I agree with your advice Dan. I have seen this scenario a few times and it never turned out well. Divorcing once the foundational agreements change is the best way to save years of pain for all involved, including reducing the odds of any children resulting from less than honest means of conception....
typo, Dan: the second note should read

>>** Assuming the "she" half of this he/she union is a cisgendered woman.

Spot on, otherwise. Forcing someone into a parenting arrangement s/he does not want makes everyone miserable.
Kind of funny Dilbert cartoon today about advice
Is there any social science research about the percentage of parents who regret having children? (That's not something most people are going to tweet you.) The only results my brief search turned up were reader surveys by Ann Landers and Good Housekeeping. It seems like an important question.
Sounds like this poor woman got babyshamed into making a baby. Even in the tweet, she doesn't cop to being happy about being a mother.
@5 agreed.

Why is Dan Savage commenting on procreative sex?

I have a friend who had kids because her husband wanted them. Now her husband doesn't contribute to the parenting at all and she's stuck raising two kids she didn't really want to have. Of course she still loves her kids, but she would be happier without them. Now there's a whole bunch of resentment and a failed marriage they're staying in for the kids.

So yes, some people do end up liking having kids after the fact..... But some don't. And that's a pretty damned big gamble. Far better to get a divorce now so someone can go have the kids they want than need a divorce later because someone had kids they didn't.
4/cdg, I can't provide any social science research directly. I just recall hearing about the results of one study (or perhaps a survey) a few years ago and a very slight majority of people said they regretted having kids. It wasn't by much, like maybe 52%.

If that's true it surprises me. I would have guessed that percentage to be high, but not that high.
Why is Bailo commenting on anything?
Oh, the tweet is terrible. Having a child just because your husband wants you to is like getting plastic surgery for your husband.
Dan, FYI, the female option is significantly less of an option than sperm donation, because you usually have to have successfully given birth at least once before anyone will consider using you as a surrogate. Therefore, becoming a surrogate so you can have kids without having full time custodial kids is not really possible unless you already have kids. Catch-22.

Also, lol at the typo at the end. Everyone must be a cisgendered man!! XD
@7, Gay people came out of their mothers' vaginas just like everybody else*. Oh, your question was rhetorical? Nevermind then, sorry to interrupt your homophobic implication that gay people, even gay parents, can't give gender-neutral relationship advice.

(*no offense intended to C-section babies)
@11 I'd say having a child for someone else is worse than plastic surgery - with plastic surgery, only two people can be hurt.
@7 because people keep asking him about procreative sex? Because he is a parent?
@7 Because the desire to be (or to not be) a parent has nothing to do with one's reproductive capabilities or opportunities. Dan's a parent and an advice columnist, and he answered the question put to him. And honestly, the answer he gave had very little to do with reproductive sex.
There is a bit of research on parents who regret having children. I don't recall any studies off-hand unfortunately. It's hard to do studies like that though for two reasons: 1) most people are unwilling to admit--even anonymously--that they regret having kids, and 2) funding for research like this is difficult to secure. Lots of people with political connections don't want anyone to believe it's possible to regret having kids.

I do recall that from the research I read on it, it doesn't really boil down to a 100% regret/no regret thing. Most everyone who participated felt both regret and satisfaction from time to time. There are just some people who tend to feel regret more frequently than satisfaction... but even they do sometimes enjoy their kids (just as people who are highly satisfied still do have regrets sometimes). Like most things in life, it's highly complex.
@9 I have now found a 2013 Gallup telephone survey.…

Among adults aged 45+, 7% (±2%) of those who had kids said they wish they hadn't.

The question was: "If you had to do it over again, how many children would you have, or would you not have any at all?"

Of course, having to talk to a surveyor could bias the results some.
This comment thread has gotten way off topic.

I agree with Dan's basic point. This is a relationship-ending disagreement, regardless of the gender of the letter writer or which party changed their mind. For everyone's happiness—both parents and the child—both of you should want to have a child. Or don't have one.

Time to move on and find someone who agrees with you on this very major life decision.
I regret getting pregnant at 15. I'm sorry her father stuck around. I regret marrying him at 17. I regret having another child at 20.

I wouldn't change a thing.

I agree with Dan. Divorce. Now.
Why do so many people still have kids on purpose? The world is probably going to get much worse to live in over the next few decades, since we seem to be headed toward environmental catastrophe and social destabilization. Don't give me that "hope for the future" crap either. It doesn't make any sense, because children will one day be adults who will fuck up just as much as the current adults are fucking up. The "hope" part also implies that you have a personal duty to create more people who are like you because you are one of the smart ones or something (I have actually had people tell me this), which seems pretty arrogant to me. Oh, and the "personal choice" thing: yeah, it is your right and personal choice to reproduce if you want. That's not actually a valid argument in favour of its being a good idea, it just means that no one can stop you. Plus, many of the world's problems are related to overpopulation. You know what would give hope to our species in the long run? Fewer fucking people.
I'd proffer a correction: "[I]f the "she" half of this he/she union is the half whose mind has changed, SATTP, I would advise the "he" half not to engage in vaginal intercourse WITHOUT A CONDOM until after this conflict is resolved and/or the divorce is finalized."
The commenter in the update describes the only reason for having children if you don't want to. If you genuinely want to make your partner happy in that way, and you are confident this motivation will sustain you through whatever comes next, do it. If not, either split up or see whether the partner can be motivated by making you happy through not having to be a parent.

In our case, I would have done it for my husband, but his desire to make me happy overcame his desire to be a dad: when we realised how much of a health cost I would have to become a mother, he couldn't bear to put me through that.
@22 no BiDanFan, Dan was right, no PVI at all. Condoms can be punctured by a sharp nail deliberately and not just accidentally!
I'm very glad it worked out for Jacqueline, but I would not count on this outcome! The stakes are too high, and there is no "undo."
@17 All of that sounds right to me.
It seems like a good general rule: Never have PIV intercourse with someone who has a different set of preferences regarding a possible pregnancy.

It seems like an important (maybe the most important) place to avoid mismatches.
Never would have thought of the surrogate angle, kudos to you, Dan, I guess that's why you get the big bucks :-). But even so, it's probably a non-starter for the one who didn't want kids in the first place - most likely because he/she preferred the (mostly) undivided attention/freedom a childless marriage would bring. Surrogate parenthood would end that freedom/attention even more than having the baby within the marriage would as LW would have to spend time outside the home to pick up/deal with said child, not to mention introducing even more people into his/her relationship with the spouse. It's sad, but people change over time and even though LW (probably) went into the childless arrangement with the best intentions, having a child now violates the other partner's expressed wishes in a big way. If his/her desire for a baby is something he/she can't give up on, shed a bucket of tears, express true regret and try to make the split as painless as possible for the spouse. "Life's a bitch and then you die." Ain't it true?
If the he half of the couple is the one who wants kids now, and pulling out early is their birth control (as it is for many), PIV should be out then too.
Touristy of me, I know, but Ms Fan has me wondering how many OSR partners who change their minds and want a child would advocate openly for it before (or instead of) resorting to underhanded means.
Men can trick women into pregnancy just as easily. They can poke holes in condoms and the like as easily as women can - and have done so. Yes, the woman can get an abortion afterwards - provided the man isn't abusive. (Many abusers force their wives or girlfriends to get pregnant as a way to control them.)

@30: Before? Probably most. Instead of? Fewer, I hope.

But underhanded means aren't as uncommon as one would hope--baby-cravers want babies a lot, and people tend to break rules when it'll get them something they want and they're likely to either be forgiven or never get caught. I don't understand what it feels like to have the children-impulse, but I understand that it's an extremely strong impulse.

@31: No, not nearly as easily. Sabotaging condoms and sabotaging birth control pills seems a lot more complicated than just not stopping birth control pills and not mentioning it, doesn't it? One of these seems to have a lot of logistical hurdles to clear, while the other one seems to have almost none at all, aside from the absurd logistical difficulties involved in actually bearing a child.

But was this in response to something?
#27 Eud, I’d add - if your SO does an abrupt about-face on an important issue where they’d previously agreed with you on, they have to be let known that this isn’t something that’ll just slide.
I’ve been astonished how some people, likely influenced by movies/TV where the big lug (or whoever) comes around in the end, think the other person will just learn to ‘love/live with it.’

This is different that Dan learning just to clean up after Terry in the kitchen. I said important stuff.
@21 I think you know the answer to your question. People are still making babies because of a combination of biological impulses and cultural norms. You and I can speak logically about how more people means more misery, but I have encountered very few people whose choices are influenced by that argument. Can you imagine a politician running on a "no more babies" platform? Women especially and people in general still feel that a life without children is a sad, lonely prospect. And the idea of adopting when you could have "one of your own" still seems to be less appealing. When I talk to people who are considering reproduction I'll ask, "Do you think we don't have enough people?" They look at me like I'm crazy of course. The mindset is still that normal people should want to have biological children.
@32 I guess it’s an answer to the part of Dan’s reply where he warns the man from having PIV if the woman is the one who wants a baby, but not vice versa. That stood out to me as well, because reproductive coercion is something both men and women are capable of.…

It may be harder for a man to tamper with birth control pills specifically in a way that the woman won’t notice, but it’s still possible (especially since they're married and so probably have access to each other’s stuff). Besides, we don’t even know what BC this couple uses so that's beside the point.
@24: I'm sorry, but PIV is the core activity of most OS couples' sex life. And most couples love and trust each other enough that they wouldn't accidentally-on-purpose get pregnant in open defiance of the others' wishes. Not saying it never happens; just saying a 98% effective birth control method should be enough of a failsafe in most cases. If the husband even suspects his wife is sneaky and dishonest enough that he dare not fuck her even with a condom, they need to get divorced NOW.

Besides, isn't it a more likely scenario that the PIV-deprived wife has more incentive to claim she's changed her mind about having changed her mind?
I got pregnant at 23. While I don't regret it, I'm not sure I'd do it again either. My husband (baby's father) stuck around. He is an awesome guy. Sometimes I wonder if we are still together for convenience. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I still love him and he loves me. We are comfortable together. My kid is 17 now. He will graduate school soon. It will be strange to have a house together with just my husband and I. When the baby was 7 we decided that we wanted to focus all our resources (money, attention, love) on the one child and make sure he has a good place to start from. When the baby (heh) was 12 I had this strange desire for a baby. It was really weird. I've never had the baby feelings (even when the kid WAS a baby). We got a dog. Strangely this filled the baby need. Sometimes these urges just go away because it's a moment's feeling of self doubt for logical and rational decisions made earlier. Maybe the writer should do counseling, etc, to figure out why they decided to not have children, and to see if being reminded of those reasons is enough to get rid of the baby feelings.
I don't think you have to feel like you absolutely NEED to have a good to have a kid. But you can't be adverse to the idea. You have to at least want to be a parent. If you don't want to have a kid and your partner wants to have a kid that's one of the few complete deal breakers, IMO.
Or another option, assuming the author is female, is to go down the path of becoming a solo mum with a sperm donor and giving partner the choice of staying in the relationship - married or not, living together or not, being known as dad to your child or not. I was in this position and while we've broken up for other reasons, my ex continues a healthy relationship with my child (more like an uncle, but very clearly not dad). Don't stay in a relationship if it means giving up your dream of having a child, but don't throw it away if you can both come to another creative alternative that's outside the norm. Better for a child to have one happy secure parent than be unwanted. Better to communicate openly and to let your partner make informed choices instead of being backed into a corner.
Anyone knowing he/she does not want children needs to take permanent (or at least long term) control of the situation. I.e. get a vasectomy. Get your tubes tied or get an IUD/depo. Stop making other people responsible for making sure you don't unintentionally reproduce.
@7 and @3:

Here's the funny thing about that. And Dan will readily agree and has been quoted as saying as much.

Dan's not an expert. He doesn't need to be an expert. I bet he's not even all that interested in being an expert.

However, people still come to him for advice. If everyone thought his advice sucked, they would stop. Being a celebrity (even a half-assed one like Dan, sorry Dan) is highly dependent on an audience. And a fickle one at that. And yet, Dan's been doing this for over 20 years, and people still ask for his help. There have been a lot of audiences that have turned on their celebrities way faster than that through history, so I think Dan must be doing *something* right.
@40 I'm a cis female. I knew from a very young age that I never wanted kids. Doctors would never discuss sterilization with me, my doctor denied me an IUD because of my mental health status (in the 21st century!), and Depo wreaks havoc on your bone density in addition to making me bleed every day for three months after I got the second shot. I did not get a third shot. It took actually having a child in order to get the IUD I wanted, because sterilization still wasn't an option. My son is 4 now, and I love him to death, but he never would have happened if women actually had the health care autonomy we deserve. And I've lived in large towns in Oregon my whole life, so I'm not a victim of conservative states either.
I would strongly advise LW and his/her partner to take Dan's advice to get a divorce. From my own experience, when I was in grad school and my marriage was in trouble, I knew I should get a divorce but I wanted to put it off until after I finished school. But my husband started seriously pressuring me to have a kid. I said no, since I knew this would only put more stress on our marriage. I also decided to get a divorce sooner, rather that wait until after graduating. It was a year of emotional hell, while juggling school, divorce, settling our financial affairs, etc. but it was the right decision. I never did remarry or have kids, as I decided this was wrong for me. I am now past menopause and have never regretted that decision.

I have observed, among a number of friends and acquantances, how having kids can seriously stress a marriage - even when both parents wanted the kids and the kids are healthy. But several friends and acquantances have kids with serious problems - either physical, mental, or both - and sometimes their lives are just hell. Too many people have unrealistic expectations about having kids, forgetting that things can go terribly wrong - and no one is to blame.

So if you both don't really, really want kids and you can't handle the problems, sometimes very serious problems, that come with parenthood, Don't Have Kids. And get a divorce if you can't agree.
Mr Monic - Before: A tells B, "I've changed my mind; I want a child." B says, "I still don't want one." A then sabotages the birth control.

Instead of: After the same beginning, A is an adult and either decides to continue the relationship on the agreed terms without resentment or subterfuge, or decides the need is too great and takes full responsibility for ending the relationship.
Ms Fan - It's almost sweet that you're such an optimist. Remember, we have to count that this goes both ways. Even if we're very liberal with the benefit of the doubt about the proportion of unplanned pregnancies, we also have to, when considering how honest couples are being about the issue with each other, count those couples in which one half thinks they're both trying for a baby in good faith and the other half (at present, I suppose usually the woman, although I shall anticipate Ms Lava and look forward to the day when men are equally likely to be secretly on BC) knows that isn't the case.

We could also adapt the Julius King model of outside influence on couples exerted deliberately, perhaps into an example of Wendy Williams being able to talk almost any woman into disregarding her male partner's wishes and thinking that there's nothing wrong with tricking him about it.

I will give you a quarter of a point for your conclusion about motivation for a change of mind, whether real or false. Lots of layers on this onion.
@ Sea Otter
Ever heard of ageing population?
Overpopulation might be a problem for the world at large, but not in the US, Europe and co., where there aren't actually that many babies being born. So it would actually be pretty bad for those countries if everyone just stopped reproducing. Now, a radical change in immigration policy could fix that, but that's totally unrealistic of course.
@40: Ah, wouldn't it be nice if doctors said yes when you asked for permanent sterilisation, instead of assuring you "you'll change your mind" and sending you on your way?
@45: I humbly remind you that I am a member of Team OS and Team SS, while you and Dan are members only of Team SS. We queers know that there are many ways to have sex, all of which can be satisfying. Team OS, however, views one sexual activity as the main course in their sexual diet, with the rest being appetisers or trimmings. Saying to one's spouse, "We're not going to have any more PIV, even with a condom," is the equivalent of saying "Our sex life just stopped being satisfying for the indefinite future." If you're going to say that, you may as well just skip the indefinite future and head straight for the divorce.

I admit that as a cis female who has never, ever wanted children, and who has been fortunate enough to live in countries where the absolute final say over whether to breed is mine, I may be underestimating the number of women whose desire for children is stronger than their love for the men they married -- and than their basic human decency. But still, I stand by my statement that "no PIV sex til we sort this out" may as well be "I've decided this marriage is over."
If the male is the childfree one he should get himself a safe, legal,outpatient vasectomy and not act as though his permanent birth control decision should rest of anyone elses shoulders.
Joyous @49, that's an idea I can get behind. I've never been able to achieve fluid bonding with a man who had a vasectomy, thus relieving us of condoms and pregnancy concerns (I never wanted kids). Even men who also don't want kids bring up the argument that they are afraid of the pain, and having less pleasurable or bountiful (in terms of content) orgasms if they get snipped. They are happier risking pregnancy (which, of course, they will not experience).
Childfree-by-choice woman here. I'm in my mid-30s, I have never in my life wanted to have a baby, and I don't see that changing at this point. It took me 2 years to get my IUD, but it is one of the best healthcare decisions I have ever made. I highly recommend long-term birth control (IUD, tubal, vasectomy) to anyone who is sure they don't want to parent, and I recommend making the final decision for that SOLO, regardless of whether you are partnered, because it's YOUR BODY and YOUR LIFE. I have friends who I know and love (truly!) who got the baby-fever and had babies that their partners were (at best) ambivalent about making, and (at worst) really opposed to making. Babies they couldn't afford, babies after they had a previous baby with birth defects... It's been shocking to me to see what the true hormonal baby-fever does to otherwise reasonable people. For some people it can be an all-consuming thing, it becomes more important that ANYTHING else (including the rest of your family who already exist), and the idea to "seek forgiveness rather than permission" or that the unwilling partner will "learn to love it, because how could they not" is unfortunately upheld and defended by our culture as not only a legitimate justification, but a good one. It's fucked up and I want no part of it, and this is why in my own life, I want to make sure that my mind (and not my hormones, or other people's hormones) is always what's making my major life decisions. Which is why I say, if kids are not in your life plan, take action for yourself. Even people you love and trust can act irrationally in this situation.

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