationships are filled with highs and lows. One of the most tangible aspects of any relationship is communication. It is not tangible in the physical sense but an emotional one.

What happens in a relationship when partners have different expectations? You could be dating a man with kids, or someone who don't like kids at all. What can you do when there are different expectations? It’s simple: compromise and attempt to make it work, right? Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. There are many instances where partners strive for different things in a relationship. Differences are a part of what makes many relationships work, but not all succeed at doing so.

For instance, consider a relationship where you want your own children, but your partner doesn’t. Can the relationship work with this magnitude of differences in desires? There are a variety of perceptions regarding the idea of bringing children into a relationship. Some couples prefer or plan to have children once they’re married and others believe that having children will make the relationship stronger. There are many who prefer not to have kids at all. In a few cases, a partner who wants children will sometimes fall for someone who doesn’t want any.

The approach to the conversation about kids can be a fragile one that some couples avoid. It’s an important talk to have and should be addressed before the relationship advances too far. Regardless of its importance, many people skate around the topic, and it’s usually because they’re uncertain that their partner feels the same as they do about bringing children into the relationship. This topic should be discussed, as it reveals what each partner wants from the relationship regarding children.

Many factors may influence whether a person does or doesn’t want kids. Children are a significant responsibility, one that may require a lifetime commitment. It’s normal for a person to be unsure if they want children or not.

It can be antagonizing to realize that there is a major disagreement in such a huge life decision. However, what happens if you eventually see that you can’t reach a mutual agreement about having children? The following suggestions may help you arrive at a mutually beneficial decision.

If it’s an immediate plan

What if you and your partner don’t agree on having kids?

If someone wants children early in the relationship, it may be best for them to be upfront and honest with their timeline. If one partner wants kids immediately and it’s not in the immediate plans of the other partner, then it may be best to dissolve the relationship to not create future resentment. The beginning of the relationship may be a suitable time to ask the baby question, as it’s often a very important thing in a relationship for most couples. For the partner who wants children immediately, ask yourself if waiting is something you’re emotionally and physically prepared to do. For the partner who prefers waiting a few years, ask yourself if starting a family now will prevent you from achieving other things or if you feel you can be a good parent if you had kids now. Both partners should ask themselves if changing their minds about when to have children will be something they can accept moving forward.

If it’s an “in the future” plan

Consider the talks you’ve had with your partner and at what point in the relationship they wish to have kids, since if having children is not your mutual desire, it could potentially bring problems in the future relationship. Staying married for the kids is a situation that you do not want to be in. Can you make it work or find a middle ground? This depends largely on the tone of the conversations and how forthcoming having kids is in the future of the relationship and whether both partners have a definite answer on their feelings about having children. 

If both partners want kids but not immediately, a couple may make the relationship work. They can continue to build and strengthen the relationship, which might bring them closer and put them in a position to make kids a part of their plans. If both parties are young, planning for kids in the future may not be a bad idea.

Consider various options

There are various options regarding bringing children into the relationship. If it is the fear of taking care of a baby, adopting an older child may be a better option. It allows you to avoid the first few years of the child’s life, which may be something you are uncomfortable with doing. The most important approach is to consider the primary reason preventing you from wanting kids and determining an agreeable compromise.

Sometimes, it’s not the fact that one partner doesn’t want kids. It could be that they do not see having children with the person they’re seeing. In this case, it’s not that kids aren’t in their future. Instead, the partner is not someone with whom they see having a long-term relationship, which means they wouldn’t consider having kids with them.

Once you’ve considered the above questions as they apply to your specific situation, it’s time to move forward. The desire to have kids is strongly embedded in the hearts and minds of some, which can make it difficult for them to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to have children. Those who fall in the category of not wanting kids may find it hard to understand why others jump at the opportunity to assume such a massive responsibility.

If you’re in a situation where you and your partner face challenges in the relationship, such as whether or not to have kids, it may help see a relationship counselor. In addition to talking to a professional, you should also do the following.

Talk openly about the issue

It’s easy to avoid the topic of kids in a relationship. It’s often avoided for most couples because children can be a complicated subject, and some prefer to avoid the debate that may take place. Relationships can flourish from simple debates or disagreements, but complicated topics such as having or not having kids may not be as easy to approach or overcome.

The fact is, women are usually more eager to approach the topic because their biological clock isn’t forever in their favor. They don’t have the option or the luxury of waiting until they’re much older to have kids. After 35, a woman’s fertility drops, and the probability for genetic disorders, among other issues, can rise. Women who are nearing that age aren’t always able to wait a little longer to start a family.

In this scenario, the couple should talk about the issue at hand immediately. If you’re a woman who desires to start a family but is involved with someone who expresses they don’t want children, you should address it soon. If you’ve been dating for a few years, there is a chance that your mate may have changed their mind about having kids by now.

Discuss alternatives

If you want to avoid dissolving the relationship, there are other alternatives to consider. For instance, it may be an option to become foster parents before embarking upon the parental journey. It may help the reluctant partner realize what being a parent really entails and help them change their minds. It’s a great way to get an up-close view of parenting without making a permanent commitment.

Becoming a foster parent is a complicated process, as it involves authorities taking the necessary precautions to ensure that both prospects are fit to become fosters. You may also consider talking with other parents or spending time with them and their kids. Doing so offers another perspective of parenting. It shouldn’t be the isolated indicator of whether or not parenting is right for a person, but it can help with the decision-making process.

Social media and television often sensationalize parenting. It provides various perspectives of raising kids, and viewers could attach themselves to the parents that remind them most of themselves. Some parents are sure they want children but are scared to death once it becomes a reality. It’s the fear of not knowing what each second, minute or the next years will bring.

Do what’s best for you

Love is a big word that requires a big commitment. Loving your mate does not mean that you’ll agree on everything in life. It also does not mean that you will be able to overcome every obstacle you encounter. When it comes to having kids, you must make a conscious decision to do what’s best for you.

If your partner has decided that they will never want kids, that’s fair. It’s not fair for you to decide to spend your life childless because of their decision unless it’s what you really want. Be sure that changing your mind and not having kids is something that you can truly accept for the rest of your life. Sometimes, love for a mate can cause a person to give up things most important in life, such as having a family. In the end, what really matters is doing what’s right for you.

What if you and your partner don’t agree on having kids?

A therapist can help you and your partner come to an agreement

Deciding whether to have children or not can involve tense discussions due to differing preferences and values. Sometimes, a mediator acting as a nonjudgmental observer with no stake in your decision can be an invaluable resource when it comes to discussions revolving becoming pregnant and having children. In today’s era, it can be difficult for two busy people to find common time to meet with an equally busy therapist. By using online therapy platforms like Regain, couples may have a better chance at finding meeting times that are convenient for each person’s schedule.

There’s no need to travel to a face-to-face therapist’s office to attend a Regain couple’s therapy session. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can meet from any preferred location. This means that you and your partner can meet with your therapist while both of you are at work on your lunch break, or while you’re both at home. An online therapist can ask questions designed to stimulate respectful discussions around parenting. Perhaps one or both partners have apprehension about having children because of traumatic experiences they endured as children. Maybe they are fearful of ending up like their own parents. On the other hand, they could worry that they might pass on a harmful genetic disease. Whatever the reasons are for being unaligned, a therapist can help you navigate the decision together.

Online therapy has been effective in helping many people overcome issues related to their own upbringing. In a recent study, researchers set out to determine if guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus was as effective as an in-person version in supporting people with moderate post-traumatic stress disorder. 196 adults participated in the study with a 71% retention rate after one year. Results were so promising regarding the efficacy of online treatment that researchers advocated for the method as a first line of treatment for people with PTSD.

It's also common for partners to seek therapeutic support after they have become parents. Some people may find that their parenting styles differ significantly from that of their partner. In a separate pilot controlled open trial, 12 parents participated in a web-based intervention designed to address specific parenting issues. Results from the study yielded positive effects on the parents’ psychological flexibility and emotional control and their mood and coping skills improved steadily throughout the intervention.

As you can see, whether you’re deciding to have children, currently awaiting the arrival of your child, or navigating the new world of parenting, online therapy has the potential to be a helpful tool. You can read reviews of Regain online therapists below from satisfied participants.

Counselor reviews

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”


People who choose not to have kids are sometimes seen as selfish or uncaring. There are many misconceptions surrounding people who choose not to have kids. It’s important to understand that not everyone will or should become a parent. It’s an important decision that should be approached with caution. Children are precious and deserve to have parents who will give them the attention and love they deserve. Sometimes, a person has to confront personal emotions or overcome other issues before feeling ready to assume responsibility for and love a child. It’s a decision that should be respected because of its personal nature. Couples can agree or disagree with having kids, but most importantly, they must do what’s best for them and the child in question. Should you feel that you and your partner might benefit from a knowledgeable, compassionate therapist, you can reach out to Regain today to start exploring your decision in more depth.

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