Wanting childless marriage, considering leaving Church over it

Hello all,

Let me preface this by saying that, until last year, I probably would have been happy going my entire life as a marginally attending Catholic like so many in the Church today. That was before I moved across the country to take a job at a religious Protestant-affiliated university. That university required that I be involved in a religious congregation of my choosing, and rather than convert, it prompted me to attempt to commit myself more fully to the Church in which I was raised, which I was taught to love, and in some way, I still feel myself a part of.

But, I don’t think I’m ever going to see children, having children, and parenting in the way the Church wants me to.

My father was a heavy drinker and physically violent to me, my siblings, and my mom.

He received a cat-of-nine-tails as birthday present and used it to discipline me and my brother. Perhaps that may find favor with some folks who think that children have no ‘fear of God’ in them anymore.

I remember how mouthy my brother was, how he always had to have the last word. Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut like I was able to?

He now has high pitch hearing loss in one ear from having his head slammed into a wall.

I remember a lot of fights between my dad and my mom. Loud, angry affairs that would go on all night while trying to sleep.

The scariest times where when she would get in the car and leave. Usually she would come back. But one time my dad got so angry he jumped on the hood of the car and smashed the windshield in while she was leaving.

He stayed up all night. I did too, I asked him when’s mom coming home. His response: “Your mom is crazy now to back to bed before beat the ---- out of you.”

I’m not a parent, but I would think no matter how angry you are at your spouse, one should have enough empathy for a 7 year old son who is just scared and misses his mom.

Fortunately, that episode had a happy ending, The police came and picked me and my siblings up that morning. I later learned this was because my dad called my mom and threatened to shoot us if she didn’t come home.

But…I didn’t want for anything materially. We had a nice house, a boat, a pool, had vacations. I have two graduate degrees and still will probably never make enough to provide for a family as well as I had it, materially.

My parents divorced when I was 12 (they got an annulment), and things got better after that, when we went to stay with my mom. My dad had a heart attacked and died about 5 years later. Christ forgive me, but I can’t say that I miss him.

I put a good amount of effort into school and college, won a full ride to law school, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. Then coming out of school in Michigan, I couldn’t find a job.

The job I found was at a small firm that paid me less than my fiancee was making as a teacher, I couldn’t live up to the firm’s expectations, and I quit, not under the best of circumstances. Fiancee and I broke up soon after that.

That’s when I really had my first crisis of faith. I came to see that I really should have been aborted. Indeed, when I looked around at thousands of my fellow college graduated who managed to get out onto the job market in the Midwest in the early 2000s, who needed jobs that weren’t there. I feel all of us really should have been aborted.

I’m better now, in some ways. I have a decent job in a new state that I am happy with. I’m still tormented by my situation, though. I know from bitter experience that the “happy family/kids are joy” way of thinking is a delusion that I cannot indulge. I don’t have the hubris to think that I could do a better job than my parents. I hope I don’t have the sadistic temper of my father, but I know I don’t have the patience, He raised us like he was raised. It seems like the deadly sin of Pride to think that I can break the cycle. Better to just end the chain now by remaining childless. That way it ends; it ends with me. By making sure there is no next generation, I would be better than him by making sure the pathology doesn’t continue for another generation.

This is especially the case when I know I will never make enough to give any kids all that I had. That’s not supposed to happen in America, where each generation should do better than the next. Sure, I suppose the pious response is “oh you might not be able to provide as much materially, but you’ll provide for them better emotionally.”

I sincerely doubt anyone truly believes that.

Sometimes, I can’t help but think that people have kids either 1) on accident, 2) out of a sense of duty, or 3) because they need someone smaller and weaker than themselves to put down and hurt.

Still, I hope I can fall in love with someone and marry, and find happiness, love, and security in a relationship as an adult that I never really had as a kid. But, if that means being obliged to raise a family, it’s not worth it to me. To me, families are capsules of conflict, paid, and fear. I want to be part of a couple, but not a family.

I wish there was some kind of dispensation I could get for a preemptive vasectomy just to take care of this, once and for all. But from my readings, that doesn’t look like that’s possible. Do I have to choose between the misery of family life of the misery of lifelong celibacy, and to continue to seethe with hate and anger toward my dad who put me in this situation? If only he could have made an appropriate choice and not had me, I wouldn’t be in this situation.

Anyway, I guess that’s all I have to say. Happy to hear anyone’s thoughts on the matter, especially if they go beyond the trope of “We all have our crosses to bear so just suck it up and deal with it.”


Please seek professional help to deal with the anger you have for your father, that is your real issue here, not wanting to be childless. You can get over it (my husband did), get on with the rest of your life and THEN you can think about marriage and a family. In the meantime, stay celibate as your station in life requires, and children won’t be a problem.

I’m in a small town where all the available therapists offer “Christian Counseling” and are affiliated with protestant groups.

I’ve also seen quite a few therapists in my day, prior to moving here. I don’t really know what you mean by “getting over it.” If it means seeing the world the same way as someone who never had the above experiences, that’s not going to happen.

I agree with the previous poster who suggested counseling. It is so important to understand that people who abuse children (either mentally, physically, or emotionally) often are seriously mentally ill. It is not hubris to believe that you would be a better parent; psychologically speaking, it isn’t the material goods that make an individual a good parent, it is the love and support that one gives for his or her child. If you were to do research on which kids are the most successful, it does not come down to material goods. Obviously, SES plays an important role in the types of opportunities that one may have access to, however, this is not the biggest predictor of wellbeing. Anyway, I definitely think it would be prudent to seek therapy; even though you may not think it will help or you’ve already gone before, finding a good therapist can help make sense of past traumatic experiences.

Thanks for your response.

Yes, a therapist can help me make sense of this. I think I have done so. Perhaps my dad was mentally ill, honestly, I think it was the fact that he was raised that way, really didn’t want to be a parent (preferred hanging out with his buddies and philandering), and had very little patience, and a lot of anger.

I’d like to think I’m not like him, but the truth is, I am. I don’t want to be a parent, the best time in my life was when I was an undergrad at Major Public University, and I also have little patience and plenty of anger. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be as cruel, but I’d rather not put myself to the test.

I know all this was not my fault; it was his. I don’t blame myself; I blame him. With a vengeance. The question is where I go from here.

You have been the victim of child abuse and a witness to severe domestic violence. This has given you a sadly twisted view of the family life and the role of spouses/children. It sounds to me as though need counseling not to just deal with your past, but also because it sounds as though you are depressed, especially when you say things such as, “it would be better if I was aborted.”

Your father did place an enormous cross upon your back, no one is going to deny that. But you need to find the inner strength to overcome it, and you CAN. You have to believe in yourself and have confidence that you are capable of living a full and satisfying life. I believe even on these forums there have been people who have overcome abuse. It is easy to say and hard to do, but try to stop the self-defeating thoughts about how much you blame your father and take control of your own future. With help and guidance, you are capable of so much. I know this, because you are strong enough to have gotten where you are, and you can succeed if you give yourself a chance.

You speak about not wanting children, and I think your reasoning is very understandable. However, I think you are jumping the gun a bit.

First of all, you were not only a victim of child abuse, you also witnessed a considerable amount of domestic violence. Not only is your view of child-rearing warped, but you may also need guidance to manage close romantic relationships. A therapist can be an invaluable tool at helping you navigate emotions, learning to communicate, and countless other skills that many people learn in their home life, but many others learn through therapy. You mention little patience and considerable anger: these are likely learned traits that your therapist can help you ‘unlearn’ and give you the tools for managing. Once you have made progress and find the right woman who understands your history and your struggles, you can work with her to make the right choice about children. The anger and patience issues will disrupt marriages as well, not only child rearing.

The church does not require you to have as many children as possible. In fact, you are really given a great deal of leeway in your personal discernment regarding the size of your family. You and your wife would be responsible for deciding together if you were ever capable of welcoming a child. The church does not require people who have serious reasons to avoid welcoming a child to just do so. She does require that you not use birth control and obviously no abortion. You should also continue to work on therapy and with your wife, and if you make enough progress and feel as though you can manage a child, to be open to life. An experienced priest should be able to give you more guidance about how to understand church teaching.

About therapists
You said you live in a small town with limited access. Are there any universities within driving distance? Many universities have counseling centers, and it may be possible to find a graduate student who can help for less cost. Also speak with parish priests, and see if any of them have experience with counseling people in situations such as yours. Remember, though, that not all priests are counselors. So while they might be able to help with spiritual matters, not all will have the experience helping you make sense of your past. If both of those options do not work, see if you can find therapists who can do sessions on the phone or through Skype.

It may be hard to see how how much abuse and depression are impacting your current worldview, and it might be tempting to right off finding a new counselor, but I guarantee that they are. You are not something worthless that should have been aborted. You do have purpose and meaning. Finding the right therapist can be gold when it comes to realizing this and learning how to take control back over your life.

Hi Charlie,

I am so very sorry for all of the hurt, pain, and suffering you have been through. :frowning:

I understand how traumatizing this can be, as I have been through a similar situation myself, with my own parents while growing up.

In my own situation though, both of my parents were physically and emotionally abusive for many years. When the physical abuse stopped, the emotional abuse continued, even into my adulthood. It was very traumatizing for me.

I did go through counseling.

I hope that you will reconsider counseling again.

As for having children, that would be something that perhaps you could even decide on again, with a future spouse.

Prayers said for you.

May God bless you.

Marrying and having children is you only chance to do it better.
You experienced the worst, you know what NOT to do.
Take this chance to be better than him.
If you don’t, he wins.

Being aware, knowing yourself, and getting counseling help. God will help. You wife will help.
Most therapists will work through Skype or FaceTime. You can live anywhere.

Marriage and raising children is one of life’s most astonishingly wonderful experiences. Not easy, not always pleasant, sometimes even heartbreaking. But amazing.

Don’t let your father define the beautiful person you were born to be.

Who is to say I know what NOT to do? The thing is, many people point at me and say I was a SUCCESS story. I don’t want to go into specifics, but plenty of people were proud of me at an earlier stage of my life, and I have job that at least impresses some people.

People have told me “your dad would be so proud of you…” and it just makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve made the mistake of telling that to others, and they say “If your father heard you talk that way about him he’d kick your…”

The irony seems to be lost on them.

The thing is, I hate to say it, and I don’t mean to put anyone down, but once someone becomes a parent I usually don’t trust them anymore. If your Facebook wall is anything like mine…you’ll find quite a number of posts of people praising the fact that they were beaten as children. “My father whooped me and it taught me respect.”

It seems like, for many, once you have kids, you forget what it was like to have been one. “You’ll understand when you’re older,” my dad would often tell me.

I don’t understand, and, to be honest, I don’t want to. Maybe with prayer I’ll see it differently, but I don’t know.

In case anyone may be curious upon reading this, I’m 33 years old.

I am very sorry for the grief that you lived through because of your father. Anyone would be greatly affected by being in that situation. I am commenting because of you deciding to leave the Church because you can’t get married and raise a family like the Church asks of you.

I think instead of looking some years ahead on this, just take it one day at a time. Have you gone to confession and confessed your anger, resentment and unforgiveness? God poured out his son’s blood on the cross to open heaven for us, and to pour out mercy while we are still here. Give God a chance to heal your heart and open it more to be able to love. Healing your heart does not mean forgetting it happened, we just can’t do that. God can make it so that our past does not have the same power over us. There’s a freedom that comes with God’s grace, a lifting of a heavy burden that was never ours to carry in the first place. “Set the captives free” scripture says. Stay in the Church. Reach for God. He’ll be there. He wants you to be the very best version of yourself. There’s something better waiting for you!

I grew up with an alcoholic mother who had other addictions as well. I came into the Church in my 20’s, and really had no clue what normal was for families. I was fortunate enough to spend time with some home schooling families who were raising families and living their faith. How they interacted with their spouse and children, I just soaked it in. I don’t think you are ready for that yet but one day you will and it will be an eye opening experience. Hope that day comes for you soon. One day at a time.

Another question. Where can one find these wonderful Catholic women who would be eager to help a spouse (or prospective spouse) “work through” his childhood baggage?

Especially if that “baggage” consists of a reluctance to even consider children?

Most more devout women I know see having children as the whole point of marriage, and expect for any prospective suitor to have his ‘stuff’ together as far as that is concerned before even beginning a relationship.

And from their point of view, I can’t really blame them for that.

Surely you can remember enough to understand what hurts and what doesn’t.
That’s how you know what NOT to do. It sounds like your father tried to kill you, physically and spiritually. Not having a family, not moving into the future means he wins. He’s killed you.

You are already a product of millennia of survivors.
He chose his behaviour. He chose to dishonor all those who came before him by simply doing whatever he felt like doing.
You are already better than you father because you are thinking about the situation and are considering what is best.

Your father clearly did not do that. He just raged on without a thought about what it was doing to you, or you Mum, or anyone. He was selfish and violent and deeply flawed. You are already a very much better person that he was.

You were a victim as a child. No doubt about that.
You can chose to remain a victim as an adult, or you can chose to not
be a victim as an adult.
Don’t let your father chose your life, or your behavior. That’s your job. He failed his job.
You may or may not have children, and that is for God to chose. But do not let your father make decisions about your life. What do they say? Living well is the best revenge.

I’m just saying that there is more than one way to look at this.

Also, I might add that until you are a father, you will never know how deeply you can love. You have that capacity.
And I’m sure there will be a wife out there waiting for you that can and will live and learn beside you (God willing).

You are in my prayers.

Newlywed: You have said this very well indeed.

**You are not something worthless that should have been aborted. **
let me say that again
**You are not something worthless that should have been aborted. **
In over 2000 years, there has never been anyone like you.
There will never be another person like you again.
You have a unique role to play in the salvation of Humanity and of all of God’s creation.

  • Having been a counselor in my younger days, I can assure you that we are not a one sized fits all. There were several people that I just couldn’t help personally; thus, I had to, for their well-being, hand the case over to another counselor. In one case, we as a counseling group couldn’t help a victim of severe abuse and had to refer this person to a psychologist trained to help people with these awful life experiences. So please, seek a new counselor or maybe, better yet, a psychologist that deals specifically with abuse and PTSD, and work thru your past life. It is clear to me from your post that the counselors you’ve seen thus far have not provided enough help to give you the tools to build a firm foundation for any marriage, childless or not, and that the past is still attached to you… IMHO, you need to step it up a notch and see a psychologist.

Blessed Mother, please intercede for us.
Hold the sorrowful, strengthen the fearful,
mother and love the weary, abused, neglected
or forgotten among us,
give your aid to all needing help or healing,
assist those who are sick, in pain or suffering,
be with those needing peace,
console the lonely or brokenhearted,
comfort the lost or hopeless,
guard the unborn,
pray for those who are dying or who have died,
soften those with hardened hearts,
enlighten those who do not yet see truth,
help us be brave enough to let our hurt and anger go,
show us the way to do the right thing,
protect those who are in danger,
and guide us from every evil.
May all who keep your sacred commemoration
experience the might of your assistance.
Amen :gopray:

You do understand - You understand that you were abused.
You are now allowing that abuse to control your life and how you deal with people.

You need to see a psychologist, not a counselor. Counselors are for the most part not trained to adequately help in situations such as you experienced.

As for your facebook page, (no, I’ve not visited it, I stay away from that aspect of social media) IMHO, when people say, “… I was whooped…” they are not referring to having a cat-and-nine-tails used on them nor being thrown against a wall such as you and your siblings suffered More likely they are talking about a few whacks with an open hand and being sent to bed or stood in a corner for a few minutes to calm down and consider one’s actions. There is a great deal of difference between abuse (which you suffered) and reasonable discipline and most people will not be able to personally relate to what you’ve experienced, many counselors will not be able to relate either; thus, why I strongly advise the psychologist.

I am extremely sorry for your traumatic upbringing.

It seems from your own words you have a lot of unresolved emotional strife. Please seek some therapy to help you sort this out. These problems will affect any marriage or relationship you try to enter. The trauma skews your view of the world and will make marriage and/or parenting very very hard.

It is not fair what happened to you but I do believe with therapy, prayer, and faith in God, you can be made whole again.

Based on your assessment of yourself, what makes you think you should be a husband? If your father affects your parenting this way wouldn’t he affect the way you treat a wife in a similar way. The issues of anger and no patience need to be addressed before you get in a relationship with someone . Marriage requires tons of patience and grace even without kids.

I have been married, I have kids, I am now living single/celibate. I have found all three stages of life challenging but rewarding in different ways.

Faith in God, Internal peace and security in who you are is key to being fulfilled in any stage of life in my experience.

You might find help at Adultchildren.org.

Good luck.

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