THE BLOG
06/15/2010 08:08 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Marriage With or Without Children, Which One Is Happiest?

A happy marriage is made up of many factors. One of these is making crucial and long-lasting decisions as a couple that will impact your life together. The decision whether or not to have children is a major life-choice that should be given top priority.

The simple idea that getting married and having children always go hand-in-hand is as outdated as the super large cell phones of the early 1990's. Very few couples assume that having a child automatically follows a trip down the aisle. While some wait a few years to reproduce, many married couples are choosing not to have children at all. These are personal choices for adults and should be respected.

"We made the right decision for us," said Anna who has been married for 22 years. "My husband and I got married right out of high school. We were babies ourselves and we decided that, if we were going to have children, it would be at a much later date. For six years we both went to night school while holding down day jobs. After we graduated we spent the next five years building careers. Finally we got to the point where we were able to enjoy the financial aspect of all our hard work. We traveled, we built the custom dream house we wanted; we enjoyed our life. Around the time we built our house, we had a heart to heart talk and made the decision not to have children. We do not regret our decision."

The idea that a couple will, at some later date in their marriage, regret not having children has been an ongoing debate. Couples hear statements like:

"You'll miss out on being a parent."

"You'll have no one who cares when you're old."

"What's a marriage without children?"

"You're selfish if you don't want children."

Not everyone is cut out to be a parent and it isn't selfish to not want children.

Others embrace parenthood -- like Carly and Jon -- who had their first child 11 months after they were married.

"While we love our kids, we sometimes wish we had waited a few years. But we knew that we wanted children and when we became pregnant, we adjusted. Sometimes friends say that we're missing out on life because we had our children so early but to be honest, neither one of us could see a life without having children so, early or not, it has turned out alright for us."

Whether to be a parent or not is one of the most private and personal decisions you and the person you marry will make. But, and there's always a "but" in decision-making, you and your spouse absolutely must be on the same page and comfortable with your choice. If you want children and your spouse doesn't or if it is the other way around, then there might be trouble ahead for you both. The choice to have or not have children has to be a joint one.

Do some people regret a decision made early on in a marriage? Surprisingly, very few do. While I have met people who have momentary feelings of being "trapped as parents" and who feel they are sometimes sacrificing too much of themselves, most women and men feel comfortable with their decision to have children.

And I know of only one couple who wished they had become parents, but their regret had more to do with their unhappiness as a couple rather than not having children.

Happiness it seems is making the choice that is best for you.

The most successful marriages are the ones with like-minded spouses. Knowing what you want and knowing that your spouse wants the same thing is a gift. Making rational and heart-felt decisions together is crucial to your relationship.

Be honest with yourself first and then be honest with your prospective spouse.

The reality of the word "marriage" is a meeting of two minds and the joining of two lives. Husband and wife need not always become Daddy and Mommy. Decide how you want to live and be realistic about your expectations, your needs, and your wants. To become or not become parents is a personal decision and both choices should be honored.

Make your decision together and have no regrets. Live your life the way you both want it to be, not the way anyone else says it should be. Be satisfied to satisfy yourselves.

To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen Houghton.com and visit her href="http://www.andthenillbehappy.com/happinessblogandkeys.htm" target="_hplink">Keys to Happiness blog.
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Copyright 2010 Kristen Houghton