One wants a baby, the other doesn't, yet -- can this marriage be saved?
Not Katy Perry and Russell Brand's 14-month marriage, evidently. According to reports this week, the singer and comedian split because Brand, at age 37, was eager to start a family and Perry, 27, wasn't ready.
It seems like having a discussion about kids -- do we want them? when do we want them? how many do we want? -- would be a no-brainer for a couple before saying their "I dos." Couples who don't see eye to eye about kids are twice as likely to divorce, according to studies, and childfree couples divorce more often than couples who have at least one child.
Still, many feel that a divorce without kids is no big deal; there's no custody or co-parenting battles, child support or fears about how your decision will impact the kids for years to come. You're just splitting up stuff and money -- it's sort of like "divorce lite."
But is it easier?
It certainly wasn't for "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert, who didn't want kids. She detailed the agonizing reality of her decision in the best-seller and movie that catapulted her into near-goddess stature for legions of middle-aged divorcees. Gilbert described how she wept and prayed on the bathroom floor as her then-husband slept in the next room, blissfully unaware that she had no intention of ever having babies with him -- or anyone else, for that matter. It was a costly divorce, emotionally and financially (for her); on top of that, she felt like she had to defend her decision not to have kids, too. That hardly seems like "divorce lite."
Yet, in the awkward moments after learning someone is getting a divorce, we often find ourselves saying something like, "Well, at least you don't have kids to deal with." While that is a small blessing in the big picture, that doesn't really ease his or her pain and sadness in the moment, kids or no kids. Plus, according to marital therapist Lisa Rene Reynolds, author of "Parenting Through Divorce: Helping Your Kids Thrive During and After the Split," "You may be opening up a whole other wound if your friend had wanted kids and didn't have them before her marriage ended."
Besides that, childfree divorcees are not without their own set of worries. They tend to spend more time agonizing about repeating relationship mistakes as well as having enough resources to keep up the lifestyle they had when they were married, experts say.
It's true that divorcing couples without kids may avoid a lot of the nasty legal stuff -- often they can mediate or use alternative dispute resolution. They also may have an easier time getting back into the dating world; there are no custody schedules to navigate, no worries about whether your kids like who you're dating, no fear of dragging them through another breakup. Plus not everyone wants to get involved with a single parent.
But if kids were an issue in your marriage as it reportedly may have been Perry and Brand, imagine what it would be like if your former "I don't want kids" spouse marries again and then has kids with his or her new spouse -- that can't possibly feel good.
Of course, given the generalizations almost all childfree women face -- notably that they're being selfish, writes Ellen Walker, author of "Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance" -- maybe it's even worse to be divorced and childfree!
Huffington Post bloggers Vicki Larson and Susan Pease Gadoua are the authors of "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers." Join them on Facebook and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org