There are some things in a relationship that you can compromise on: where to order takeout and who gets to lie on the good part of couch while you watch TV, for example. But when it comes to being on different pages about major life events, like whether or not to have a baby, things get tricky, and compromise isn’t always possible. Whether you’re the type to bring up kids on the third date (or first, no judgment) or you and a long-term partner are just beginning to broach the topic, it can be hard to know how to tell your husband you want a baby.
Here we spoke to licensed marriage and family therapists Phebe Brako-Owusu, LMFT (founder & CEO of 253 Therapy and Consult), and Alison LaSov, LMFT (CEO of mental health startup Advekit) about how to talk to your husband about wanting a baby in several different scenarios, even when you’re on different pages.
I want a baby but my partner doesn’t
It can be truly heart-wrenching to realize you and your partner are on different pages about wanting kids, and if you’re in this scenario, I feel for you. Some couples will ultimately split over this difference, which is why it may be beneficial to have this conversation earlier rather than later.
“I’ve seen it happen too often where the subject of kids is avoided while years of a relationship ensue, and ultimately the couple splits suddenly when they determine they are on separate pages with wanting kids,” LaSov says. “There are definitely ways that you can move forward together even if initially it seems you feel differently about having children. The first thing I always encourage people to do is to ‘get curious.’” She explains that getting curious involves communicating with your partner about why they don’t want kids. The goal here is to learn, not to change their mind. You may want to ask if the hesitancy is based on finances, timing, or bandwidth? What do they imagine their future to look like without kids?
“Once you determine the root of their hesitancy, there are conversations to be had in order to see if you can work out a compromise that will appease both of you. It’s important to note that some people feel hesitant but can come to an arrangement that feels comfortable for them, but other people may feel very definitive in their decision,” LaSov says.
I’m ready for a baby but my partner isn’t
In this scenario, it’s important to first consider why you’re wanting a baby before your partner is ready. Ask yourself if your desire to have a baby now is coming from a place of wanting to keep up with friends or stay on an arbitrary timeline. “Is this a desire to check off things on your life list like going to college, getting married and then having kids?” Brako-Owusu says. In many cases, you will realize that your desire for kids is not rooted in anything other than truly feeling ready to be a parent, and maybe you’re starting to feel the stress that comes with fertility and getting older.
Both therapists stressed the importance of timing in this scenario. You want to broach the topic when everyone is relaxed and there are no time constraints (i.e. you’re not supposed to be at a party or work in an hour).
“The conversation can begin by stating why having children is important to you and how it could impact you if you don’t have children. It can also include reasons why you believe you’re ready and your observations about how your partner is possibly ready,” Brako-Owusu says, adding that you can also speak to what you’re doing to prepare for parenthood and to show your commitment to your relationship.
Another tip offered by LaSov is to write down what you want to say ahead of time that you can go into the conversation “feeling organized and confident.” She adds that it’s important to keep an open mind, and truly listen to your partner’s thoughts, feelings, or fears about the situation (this goes for both the person who is ready and the one who is not).
LaSov suggests working with your partner to find if there is a “personal or professional milestone that they want to hit before they try having children.” With this understanding you may be able to set plan that feels comfortable for both of you and still allows them to reach that goal, whether it’s pre or post-baby.
I want a child but not with my partner
This one is undoubtedly tricky. “As a marriage and family therapist my first curiosity is around why they don’t want to parent with their partner. What is it about their partner that essentially disqualifies them from the role of a parent? Parenting with another person brings in a dynamic that not all relationships can survive,” Brako-Owusu says. Having this feeling may alert you to the fact that there is something about your partner that you do not find trustworthy or caring. Do you feel like they have poor judgment? Are you wary of passing on their genes?
“It sounds like this person is not in the right relationship,” LaSov says. “I would [encourage] this person to explore why they are in their current situation and ask them to evaluate if it makes sense for them long term. I would not advise this person to have a child with another partner unless their current partner is comfortable with that arrangement.”
If you’re feeling anxiety about talking to your partner or having a baby, or feel like the conversations end up being arguments, it may be helpful to enlist a professional. “Having a licensed professional can help guide the conversation and ensure both parties have their sides heard,” LaSov tells Romper.