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Carol Jamison wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am in a situation with my husband over whether or not we will have children. We have been married several years and I am starting to wonder if he married me under false pretenses.

Every time we talk about having a child, he always says It's not the right time. My husband also says we'll start trying around such and such a time and it never happens. The time frame gets extended and when I try to discuss this with him, he takes offense and says, we can't afford a child and we wait a little later.

I don't want to wait anymore. I have been married for years and to date, have not had a child.
I am also over 30. I know there is never a good time to have a child — you have to take a leap of faith. Unfortunately, my husband is unwilling and based on several conversations we've had over the past year or so, I think he married me under false pretenses. I am wondering:

  • Should I seek the counsel of a priest, or
  • Should I separate, or
  • get a divorce?

I don't want a divorce but my husband won't take this seriously. We have never even had sex without contraception! It's getting too clear to me that he doesn't want children and I don't think I can keep kidding myself anymore. It breaks my heart to think about separation or a divorce but I am not truly living in a Catholic marriage.

I don't know what to do anymore.

Carol Jamison

  { What if my husband married me under false pretenses and still doesn't want to have children? }

Bob replied:

Dear Carol,

How sad to hear your story. Everything you said is true. A Catholic marriage is a sacrament, and one of the essential ingredients is openness to life. It sounds as though your husband is not open and may never have been. That is grounds for an annulment should you decide to seek a divorce.

I would start by saying you simply will not have sex with contraception, which is always a denial of life, thus frustrating the natural ends of the marital act.

Contracepted sex is a sin and having sex in this way with your husband is wrong to begin with. Natural Family Planning, (NFP) which is abstinence during the fertile time, is not sinful and may be used by couples to avoid pregnancy when reason would determine that grave circumstances would incur great hardship. Other than that, you should be looking forward to children, which is the chief blessing of Marriage.

I never like to encourage divorce, especially when children are already in the family, but there is a serious doubt about the validity of your marriage as it stands, so you have every right to reconsider this.

I would take this to a priest, marriage counselor, and potentially divorce attorney in that order. This is serious and he needs to wake up or end this facade.


Bob Kirby

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Carol,

I respect where Bob is coming from but he goes too far in my opinion.

The Church doesn't usually do what Bob did — i.e. speculate on the validity of a marriage while the couple is still working on their marriage. Sure there are aspects that may someday have to be explored if the couple were to divorce, but as long as no one is in some kind of physical danger we try more to keep the couple together.

Their union is valid — and hopefully it can be saved from this current trouble.

Clearly your husband is reluctant to have children despite the promises he made to you and to the Church when you got married. There needs to be some way to have both of you speak to each other about all this. A priest may be able to help, as Bob said, or a good Catholic marriage counselor.

NFP doesn't work without guidance. There is a science and a philosophy that goes with it and therefore we should direct people to NFP training so they can come to a mutual understanding and agreement.

The couple might also try a program such as Marriage Encounter which would help them to talk to each other.

What I am trying to say is our role, as fellow Catholics, is to help them live their promises and not to tear them apart with ideas of annulments.

Fr. Jonathan

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