Welcome to our new feature, “Dear Childfree Girls,” in which we do our best to answer your questions as thoroughly – and as honestly – as possible (even if it hurts). Do you have a question for the Childfree Girls? If so, see the instructions at the end of this post.
Dear Childfree Girls,
Love your podcast! I was just wondering from one childfree woman to the next…
Have you had long term relationships with a childfree man? Is it really that hard out there? My friends are making me nervous that I’ll need to be a step mom.
Just wondering what your experience has been like and any tips that have worked for you.
I’m not sure how long a relationship has to be in order to be considered long term, to be honest. From the moment I embraced the childfree lifestyle, my longest relationship has been about one and a half years. But I have thoughts about this subject.
Finding childfree men, or at least ambivalent men, hasn’t been hard for me. I have met a couple of them through friends, and my current boyfriend I met on Tinder. I do not state that I’m childfree on my profile, and it’s usually not the first thing I mention about myself when I start talking to them.
One helpful tip, based on my own personal experiences over the past few years, is that I usually try to get the guy in question to talk about their desire or non-desire to become a father before I tell them I’m childfree. The reason being that some men have a habit of agreeing with their potential partners regardless of what they really think or want for their own life, just so they can score (ugh, I hate that expression, like women are carnival prizes or something…)
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this has happened to me in the past! A guy would present himself as my perfect match at the beginning and I would be extremely excited to have met someone who shares similar values to mine, and as time goes by, they start showing themselves for who they really are, disappointment ensues, and then I kick myself for wasting precious time.
Additionally, I have dated men with children and my experiences have not been positive. However, I do know about childfree women who have married men with children from a previous relationship and they make it work and they live happy lives with their partner. This is to say that the fact that there are children in the middle doesn’t mean that it can’t work.
I will add one thing, though. And this is something that has come up over and over again from my interactions with childfree women: do not settle. You get to define what that means to you specifically because we all have different boundaries and non-negotiables. Stick to yours, and try to find people who will respect them, and also love you for them.
I might sound a bit over-optimistic, but I truly believe that there is someone out there for every person who is looking. Just give it some time.
KRISTEN SAYS: Hi, Anonymous. I’ve been married three times, but only had one long-term relationship with a childfree man.
When I was in my 20s/30s, most of the movies and TV shows I’d seen had made it seem like men were trapped into marriage and parenthood, that it was all something they dreaded, but succumbed to, so I’d naively assumed no men wanted kids and that someone like me who didn’t want kids would be a veritable miracle-gift.
I was not!
Whether the men in my early married life (lives?) actively, passionately wanted kids is unknown, but they definitely expected them. Which, I suppose, is as powerful as wanting them.
Here’s what didn’t work:
1. Not discussing the kid thing. The first time I married, at 19 years old, he assumed there would be kids, and I assumed there wouldn’t, so we didn’t even talk about it before we signed our papers. Two years later, he started talking about kids, and we divorced less than a year after that. I don’t think anyone is as stupid these days as I was then, so you probably don’t have to worry about this issue.
2. Not being believed. After my second husband asked me to marry him, I reminded him I didn’t want kids. I asked him if he was sure he was okay with that. “Sure,” he said. “Lots of people can’t have kids, and they make it work.” Not wanting them is different, I told him, but he said it didn’t matter–until three years later, when he said he’d always wanted kids and had assumed the whole time that my not wanting them was a phase I’d grow out of.
I don’t know what the childfree-man pool looks like right now. I’ve been married to my forever-husband since 2005, and I’d known him since we met in high school at 17, so he knew what he was getting into by being with me, and he wanted me more than he wanted kids. (He was always ambivalent about the idea of parenthood.)
I can tell you, though, that the best thing you can do for yourself and any future relationships is make absolutely clear that you don’t want children, have no plans to change your mind, and are only interested in being with someone else who also doesn’t want children.
There’s no guarantee the person you’re with won’t change their mind or assume you don’t know anything yourself and what you want, but at least you would know you did your best to warn or prepare them.
If you’re doing online dating, definitely indicate up-front in your profile that you don’t want kids. Narrow that target demographic as much as possible, because kids/no kids is probably the most important and deal-breaking thing there is when it comes to relationship compatibility.
LENORA SAYS: Hey there, Anonymous. I have not had any long-term relationships with a Childfree man. My (only) ex-boyfriend fathered a child when he was young, and has to this day never met said child. He paid support but that was it. He held onto the hope of one day meeting the kid, and therefore never classified himself as Childfree. That played a part in my decision to end the relationship (which lasted five years) because I do not want to be a stepmom.
While children weren’t physically present in our relationship, there was an emotional disconnect because he always felt guilty and would speak about how we were maybe missing out on something by not being parents. It was unlikely he would ever get me or anyone else pregnant, but since he did technically have a child and spoke about it, he would never be childfree.
These days, I don’t actively date. I enjoy occasional companionship with people who don’t have kids. Mostly, I prefer to be by myself. When I do meet someone who catches my attention, I make it clear that children are not an option. It helps that I’m a childfree lifestyle advocate, it’s on my business card, so everyone who meets me knows children are a deal breaker.
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