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How important is the ability to have children when choosing a spouse?

If having children is important to both people but one partner is likely to not be able to have them, how should a dating couple address this issue?


One of the big issues that couples are told to discuss before marriage is whether each person wants to have children and when they see that happening. Most of the advice I have read says that if one person wants kids while the other does not, it should be an automatic deal breaker because there is no way to compromise on this issue.

I’m considering a relationship with a wonderful woman in her late 30s. She wants to have children, but from what I’ve read there is a real possibility (or even likelihood) that this will be medically difficult as she gets closer to 40, and after 40, even adoption can be difficult in some places that have age limits.

If having children is important to both people but one partner is likely to not be able to have them, how should a dating couple address this issue? Is this something one needs to consider when deciding whether to date or marry a person that is otherwise a good match? I’d hate to miss out on an amazing marriage simply because I’m afraid we probably won’t be able to have a family.


One of the primary themes about marriage that rises from Scripture is its purpose for not merely “having children,” but rearing the next generation of believers. For all the other reasons that parenting is a great experience, the most important is discipleship. All Christians, married or single, are called to “make disciples,” but married couples offer a different context in which to present the Gospel message, the context of a “bride” and “groom” illustrating the love of Christ for His church.

That being the case, I think discussing children is a critical piece to any consideration of marriage. That’s a topic that should be comfortable to discuss even before dating or courtship begins. But that discussion shouldn’t be limited to merely one’s own biological and/or adopted children. I think the mandate to “train up a child in the way he should go” has broad application (Proverbs 22:6).

A broad view of discipling the next generation is key for spouses because there will be those instances, maybe as you’ve described, that for whatever reason a couple is unable to have biological or adopted children. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fulfill the mandate of spiritually discipling the next generation.

So “having children” in the traditional sense is one thing. But I challenge you to think bigger than that. Almost every couple hopes to “have” children, but some won’t be able to. If it’s true that God opens and closes the womb, and I believe it is, we simply have to trust that He knows what He’s doing either way. But that in no way limits the call for married couples to disciple the next generation.

To clarify, I believe every married believing couple should pursue biological and/or adoptive parenthood. But legal guardianship is not the only way to “train up a child in the way he should go.” Thankfully, “spiritual guardianship” is accessible to all of us.

We can raise spiritual disciples in formal ways through involvement with local church and para-church ministry or in more informal, but still intentional, ways by opening our lives and homes to kids who need a spiritual mom and dad. I’m forever grateful for couples who did that for me, since I grew up in a home with little instruction on things of the kingdom of God.

So back to your specific question about the importance of “having children,” I would say, yes, “having” your own biological and/or adopted children should obviously be something to which you both are in agreement.

This is the conversation I advise you have with your friend: If, for whatever reason, you can’t have or adopt your own children, will you still pursue fulfilling the call from God to be intentional about “adopting” and rearing spiritual children as God opens those doors? If that answer is yes, believe me, He will likely bring you children in droves.



Copyright 2012 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

John Thomas

John Thomas has been a Boundless contributor since its beginning in 1998. He and his wife, Alfie, have three children and live in Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of Ozark Camp and Conference Center, a youth camp and retreat center.


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