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Children Are Less Important to a Happy Marriage Than They Were 20 Years Ago

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage. The End.

When Carrie Bradshaw tells a fan in Sex and the City 2 that she and Big don't plan to have kids, the horrified, currently pregnant woman spurts, "Just you two?!" To her, the thought that a couple could grow old together without the delight and distraction of children seems unfathomable. But when it comes to Carrie and Big's choice, it's not just those two.

Over the past two decades, the idea that children are essential to a happy marriage has been fading. At the same time, we're witnessing a decline in "child-centeredness," both in relationships and in American society in general, according to a 2008 report from Rutgers marriage researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead.

Whereas marriage used to mean children — why marry if not to make a family? — that link is weakening in recent years. Here's why.

Not only are more unmarried couples having children, but at the same time, fewer couples now consider children an essential part of a happy marriage. Writes Whitehead:

As recently as 1990, a clear majority—65 percent—of the public said that "children are very important to a successful marriage." By 2007, according to a recent Pew survey, only slightly more than forty percent of respondents agreed with the statement."

Factors deemed more important to a happy marriage than kids include faithfulness, a good sexual relationship, and sharing of household chores. The idea of what Whitehead calls a "soul-mate marriage" means more focus on the couple and a less child-centered relationship. For couples without children, maintaining a happy, fulfilling relationship often takes more care and attention.

Having just spent an exhausting weekend with a very adorable and very precocious two year old, I can understand the appeal of an adult-centered marriage. However, if a couple wants to focus more on themselves than on the kids, why even bring children into the mix? Is it the fear of waking up at age 50 and suddenly feeling like "just you two" isn't enough? Where do you stand on the issue?

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GregS GregS 6 years
And you certainly shouldn't have children in an attempt to make a happy marriage.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
Children and marriage are two separate issues to me. You don't need to be married to raise a happy family and you don't need children to make a marriage happy.
trinitycc trinitycc 6 years
My husband and I have been together for 21 years. He has a daughter from his first marriage. I love kids but don't want to have any of my own. He didn't want to have any either but his wife did, they divorced when his daughter was 5 yrs old. I have 6 nieces who enjoy being spoiled by the auntys who don't have kids. My family is so large that in each generation there have been couples who didn't have kids, great-aunts, aunts, etc. So it's no big deal in my family if someone decides not to have any. The sad thing is, I have a friend who told me that he has a daughter because his wife decided she wanted to have one before she got any older (she was 32 when she got pregnant). He said he loves his daughter now that she's here, but he really didn't want to have kids. I just told him I understood but of course in the back of my mind I'm thinking they should make sure to keep their relationship strong because that wasn't a good way to start a family.
trinitycc trinitycc 6 years
My husband and I have been together for 21 years. He has a daughter from his first marriage. I love kids but don't want to have any of my own. He didn't want to have any either but his wife did, they divorced when his daughter was 5 yrs old.I have 6 nieces who enjoy being spoiled by the auntys who don't have kids. My family is so large that in each generation there have been couples who didn't have kids, great-aunts, aunts, etc. So it's no big deal in my family if someone decides not to have any.The sad thing is, I have a friend who told me that he has a daughter because his wife decided she wanted to have one before she got any older (she was 32 when she got pregnant). He said he loves his daughter now that she's here, but he really didn't want to have kids. I just told him I understood but of course in the back of my mind I'm thinking they should make sure to keep their relationship strong because that wasn't a good way to start a family.
leilani-s leilani-s 6 years
I agree with just about everyone here, except the comment that "you're gambling with your marriage if you choose to have kids." My husband and I met and married a little later in life (I in my 30's, he in his early 40's), we had already done all our "wild oats" stuff and were both ready to settle down. We were very close and affectionate before our son came along, and we still are. I don't know if I'd say parenting has brought us closer together, but it is a fantastic experience to share with each other.
kimmieb124 kimmieb124 6 years
I think every couple needs to do what's right for them. I have plenty of couple friends who are happiy married with no children. They enjoy travelling and other pursuits together. My husband and I have a child, but I do not think that having children is the whole point of marriage. Marriage is about the couple and their love for each other. Some couples choose to express that love by having children, other couples do not. There is nothing wrong with either choice and it's not any less of a marriage if there are kids or any more of a marriage if there are not.
jocupcake jocupcake 6 years
Wow Jazzytummy, excellent point. There is a huge difference between liking children and actually being prepared to do the job of raising a family. I feel like this is what puts the real strain on marriages: many couples jump right in to having kids without honestly considering how they will feel about all the un-fun stuff (the 3am feedings, the end of adult time, the teenage years, etc). I also believe that children really suffer in households where the parents' relationship is strained - ex: fighting on a regular basis, sleeping in separate rooms, not doing things together as a family. When I think about stuff like this I'm always amazed that most of us turn out as well as we do!
jocupcake jocupcake 6 years
Wow Jazzytummy, excellent point. There is a huge difference between liking children and actually being prepared to do the job of raising a family. I feel like this is what puts the real strain on marriages: many couples jump right in to having kids without honestly considering how they will feel about all the un-fun stuff (the 3am feedings, the end of adult time, the teenage years, etc). I also believe that children really suffer in households where the parents' relationship is strained - ex: fighting on a regular basis, sleeping in separate rooms, not doing things together as a family. When I think about stuff like this I'm always amazed that most of us turn out as well as we do!
marcied23 marcied23 6 years
jazzytummy, you are absoulutely right. kids are a job because you are responsible for preparing them for adulthood and that takes a lot of time and patience (prayer doesn't hurt either).
jazzytummy jazzytummy 6 years
I think the most important question people have to ask themselves before they become parents is not "Do I like kids"? but, rather, "Do I want to do that job"? Big difference.
jazzytummy jazzytummy 6 years
I think the most important question people have to ask themselves before they become parents is not "Do I like kids"? but, rather, "Do I want to do that job"?Big difference.
chillchic chillchic 6 years
I'm not conservative or anything like that but I always thought the point of marriage was to have kids. I mean that's why humans started getting together in the first place. I wouldn't get married if I wasn't ready to have kids and I would have kid without getting married first.
janneth janneth 6 years
To each his/her own. But the man and woman better agree. Someting to talk about BEFORE.
janneth janneth 6 years
To each his/her own.But the man and woman better agree. Someting to talk about BEFORE.
Rosay77 Rosay77 6 years
I agree with #2
Rosay77 Rosay77 6 years
I agree with #2
Frenched Frenched 6 years
I think most couples with a good head on their shoulders will know when they're ready to have children. And yes, many people erroneously believe that children will "strenghten" the bond when it will actually challenge it even more. I think there is nothing wrong with not wanting to have children in a marriage. It's up to the couple.
bryseana bryseana 6 years
I can see how both sides could have pros and cons. If a couple is truly happy and in love they'll be fine either way.
bryseana bryseana 6 years
I can see how both sides could have pros and cons. If a couple is truly happy and in love they'll be fine either way.
MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
Have them if you want to be a parent and all it contains, or don't if you don't, and don't have them with a partner you know is just giving in to please you/get you off their back. You'll severely regret it when they don't feel the need to sacrifice the things you need to to raise a child. I personally think those are the situations that crop up more often then two willing adults who choose to have children and then are driven apart because of the sacrifice.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
I'm the kind of girl who was born to be a mom, loves babies, and is dying for kids. So, for me, I would never make this choice (and wouldn't commit to a guy who didn't love kids or want kids in the future either) - that's just me though. I don't think that it's bad for people to think about "just us two" and I think if you have a fulfulling life, you could be a happy married couple without children. Maybe more so than people who have kids, whose lives revolve around children, and who stay together when unhappy for the sake of the family.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
I'm the kind of girl who was born to be a mom, loves babies, and is dying for kids. So, for me, I would never make this choice (and wouldn't commit to a guy who didn't love kids or want kids in the future either) - that's just me though.I don't think that it's bad for people to think about "just us two" and I think if you have a fulfulling life, you could be a happy married couple without children. Maybe more so than people who have kids, whose lives revolve around children, and who stay together when unhappy for the sake of the family.
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