Saturday 21 April 2018

Dear Mary: My wife wants a third child - I'm not so sure

Illustration: Tom Halliday.
Illustration: Tom Halliday.

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.

Question: I should be so happy. I met the love of my life when we were both in our early 30s, and I had almost given up on meeting a wonderful girl like my precious wife. We got married and immediately tried for a family as we were not exactly spring chickens! To our immense delight, we had two perfect children, a boy and a girl, and though the initial stages had their difficulties (not great sleepers, difficult teething periods, potty training etc.) we sailed through them and they are at the magical stage now, 4 and just under 3, in play school, potty-trained, sleep through the night and both have smiles that would make your heart melt. Christmas was pure heaven.

My problem is that my wife decided that she would now like to have another child and I am not at all sure about this. We both work in the city, but my place of work is much nearer our home and I can also work from home which is not possible for my wife. So a lot of the housework falls on me, as well as looking after the children all day if there is a problem in the playschool. It's extremely tiring and disturbs my work a lot. My wife was very emotional when I demurred so I agreed to try for No. 3 and she came off the Pill.

And then nothing happened. She was shocked at first but as she is now older I said that it might just be difficult for her to become pregnant at her age. That didn't go down too well and she became even more insistent that she wanted to keep trying. I am worried about her conceiving at her age as I am very realistic about the possible complications. I suggested that nature might be trying to tell us something but she would have none of that.

She then started looking at fertility doctors without consulting me and I have to go along with this even though I am ambivalent about it. Quite a lot of tension has crept into our relationship which makes me unhappy. I do love my wife, I adore my children and I have no doubt that I would love No. 3 if he/she arrives. But how do I get my wife to stop forcing the issue without making her deeply unhappy? I also worry that she would feel very unfulfilled if it doesn't succeed.

I really would appreciate your advice.

Mary replies: This has the possibility of becoming a very big issue between you, and one of the main reasons is that you haven't actually sorted out whether or not you are willing to go along the route of assisted fertility with your wife. I realise that you want to make her happy, but in the process you have yourself become unhappy with the resulting tension that you describe. It is really important that you speak with her about this and explain your worries and your fears both regarding a possible pregnancy and the amount of extra work involved. But before you speak with her have a talk with yourself, and sort out your feelings on the whole baby question as you seem quite unsure as to whether or not you even want another child. When you are sure of your own feelings then have your talk with her. Schedule a time when the children are in bed and you can be guaranteed some uninterrupted time together, and don't have the discussion in bed. Perhaps you could reach a compromise - if a third pregnancy happens then you will welcome it, but not with any medical intervention.

I agree that there is a huge amount of energy needed when a baby arrives, particularly in the first few years. A number of parents who had their last child in their late 30s or early 40s have told me how much more exhausting they found caring for the baby, and in particular getting up during the night, than with their earlier babies. This gets much easier as the children grow, but it is something that you have to factor in, particularly as you play a very big part in the care of the children. So be very sure of what you want, and your reasons for feeling the way you do, before having further discussions with your wife.

I have religious worries about sex

Question: Allow me to start by saying how beneficial your column is, even in these supposedly permissive times, and so many thanks.

Can you please answer my two queries: Is oral sex between consenting adults against the rules of the Catholic Church, and what is your view on it. Also is anal sex between two consenting adults against the rules of the Catholic Church and what is your view on it.

Please do your utmost to answer these questions for me. They are the cause of great distress between myself and my partner.

Mary replies: You sign your letter 'Kerry reader' and reading between the lines I find it quite poignant. Instead of enjoying a loving sexual relationship you find yourself worried by what the Catholic Church has ruled regarding how you have sex. Some people would say that you are being over-conscientious but that is your prerogative. I am not a spokesperson for the Catholic Church and so cannot answer for them. I suggest that you consult a priest to get the Church's teaching, although it is likely that if you were to ask a number of different priests you would get a number of differing answers, depending on the personality and openness of the particular priest .

So that leaves me to give you my views, firstly on oral sex. This is a subject that is often discussed in sex therapy as people have quite strong views on it. I have always maintained that there is usually more pleasure in receiving rather than giving, and so it should be a two-way thing. Hygiene is hugely important and so a quick shower or wash of the genital area is absolutely necessary before you begin. A couple should be able to tell each other what they like, and not expect the partner to know what is good and not good for them - the vocal part of oral sex is every bit as important as the physical! Many women are fearful that the man will ejaculate in her mouth while she is giving oral sex, and this is something that has to be discussed beforehand and she has a perfect right to say no if she doesn't want him to do this. A lot of men do not actually reach this level of arousal through oral sex, but it is important that the boundaries are drawn as to what is and is not allowed.

Anal sex arouses strong feelings - some people see no harm in it while others find it totally distasteful. You should never ever do something that you don't want to do while having sex, no matter what it is, and this applies very firmly to anal sex. If a couple are having anal sex then once again hygiene is of paramount importance and vaginal intercourse should never be had immediately afterwards as bacteria may be transmitted to the vagina.

I hope this helps to ease your distress - nobody should be distressed by sex, it is supposed to be a pleasurable act between two people and if they love each other then it becomes even more pleasurable.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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