Marriage Without Kids – 6 Things Not to Say to Childless Couples
Marriage without kids – is that normal?
For the most part, engaging with couples who have kids about kids is a breeze. But conversations centered around children, with couples who don’t have kids, can be tricky.
Not always, but sometimes.
My husband and I have been married for a while now and we don’t have children.
Over the years, we have received a fair share of questions, even assumptions about our childless status.
It’s not easy to extract yourselves from questions and explain yourself to others.
So how can we dial down the discomfort for both parties, especially when we don’t have the background story of why a couple doesn’t have children? Specifically, what should we not say to couples who don’t have children?
Here’s a few things I think we should not say when we come across a marriage without kids …whether the couple has been married one month or fifteen years.
1. Don’t assume you know why they don’t have kids
You don’t know their heart or their reason.
Just because you can’t see what you think you ought to see, doesn’t mean you know the entire story.
Just because their situation doesn’t check your boxes doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about their specific situation.
Sticky point: don’t make assumptions because unless they tell you their reason, you don’t know. And even if they tell you their reason, you don’t have to share your opinion about it!
2. Remember, a marriage without kids is not your marriage without kids
Don’t take it personally.
It’s their life: They are “answerable to God”, not to you.
(And most likely, they know about that Scripture on being fruitful and multiplying in number.)
When you feel like you must do something, perhaps do nothing?
3. Asking “have any kids?” is okay. Maybe.
Delivering a whole lecture about it is not.
If you are friends already, you might have permission to discuss personal matters. Just remember permission doesn’t mean bringing up the matter over and over again.
If you are not friends..don’t assume permission. Just don’t. (I think we forget how kids are made and that many couples don’t like to talk about that with everyone? )
Don’t dig around for information. Especially when you sense discomfort. Many couples can tell when someone is pushing a conversation just so they can run you down and deliver a conclusion.
4. Let it go. Give grace.
Living in a new culture (I was born and brought up in Kenya, currently live in the USA) continues to stretch me in ways and places I didn’t even know existed.
Some of the things that are normal to the American culture are “abnormal” to me and some things that are normal to me are mind-bending to an American.
So I am learning to tread lightly, keep an open mind and learn. Instead of judging, resisting and taking everything personally.
Kids are the “normal” “fruit” of marriage. Until they are not.
When “abnormal” (a couple without kids, way past honeymoon and no kids) shows up, we want them to have a neat reason and explanation for their “abnormality.”
But Christians do well to remember that kids are “are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward”. You are neither a gift giver nor a rewarder.
In other words, “I don’t need to understand everything and that’s okay” is sometimes the only answer there is.
5. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say it.
Some couples without kids understand the unique position of a marriage without kids, especially long-term married. They don’t expect everyone to understand or have the perfect words when the conversation comes up.
So if you don’t know what to say, it’s okay not to say it. By that I mean, don’t feel the pressure to grab the first thing that pops to mind to just look like you “get it.”
Because the chances are the first thing you think about might not be the most polite or sensitive thing to say in that moment.
You can take a pause. It’s okay.
6. Don’t joke about it
Y’all are still having fun, when are you going to grow up?
When we are gonna see some fruit from all that fun?
Are those boys swimming upstream or what?
When are you joining us?
Especially when you don’t know the couple very well. Even when you do, just be sensitive because while some of these comments sound funny (the couple without kids might even laugh along) it’s just impolite. Hurtful.
A commenter shared her experience with an “insensitive person” (extremely rude person, in my opinion) and it just broke my heart.
I lost my one and only son last year. So this year, on Fathers’ Day in church, fathers were asked to stand and my husband confidently stood. Only for some lady to poke me from behind and whisper ‘tell him to sit, he’s not a father’.
Don’t.do.this. Or anything remotely close.
Feel me? 🙂 Newlywed or oldie, kids or no kids, how do you/did you deal with the kids questions? How did you navigate a marriage without kids? Share in Comments below.
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Such a long convoluted story as to the why’s and wherefores…..so much hurt and disappointment, medical negligence, recurring pregnancy losses, etc. Just to finally consider (when going through the change), that one or both of us may have been exposed to drugs while still in the womb ourselves (1955, 1966) that adversely impact infertility, although not explicitly told…not at all unusual in the world of paternalistic WASP male dominated medical profession and the cash cowness of the teratogenic endocrine disruptors in question….
Great post. I would only add not to ask why. I’ve been married twice and I didn’t have children either time and the reasons are EXTREMELY painful to me and it’s not something I feel comfortable discussing with strangers or really anyone for that matter. So please don’t ask why.
That’s a great addition, G! Thank you.
Great thoughts Ngina. I lost my one and only son last year. So this year on Fathers’ Day in church fathers were asked to stand and my husband confidently stood… only for some lady to poke me from behind and whisper ‘tell him to sit, he’s not a father’. I was so angry!!!
And then 2 Sundays later the same lady found me outside the room where children have their service and sarcastically asks me whether I was going to pick my child from Children’s Church.
That is so hurtful Mercie, it’s unimaginable that someone can do that! I am sorry for your loss and may God continue to heal you and your husband. Thank you for sharing.
We were married 12 years before we had our first. Great post Ngina…
🙂 I am sure you heard a few of these questions 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing, Betty.
I love point no. 4
>>“I don’t need to understand everything and that’s okay” is sometimes the only answer there is.
For me that is so liberating not only in relation to this post but on many other levels and different circumstances to in life.
Loved it Ngina great insight!
I am glad it encouraged you in other areas too, Ciruu! Thanks for reading
Great tips here! We have to love everyone whether they chose to have kids or not.
Yup! Good word Dan 🙂
Good word, Ngina. My wife and I waited 10 years before we had our 1st. I can’t tell you how many times people asked us, “So, when are you going to start your family?” It was from our own parents, friends, and (mostly) my clients who we’re from other countries. When I told them how long we’d been married they would be like, “Oh… I see. Well one day, or (if they were Muslim) Insh’Allah (God’s will be done). I learned to just brush if off.
Wow Dave, you have encouraged me! I’d imagine that the Middle eastern culture is alot like the African culture; we value kids and “children talk” is like everyones business : ) I am sure you learned a lot! Thanks for sharing
I am always looking for ways to make people feel comfortable and keep my big feet out of my mouth. Yes, it is amazing how people just trying to love others can so have the opposite effect. There are women in my life who haven’t had children – for all sorts of reasons (life choices, infertility, etc) – and one thing I have learned is that you don’t have to have children to mother and mentor. These women are called to work in a daily mission field in such an important way – spiritual mothering or sistering to those who have (or don’t have) mothers or sisters. These women have blessed me so much! Learning that ones shoes don’t fit everyone else is a big life lesson. Learning how to keep my feet out of my mouth – that is a work in progress! I am excited for what God has called you to.
I love your thoughts! There are many ways we mother and often we miss that. Such an important point. Thank you for sharing.
This is such a good topic, Ngnia, because I’ve seen this, even negatively contributed to this, invasion of privacy. I only did it one time (a long time ago), though, because the frosty response I got spoke volumes about how offensive this is! I’m so glad you’ve addressed it, my friend. And it’s interesting that Cameron Diaz recently opened up about why she is choosing not to have children. Of course, she didn’t/doesn’t have to divulge that, but perhaps she felt some level of pressure to clear the air. Thanks so much for your bold honesty and important challenge to us all!
Beth, I saw it on a news after writing this post. It’s generating a lot of conversation for sure.
Frosty – that’s funny! Prompt lesson for sure! I am not guiltless myself all though I can’t remember when i did it. But now that I am wearing the shoes, I am more sensitive!
It is a very sensitive matter so we must be very sensitive when we meet couples who don’t have any. I love number 2 and 5 on the list, they are sticky notes I must say.
I agree Ugochi, being sensitive is so important. Thank you for reading
We’ve been asked about kids from day one and don’t have any yet. I really don’t mind the questions–a long time ago I decided to answer “When are you going to have a baby?” with “Well, probably not today.” Treating the question lightly helps avoid in-depth conversations–I don’t want to discuss detail with random people. 🙂
That’s a good answer Rachel! 🙂 yeah, keeping it light eases awkwardness and steers conversations. I should remember your answer next time someone asks 😉
We went for about 2 years in our marriage before kids happened so that wasn’t quite long enough to get any questions. I know several couples who don’t have children or it was 5-10 years or more before they had their first. I feel like if they want to talk about it that’s fine but if not, I’m not going to push the subject on them.
Caleb, I feel the same way too, it’s okay if someone wants to talk about it..esp with close friends and family. But it’s not okay to force the subject. Or to keep bringing it up! 🙂
I very much appreciate a lot of what is expressed in this post. My wife and I don’t have children yet. One of my wife’s pet hates has been the liberty others often feel to comment or judge our situation (she tends to get approached about it far often than I do).
By God’s grace we hope to have children in the future, and hope to adopt too. But when and how that happens can be a topic of conversation with friends and loved ones, but not a subject for scrutiny among strangers and acquaintances. I think point 4, about giving grace, is a biggie in this regard. Good post!
Micah, I am glad you relate here. It’s funny how wives get approached more often than husbands 🙂 I’ve found that people want to chat me alot more, in detail, more than my husband. Maybe he has much fewer words : ) Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
We got married young and waited almost five years to have kids. We lived in a town with lots of Mormons (who have large families), so we were constantly being asked if we had any kids yet. And then when we said no, we’d see sad or puzzled looks. 🙂 We just laughed it off – I’m not sure why it didn’t bother us. One of the most helpful things for me when I sense someone is judging me is to remember that they shouldn’t be judging me (not in an oh they’re so terrible for judging me way – but just in an acknowledgment way that it’s not their position to judge) – I don’t know why that helps, but it does!
I just read Zechariah’s response. Maybe it didn’t bother me because we weren’t trying to have kids. I imagine I would be a lot more sensitive if I were trying and couldn’t have any. Which just goes to show, you shouldn’t ask!
Exactly Barb. I am not so bothered by it also, (just irritated.. 🙂 ) but it’s very different for someone who’s trying.
Barb, that’s just a powerful way to look at it. It helps me a lot…beyond this current topic. I think there lies my problem sometimes, wanting to let the person judging know that they are wrong. And ofcourse i end up carrying all the mess that results cos you can’t really change a person. Thanks for reminding me, i easily forget.
I also easily forget. 🙂
Children truly a gift from God and because He’s sovereign it can take a while, no time at all or sometimes He gives children to those who least expected or even wanted them. Very well put Ngina.
Thanks Priscah, couldn’t have put it better.
A hearty and beautiful share this one, Ngina.
On completely off-course, Is there any safe time to not ask about children? I turn 30 in a few months and my biological clock keeps getting questioned like thrice a week!
Gal, that’s the kind of question that used to, still does, make steam curl out of my ears. Seriously. Like God isn’t aware of timings, biological and all. I can’t even get into the zero-sense of such questions. It will not sound nice 🙁 . It’s not easy and may God continue to grant you wisdom and patience!
Great to share your heart Ngina. Touchy subject this is, but this is an awesome justice you have done to the topic. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Lance.
Very post. Totally appreciate you shedding light on this! God bless you dear.
Thank you for reading Angie 🙂
Great post. We tryed for years and had several miscarriages. People where pretty rude and assumed a lot. Great thoughts. Thanks for shining a light on this Ngina.
Zech,that is so sad. It’s sad the many things we assume. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience.
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