Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Purposeless Marriage

Hi, my name is Christopher[1] and I’m in a childless marriage. Please know it wasn’t the marriage we set out to have. When my wife and I first started dating and while we were engaged we talked quite extensively about having kids. We even had names picked out.[2] We were going to be parents.

After getting married, we decided that we wanted to just enjoy being husband and wife for a while. After all, we were both essentially babies at the time; I was only 22 and my beautiful bride turned 21 two days after we got married. We thought, “Let’s be young and just be newlyweds.” A few years into our marriage we decided to escape Minnesota for San Diego, but just for a couple of years, after which we’d settle down somewhere central to our families and have children.

Then something strange happened.

We turned 30. We’d been living in San Diego for well more than just a couple of years. And we’d been married for over 10 years. And we were both very happy with our careers. And loved our lives.

We both are very conservative when it comes to children. We realize that having children is a lifelong commitment, and a commitment greater than that of marriage – after all, you can’t divorce your children. To raise children well they have to be the center of your universe.

Given that, not only would having children completely turn our lives upside down, we weren’t sure that we wanted that responsibility. We had carved out a very good life for ourselves, and really didn’t want to give that life up. So, we got a dog and we called it a day.

Karin and I love each other as much now as the day we married, if not more. I think we have a very good marriage, and I believe most of our friends would attest to that as well. Sure, we have some things that need to be worked on, but what couple doesn’t? The fact is we’ve walked through this world together for the last 14+ years, through some fantastic times and some troubling times, and looking back we wouldn’t change a single thing.

At this point, the well-adjusted among you are probably wondering, “Why does he sound like he’s giving a testimony in front of an AA meeting, like he’s got something to be embarrassed about? Everything seems pretty normal to me.” It’s a great question.

Recently J, a friend of mine who also happens to be in a childless marriage, brought it to my attention there are some that believe marriage is for one purpose – making and raising babies. Of course, the main purpose of the diatribe that the author, Katherine Kersten, goes on is another attempt to convince the world of the evils of gay marriage. I’ll give Ms. Kersten credit for at least making an exemption for people that are old, or those that are unable to have children.

One point that Ms. Kersten does make is that a child has a better chance at being “well-adjusted” if the child has two parents in a loving marriage. I don’t think anyone would argue against that. And because I’m feeling beyond generous at the moment I’m even willing to temporarily concede the point that if the child has a father and a mother all the better.[3] But where Ms. Kersten loses me, and offends me to no end, is when she says the “purpose” for marriage is child rearing.

I’m left with the following question – now what do I do, Ms. Kersten? Do I divorce my wife, since clearly our marriage has been rendered moot? Should we have a child even though we don’t want to actually have one?

Please, Ms. Kersten, tell me – what do I do with my purposeless marriage?

Ms. Kersten, marriage isn’t just about having children. It’s about committing to another human being in front of friends, family and God, that you will always be there for that person for the rest of their natural born lives. It’s about saying, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Legally, it carries with it the rights to speak for ones spouse when they can’t speak for themselves, as well as coming with the responsibility to share what was accomplished during the marriage should things go horribly awry.

Or, put simply, in deference to you, Ms. Kersten, it’s about love.

[1]No, really, it is
[2]Chaela Wynn for a girl and Joshua Patrick for a boy
[3]I don’t for a second actually believe that. Two loving parents (of any gender) are the best any child could ask for. A very close second is a single parent who loves the child to death.


Kelly C. said...

very well written! as a step-mom to a well adjusted and happy 9 yr old girl who has three moms and 1 dad.. we can fully attest to the fact that (in marriage and parenting) love is what matters...not # of parents, or genders etc... such a hot topic for me.

jersey said...

@Kelly- Thank you very much. I'm the product of a mother and father for the majority of my childhood years, and then two mothers and a dad for the last year. I turned out (relatively) just fine.

Joe Snyder said...


bcarl314 said...

I'd be more worried about a "loveless" marriage than a "purposeless" marriage. I agree with you Chris, marriage is about love - not productivity.

That said, you better not be taking my SS when I retire. I've got 4 kids paying my retirement ;)

jersey said...


I like the phrase "productivity". And I don't think Social Security will be around when I retire anyway, so you have nothing to worry about.