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Health & Sex

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Child-Free Couples: Thriving Without Kids

Relationship experts and couples who chose not to have kids reveal the secrets of a successful child-free marriage.

Making the Choice to Remain Child-Free continued...

Still, she wrestled for three years with conflicted feelings, trying to decide if motherhood or marriage was more pressing. Both admit it was a tough time. Robin expressed anger and frustration with Duane's unwavering position. But, she says, "We worked through it; we kept discussing it. I think we grew together and made the right decision."

"Having a child is an extremely challenging commitment," Duane adds. "You can't talk somebody into doing it."

Lori Buckley, PsyD, a certified sex therapist in Pasadena, Calif., agrees that bullying a partner is a bad strategy. "It would be great if couples sat down and had important discussions about what they want from their relationship and made conscious choices. But most don't," she tells WebMD. "What determines the staying power of a relationship is not about whether or not to have a child. It's about other components like being supportive of one another, being loving and kind, being good companions."

Buckley says it's important for each partner to share his or her views on having children. It's also helpful to assuage a partner's fears. "People will come up with their own reasons for [the desire to remain childless] -- like 'he doesn't love me,' or 'she doesn't want the baby to have my nose,' or 'he's planning to leave me.' Most are baseless."

"We rarely make such big choices in life without some ambiguity," she adds. "To have a really serious, emotionally charged, solution-oriented conversation, a lot of couples would benefit from a third party."

Buckley says once you've given your reasons, you don't need to defend your position or give a rebuttal. If couples aren't on the same page and can't resolve the issue, heart-wrenching breakups can occur. But that's better than bringing an unwanted child into the relationship.

"I think statistics show a slightly higher rate of couples with kids staying together," she says. "But a lot of couples come into my office and the only reason they are working on the relationship is because of the children."

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