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Carolyn Hax: How do you forgive your husband for not wanting another child?

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I can’t agree on a second child. I’ve been begging for two years for him to see having a second child is in our best interest. He is happy with our one child, who is almost 5, and he thinks we are too old to have another. I’m almost 41 and feel my time is running out. I don’t know if I can ever forgive him for not wanting to expand our family, and I’m totally sad all the time. Please help.

— Seattle

Seattle: I am sorry your family isn’t turning out the way you planned it.

That is common, of course — I'd go as far as to say no one's family, or life for that matter, turns out as planned — but that doesn't make it any less upsetting when it happens to you.

It’s also common to single out one obstacle to getting what you want, and one idea of how things could have been if only that obstacle didn’t exist, and fixate on these two as the source of all that feels wrong to you inside.

Your husband does need to hear you're struggling to forgive him, so he doesn't just see your back all the time and wonder what happened to “us,” which is cruel.

You also need to be clear with each other, if you haven't been already, on the definition of “too old.” It can mean a lot of things — medical, emotional, financial, physical, present-day, projected — and decisions can vary accordingly, so it's important not to assume.

But once you've said your piece, dwelling on it is not a recipe for happiness, nor is using oversimplifications to justify holding a grudge. Not when you're married to the obstacle you've fixed on; not when the imagined future involves the conception, birth and rearing of a child (is there an experience on earth more variable?); and not when you're talking fertility near the end of its run. If your husband hadn't balked, then any number of other things might have instead.

All of this is to say that you need another place to put your anger and sorrow than on your husband. Even if it were fair logically, I wouldn't advise it maritally.

And you do need a place for it. It is both completely valid and spilling all over the place, threatening to swamp the family you do have.

Plus, depression sounds like a risk, so after a medical evaluation, therapy is the obvious choice — for you alone, to start. Your obstetrics office might also have leads on group support. Talking with clergy (many have counseling credentials) is an option if you’re faith-affiliated. If you’ve turned to exercise or art or music or friends or a yoga or meditation practice toward acceptance of hard facts before, or just utter immersion in your 5-year-old, then do so again now. This is not the time to be stingy with help and self-care.

I realize this was set in motion by your husband’s saying no to you, but I suspect you’ll remain stuck until you’re able to say no to yourself, too. It’s hard, and sad, and likely feels deceptively fixable, “if only” — so give yourself time and permission to grieve.