John Cena and Nikki Bella were just three weeks away from tying the knot.
So, it was a shock when it was announced the two had broken up, and the reason behind the split was (reportedly) John’s decision not to have kids. Nikki, 34, is interested in having a family.
A source close to the duo told People that John’s decision to not have children caused cold feet as the wedding date approached on May 5. He had proposed very publicly last year at Wrestlemania. They had been together for six years.
John, 40, also had insisted he would not marry again, after splitting from Elizabeth Huberdeau in 2012 after three years of marriage.
In a statement, the couple said: “While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”
But why hadn’t they discussed kids before getting engaged? If someone says they’re not interested in having kids, take it at face value, say most experts. It’s one of the top deal-breakers in relationships.
Often, when couples disagree about whether or not they want to have kids, it is simply one symptom of much deeper issues in the relationship dynamic. The first thing to figure out is if the 'kid issue' is just a representative of more significant problems in the relationship.
A. Jordan Wright, Ph.D. and New York University professor, tells Personal Space that it’s a really hard topic for couples, because feelings around having kids constantly evolves. As women age, they may face pressure that can change their decision, and men may get upset that their partner felt one way, and now feels another. Or, someone could change their mind just because.
“If the kid issue does not seem to be a symptom of a deeper relationship issue, then the discussion about whether or not to have kids should be an open, evolving, developing one,” Dr. Wright says.
There is no “right” time the conversation can take place, he adds.
“There's no universally right or wrong time to have the conversation, and both of the partners should respect that the other, one, currently has an opinion on the subject, and perhaps a strong one, and, two, that our opinions evolve,” he says. “That is, we have to understand that both of these things are true — each of the partners has a strong belief, and each of these beliefs can and may change.”
The breakup comes when both partners can’t seem to agree upon a solution that moves the relationship forward. In other words they are stuck, and stuck for long enough that no solution has been agreed upon, and when it comes to kids, only so much time can pass until the decision feels urgent.
“The issue of having kids may end up being a deal-breaker if, after a great deal of discussion about the topic, there does not seem to be a way forward that will make both partners happy,” Dr. Wright says. “But it's important not to jump to this before the conversation has had a chance to truly develop in a mutually respectful way.”
The sad thing is, when it comes to having or adopting kids, there is no compromise. It’s not a part-time thing. Either you are in, or you are out. And that can be difficult when you truly love your partner, but don’t want the same thing. You are fundamentally incompatible on a major life decision.
Some people stay, hoping their partner will change their minds (rarely happens.) Others convince themselves their relationship is enough, and put their own needs aside for fear of never finding love again. Resentment will build, experts say, and the partnership will break down anyway.
Psychology Today reports, “You can't make someone want children, but you should be able to openly discuss your feelings about wanting them with your partner.
“Most people today have some concerns about the kind of parent they will make. Perhaps he fears that having a baby means the end of a close relationship with you. Is he afraid of divorce? That is something the two of you can actively work to prevent. Beware [a partner] consenting to have a child just because he is afraid to lose you. Babies require a lot of care and a reluctant father could easily feel too marginalized to stay in a situation he didn't enter wholeheartedly.”
New York-based therapist Liz Lasky tells us it’s important to start talking about future plans as soon as you feel things are getting serious with your partner — it could prevent later heartbreak and you'll know exactly where you stand.
“A big part of building a relationship is creating and cultivating a future together,” she says. “It’s vital to know that your idea of what a fulfilling future looks like matches your partner’s. Things like having kids, religion, and politics should be discussed. You don’t have to necessarily agree with everything your partner stands for, but you should aim for a happy medium where you will both feel comfortable.”
As sad as it may make you, it’s important to set few deal breakers for yourself.
“For example, having kids may be a deal breaker for you,” Lasky says. “That’s an important thing to know. When you figure out what your deal breakers are, it will be easier to find a partner that has the same idea of what a happy future together will look like. There is no magic formula to have a conversation about having kids. And, people change their mind throughout life about what they want and what’s important to them. The most important thing is to be honest about how you feel with your partner and to be open enough to explore issues together.”
Lauren Eavarone, who offers sex therapy and relationship counseling in NYC, says, "everyone is entitled to at least have an attempt at the life they envisioned for themselves."
"The trouble is the idealistic assumption that because you fall in love with someone, they will automatically or ‘eventually‘ have or adapt to your specific life and relationship vision," she says.
"Everyone has a relationship vision they have carried with them since childhood. When entering a relationship, difficulty may arise when the partner’s visions clash. Working with a relationship therapist would help the couple identify and express their unique vision. The goal would be to better understand what is a priority for each individual in their visions to then be able to develop a mutual relationship language rather than an opposing and competing one."
If kids are not discussed, it could be a troubling experience as expectations are in place without ever being expressed or agreed upon.
"It is useful to believe someone when they tell you who they are," Eavarone adds. "We may want our loved one to adjust to our needs but if, for example, a child is something they truly do not envision as part of their life, placing that ideal or ‘should’ on them is likely going to result in disappointment...Ask yourself what you are willing to compromise in your life. Children for someone you love or someone you love for children? Could you fall in love again with someone who has a similar relationship vision in terms of children?"
People can also change their minds, she adds.
"Who gets a great opportunity that they then prioritize over having children that they didn’t envision having to decide between several years ago. No one can predict what life will throw at them. Even if a couple agrees they want to have a child together, who is to say that physically they are capable of doing so?"
Relationships and happiness often come down to compromise. Do you separate because one partner cannot physically have children?
"Deciding between children for someone you love or someone you love for children...Could you fall in love again with someone who has a similar relationship vision in terms of children? There is no ‘right’ answer...the most important thing to keep in mind is that open communication is vital for the maintenance of relationships.”
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