"I Want to Travel, but He Wants Kids"

Listen in as one real-life couple works through a major crisis in their relationship with the help of a marriage therapist.
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The Couple's Turn

The Couple

Lani, 33, school administrator
Dave, 40, financial manager
Married: 3 years
Kids: none

The Counselor

Martin Novell
Los Angeles, California

The Background

Lani gave up her adventurous lifestyle to marry Dave, who prefers to stick to what's familiar. She agreed to start a family and even got excited about it. But fertility treatments aren't working and now their relationship is in crisis.

Lani: When I first met Dave he seemed totally not my type. I'd spent my 20s doing international development work in Asia and Africa and he hated to travel. I'd always dated tall, outdoorsy guys, and he was short and indoorsy. He wanted kids. To me they weren't a priority. But he was the nicest, most stable guy I'd ever met and that seemed more important than anything else.

Right after we got married he talked me into having a baby. We couldn't conceive naturally, so I had six rounds of fertility treatments with hormone shots and artificial insemination. The last dose of hormones almost killed me -- my ovary ruptured and I had to have emergency surgery. Now I don't know if I want to try again. In fact, I'm questioning everything -- including whether Dave and I should stay together. Since the treatments started we've been arguing a lot. Lately I can't help thinking this quest to have a kid is just about the only thing we have in common. What if it doesn't happen? And even if it does, is parenthood enough to hang a marriage on? I don't think so.

Dave: It's true that Lani and I are very different. She's a free spirit and I'm more conservative. But I've always thought of it as a matter of opposites attracting. And it's not fair to say I talked her into having a baby. We discussed the idea for months and once she was on board she got really excited about it. We also talked about adoption if we didn't conceive with the treatments, but now she seems dead-set against that idea.

Lani: Adoption wouldn't solve any of the problems I'm talking about. And it opens up a whole new set of complications that I don't feel we're ready to cope with right now.

Dave: Honestly, I think it's the stress of this whole process that's making her freak out, along with the hormones she's been taking. We used to have so much fun just doing ordinary stuff together -- going shopping, hanging around the house. Now we can't say two words to each other without getting into a fight.

Lani: For the sake of this relationship I agreed to a whole bunch of things that were never in my life plan. Before Dave and I met I survived cervical cancer. I've had other health troubles, too -- asthma, endocrine issues. I didn't think I'd be around forever, so I wanted to live as fully as I could. That's why traveling meant so much to me. When we got together I gave that up. We bought a house with extra bedrooms in a kid-friendly neighborhood and took out a big loan to remodel it. I found a desk job, 9 to 6, to help pay the mortgage. It's true that the fertility treatments made me moody but that's partly because they put us even deeper in debt. I feel like I've sacrificed a lifestyle I loved and chained myself to one that doesn't fit.

Dave: Lani agreed to all those changes -- I don't know why she's suddenly blaming me. And she told me she didn't mind cutting back on the globe-trotting. What she wanted more than anything was to build a life together. That's what I thought we were doing!

Lani: Dave hates to travel so much that he won't even go away with me for the weekend. And we disagree about all kinds of other basic stuff, too. I love to have a houseful of friends and relatives, but Dave prefers it quiet. I'm a long-range planner but Dave doesn't like to be pinned down to a schedule. I'm very emotional but Dave plays things close to the vest. It's so hard for me to watch friends have babies -- it makes me feel like a failure. But Dave doesn't want to hear about things like that, and he won't tell me how he's feeling. He just goes to work, comes home, and turns on the ball game.

Dave: I feel things deeply, too, but I don't show it the same way. I tend to compartmentalize, which is how I keep going when times are hard. And Lani's way of expressing her emotions isn't exactly easy to deal with. If I act too worried about her health problems, she yells at me for making her feel like an invalid. If I act too casual, she says I don't care about what she's going through. One day she tells me she's given up on starting a family, the next day she says maybe we should try again -- and the day after that, she's talking about divorce. My role is to be the steady one, the problem solver, while she gets to blow off as much steam as she wants.

Lani: I wish Dave would blow off some steam! Instead he just pours everything into his job. He's always the first one at the office and the last one to leave. Sixty-hour workweeks are a great way to avoid dealing with what's going on at home. Yes, he's there for me to lean on -- when he's around. He says he's the steady one? After he convinced me to move in with him he wouldn't commit to actually marrying me for two years. The guy is kind, sweet and considerate, but he's terrified of taking chances. That's why he won't travel, and that's why he won't talk to me about the things that really matter -- like what's happening with us.

Dave: I admit I'm a cautious person. But I eventually did decide to take a chance on Lani, because I loved her. I still do. And I took a chance on having a baby with her, even though I knew it was a long shot with her medical history. I think she'd be a fantastic mother but if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. I can be happy without kids. What makes me miserable is knowing Lani feels stuck with me -- and feeling like every argument we have could be our last.

Continued on page 2:  The Counselor's Turn


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