"Her desire and mine were at odds..."Oct 15, 2017
It’s easy to feel defensive and afraid when your partner expresses that he or she wants something that feels far away from what you want. If you grew up in an environment where your voice wasn’t nurtured or where the focus was on what others needed, then you might only to be able to hear "He's telling me I can't have what I want," rather than hear that he's simply expressing his desires.
It is possible to come together as a couple after having distinct and separate desires. I provided an exercise on finding common ground on the issue of becoming parents in a recent blog. It starts with listening and understanding and resisting trying to convince the other person. There’s room for both of you to want and desire what you want. The more room you make for each other’s desire, the more relaxed you’ll both become.
Today, in Seeking Clarity, we hear from a husband who had always known (or thought he had known) that he wanted to be a father. He has an interesting perspective on how he and his wife "fell into the trap that she should want children."
"Being female and not wanting something she was supposed to want was creating a lot of strain and an unfair burden on my wife; a lopsided experience that kept us from connecting on the level we needed to."
Please read on...
Why did you reach out to Ann Davidman, Motherhood Clarity Mentor, for help?
My wife and I had different desires for children. I’ve always wanted children (I wanted 13 when I was a kid, down to 3 when we started talking seriously about it) and she wouldn't have them if I didn't want them. This felt like an existential issue for our relationship as it is for many relationships. We spent several years having conversations and engaging in exploration. It was more often my wife engaging in self-exploration because I think we fell into the trap that she should want children. She found and completed the Motherhood Clarity Course™ and learned a lot more about what she wanted. Her desire and mine were still at odds, however, so we scheduled a consultation with Ann, which turned out to be incredibly helpful in terms of getting us to deeply listen to each other. This helped unlock a new path for us that felt like a true compromise.
What results were you hoping for from the consultation?
I was hoping for forward movement, whatever that would end up as. I was getting exhausted with the process and I wanted a path forward based on action rather than talking.
What was most helpful about your consultation with Ann?
I initially didn't feel that I needed to do much work to determine my "desire": "I know I want kids; what else do I need to figure out?!" My wife kept repeating a question I assume she learned from taking the Motherhood Clarity Course: "But what about parenting do you want? What appeals to you? What does it mean to you?" I didn't really like these questions. After some self-reflection and then a session with Ann, I realized I hadn't done the work I needed to do. I realized that my lack of interest in examining these questions actually represented multiple forms of privilege: being a male and wanting something that my culture views as the reasonable next step in my life. Being female and not wanting something she was supposed to want was creating a lot of strain and an unfair burden on my wife; a lopsided experience that kept us from connecting on the level we needed to. After I realized this, I engaged and realized that what I really want is the long-term relationship with a child into adulthood, not necessarily having a baby or a biologically-related child.
Where did you end up and were you satisfied with the consultation?
I imagine this will continue to be an unfolding process, however, we have found a program that feels like a true compromise, one that I can confidently say that neither of us would have pursued or even known about without having gone through this process. There is a refugee foster program in Northern California; the program focuses on young people and adolescents that mostly come from refugee camps and need families to pursue education and independence in the U.S. Though it is "fostering" (because there’s often no way to ensure it’s appropriate to terminate parental rights), the goal is to build a long-term relationship. That meets an important need of mine. There is also tremendous support from the program and a built-in community. This program is less of a direct parenting commitment than adopting or fostering a baby. That meets an important need of my wife. It also meets our need of staying together and deeply connects with both of our values.
What kind of process did you have with yourself and your partner after the consultation?
We started being able to get more excited about our path moving forward than focusing on our differences; so far, we both share a low-grade terror and deep excitement and faith that I assume is similar to what many soon-to-be parents feel.
Would you recommend the Fatherhood Clarity Course™ or the Motherhood Clarity Course to others and why?
Absolutely. I didn't take the courses but my wife told me about it and we had referred it to our best friends who also found tremendous benefit. I see the course as creating a space that doesn't seem to exist in most of our culture: for those of us who really don't know or have differences within the couple. It's isolating. There are so many of us that there should be more spaces for us to think this through.
What would you tell a man or a woman who is struggling with not knowing or struggling to decide about parenthood?
I got a little teary just reading this question. I have so much empathy for you. This is a very, very challenging and intensely personal decision. There is no right or wrong decision, and no one can tell you what is right. I certainly can't, but if you let the mud (reactivity) settle and move forward with openness to change, there can be real beauty on the other side. You're not alone, I feel for you and I wish you well.