Study shows child free couples report stronger relationships than those with children.
The decision to not have children is one that usually elicits pretty strong opinions from people. Culturally, most of us see having kids as an important part of adulthood, yet increasing numbers of people are becoming more vocal about wanting their lives to take a different path.
As a couple’s counsellor, what I like to zoom in on is how this choice can affect a couple’s relationship. Life changes drastically with the addition of a child. The realities of child care means you have to share the time and attention that ordinarily would go to your partner. Here are some things to think about when making the decision to parent.
The joy of parenthood
Ask any happy parent what the benefits of having children are and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that children give their lives a deep sense of purpose. Children enrich their existence. They give them hope for the future and joy in the most mundane daily activities. One thing’s for sure, life is never the same again. Being completely responsible for the well being of a little person can build your patience, selflessness and empathy.
A child can teach you about your own childhood, pushing you to be responsible in ways you may have never considered. Having a child can give you something we all crave as humans: a sense of family and belonging.
The darker side of becoming a parent
Catch the same parent on a bad day and you may get a different response. As much as children can be a blessing, the demands can also spell exhaustion, financial strain and damage to your relationship. Studies have found that child free couples report stronger relationships than those with children, and this may be because they are able to spend more time maintaining that relationship.
The physical, emotional and financial stress that children can bring may undermine a relationship and make it difficult for couples to keep open channels of communication. It’s a taboo topic, but for many people, the instinct to nurture and raise a child is simply not there. So while they love their children, parenting them is anything but natural.
Your decision to be a childless couple
Whether or not to become parents is not something to be decided on lightly. You need to know what your goals are before embarking on a serious relationship, but your partner is part of the conversation, too. In many ways, having a child with someone is the ultimate commitment: entering into the parenting journey with someone bonds you to one another in a very unique way. The decision to have a child may ultimately rest on whether both of you are comfortable making this kind of commitment to one another.
As a couple, have a realistic look at where you are and where you would like to be in the future. Do you have matching ideas about what you’d like your life to be in five or ten years? Before you make this big decision, it’s important to have an honest conversation about your long term goals as a couple. The decision to not have children is as valid as the decision to have them, but in all cases you owe it to yourself and any possible children to come to that decision carefully.
With my own clients, I’ve often noticed that children can put strain on a relationship if the couple have different expectations of parenthood. Without a clear commitment to nurturing one another through this change of life, new parents can easily neglect one another. On the other hand, working together to raise a child can cement a couple’s bond if they both go into it with open eyes.
What the research into the happiness of parents versus non parents misses is that the happiest couples are those whose life goals are aligned. Whatever you decide, the question of having children or not is one to be made with respect and maturity.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.