All of a sudden, several best friends are facing divorce. One couple never had much in common and the divorce process was a slow, painful one culminating after several years of manipulation. Another is divorcing because the husband is facing a mid-life crisis and suddenly wanting to have children – so badly he’s willing to give up on a 10-year relationship with a woman who, firmly, does not want to have kids. Finally, a couple with kids recently off to college couldn’t face the empty nest. It’s a familiar story. They just didn’t have enough in common – minus the drama and daily conversation about the kids – to sustain the marriage.
On the other hand, some of my childfree married friends have the strongest relationships I observe. Generally, these marriages are forged on common interests, obsessions and passions. Sometimes the obsession is so much the focus of their lives that it is the reason they didn’t reproduce. They just couldn’t carve out enough time away from their interests to share with kids – and that is just fine!
Many of the happiest childfree couples I meet are artists. I often find childfree people, in general, are artists. (The topic of a future article!) One couple, both over sixty years old, shares a studio together. He’s a jewelry designer and she’s a painter. They left the computer industry to follow their passion and dreams and just seem utterly happy. I see them wandering together around town, visiting coffee shops, other artists’ studios, and galleries. They seem so bonded that I wonder what will happen if (when) one becomes ill or dies, and I worry about that myself. But, just to have lived in such a close and bonded relationship is a valuable experience in it’s own right – no matter how long it lasts – it’s enriched both their lives.
Another childfree couple I know are community activists. He’s a scientist and she’s an artist but their involvement with community change is their shared passion. I asked her if she ever wanted kids and she said “no” she knew she and her husband were too busy, too involved with their interests to find time to care for someone other than the hundreds of people they already care for! Standing and talking with them I can feel their friendship - it’s tangible and active - as is their bond with the family of community.
I sometimes compare these childfree couples with my parents, who were so scared to finally face each other alone after all the years focused on kids, that they tried to talk me in to staying in my home town, and even living at home, as I perused my college choices. They finally settled into the empty nest, after a few difficult years, and found they had a solid friendship on which to build their later years – which were filled with happy travel.
Generally, childfree couples stay together long-term because they choose to do so – they are not just sticking together for “sake of the kids.” In order to sustain a long-term relationship, a couple must be friends, really good friends, and share common curiosities, or at least, a healthy respect for each other’s interests. I find, overall, that childfree couples are rather good at these things.