Infertility Struggle: Childless Doesn’t Mean Hopeless

Surviving Marriage with Infertility

Whenever people ask me how can you build a strong marriage without children, I chuckle to myself, wondering how people build a strong marriage with children.

I imagine my life with children; less sleep, more responsibility, less money, more stress. And I wonder how people keep a marriage strong on top of all that.

But then I remember all the stress that comes with infertility. I remember all the times my husband and I were so hopeful that we would bring a child into our family only to have our dreams dashed time and again.

I remember all my friends whose marriages fell apart after failed fertility treatments. And I remember so many people believing and telling me or my husband that a woman’s, a man’s, and a marriage’s role in this life is to have children.

So how can people who can’t or don’t have children maintain a strong bond without kids in marital life? This is what I have found to be true:

Remember the real purpose of life and marriage

The first thing that a couple MUST remember is that our purpose in life is not to have children; this is too far from reality. Our purpose in life is to worship Allah.

{And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.} (Qur’an 51:56)

And of course, having and raising children, with the right intentions can be one way of doing just that. But there are so many ways to fulfill our purpose in this life without having children.

There have been many pious people, like Lady Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) and Jesus (peace be upon him), who never had children and still served their purpose in life phenomenally well.

Allah specifically warns us against this kind of approach to life:

{O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that – then those are the losers.} (Qur’an 63:9)

The first thing my husband and I remind ourselves of when we get sad about not hearing the pitter patter of little feet running through the house is our true purpose of life. This helps both of us refocus on what really matters. And this refocusing is not just helpful in dealing with infertility, but in all of life’s let-downs.

Have mutual goals, projects, aspirations

After the intense passion of the honeymoon phase is gone, having children gives a husband and a wife a mutual goal and reason to work together. But having children is not the only thing that can bring a couple together.

The goal of any marriage should be helping each other gain the pleasure of Allah and attaining Jannah together. But couples can have worldly goals that feed into this ultimate goal.

Childless couples can start saving money to buy a house without interest, or even work together to plan and build their own home. They can support each other as they work toward getting advanced degrees or work to further develop their careers.

They can start or join a charity for a cause in which they both believe. They can even help each other learn a new language or a skill. The options are endless.

The important thing to me and my husband has been to build a sense of family in our marriage. This is a little harder to do without children, but not impossible.

Our goal orientation in our marriage has helped to create a strong bond just like that of raising children. We call ourselves a team and we act as one.

Do not point fingers. It is Allah’s will

The next thing to focus on is to steer clear of the blame game. It is easy for spouses to start blaming one another when infertility rears its ugly head.

But this kind of blaming is really just a sign that a couple has forgotten where children truly come from. Allah tells us in the Quran:

{And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.} (Qur’an 16:72)

Our sustenance, our spouses, our children, even our own lives are all from Allah. Blaming someone for not having children is like blaming someone for dying. It is out of our control. Allah gives life and causes death. If we cannot have children, it is Allah’s will alone and no one’s fault.

When blame replaces belief in Allah’s will, spouses become regretful and resentful. And this toxicity is the opposite of how Allah tells us to live together:

{And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.} (Qur’an 30:21)

Looking to the stories of Adam (peace be upon him) who had no mother or father; Mary who bore Jesus (peace be upon him) while still a virgin; and Abraham (peace be upon him) and Sarah who conceived very late in life, has helped remind me and my husband that Allah has a plan for us and for our offspring, whether we have children in this life or pray for perfect children in Jannah.

Help each other to be thankful

No matter how much we have, we human beings always have the capacity to make ourselves miserable over what we don’t have. But we can also make a choice to be satisfied with what Allah has given us.

We can look at couples with tons of perfect children and get stuck in thinking about what we want. Or we can think of all other blessings that Allah gave us. It is about perspective and gratitude.

Without children, my husband and I have come to really enjoy our marriage. We have become great friends, teammates, and a family. We have fun together and we try to protect each other.

We are striving for the same goal and are a constant reminder to each other. We thank Allah for all that we have and sometimes we forget that we “should” be sad that we don’t have children.

Inability to have children does not have to be a death sentence to a marriage. The life of this world will always be riddled with tests, whether those tests are through our children or through not having children at all.

All we can do is use the ways in which Allah tests us to become closer to Him. All we can do is ask Allah to make our heart contented and even joyful with what He has chosen for us.

First published: November 2015

About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.