DEAR AMY: I have been married to the love of my life now for almost five years. When we were dating, we both expressed a desire to have children. After we got married, we got two dogs that fulfill my needs. I no longer want children. I am content with our life. My wife still wants children. Should I agree to have children to satisfy her need for motherhood and fulfill an unspoken promise? She got married with the understanding that children would be part of the equation. I know this upsets her, and understandably so. I feel that if I agree to have children, I will be miserable and regretful the rest of my life. On the other hand, I am heartbroken that she is so upset over the matter. How can we resolve this?--Unsure in Anchorage
DEAR UNSURE: When you feel your life is perfect as it is, it is common -- and rational -- to want things to stay exactly as they are.
One reason having pets is so fulfilling is because, unlike children, they don't grow up and present mysterious and ever-changing challenges. But ask yourself: Before you got your dogs, did you know how having them would affect you? Did you know how much you would grow to love them? Nobody knows for sure how having a baby will affect them; for many women, the human biological drive to have children overrides this anxiety.
You should talk to other men about this; listen as they describe their experience of fatherhood. Watch the excellent television show "Parenthood," which portrays the ups and downs and chaotic imponderables and rewards of having children.
You and your wife also should seek professional (and/or clergy) counseling. If you do the work of trying to imagine your life with a child and still decide against it, you should be honest with her; she will then have a tough choice to make.