In a perfect world, relationships would be easy. Unfortunately, the reality of life is that relationships are hard work. It’s difficult to merge the lives of two completely individuals; it’s even harder when you throw a newborn into the mix.
Studies have shown that 40-70% of couples report feeling “stress, profound conflict, and drops in marital satisfaction” within the first few months after having a child. Learning about the issues that tend to lead to a split after baby is the first step in addressing a growing concern among couples.
15Lack of quality time
When you’re childless, it’s easy to plan spontaneous getaways, romantic dinners, and exciting adventures. When you have a child or children, it sometimes takes longer to plan a date night than it takes to go on the actual date. Before baby, spending time together was most likely your highest priority.
But with the addition of a child that devours your time, there’s usually not much left to go around. But as the foundation of your family, your relationship with your spouse has to continually be strengthened with time and attention, apart from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Try these tips to help you increase the time spent with your mate; they will give you the chance to slow down and reconnect to life before life got so crazy.
Aside from money being the root of all evil, it’s also one of the top causes of divorce in the United States. Feeling financially secure is hard enough, but adding a newborn who can cost parents an extra $12,000 a year can cause a great deal of anxiety. Aside from the worry, there’s also the struggle of adjusting from a life of unrestricted spending to a strict budget.
It can be difficult to say bye-bye to takeout and fine dining and hello to lots of leftovers. In addition, newborns require constant care and attention which can come with a hefty price tag. Whether you choose to spend a few hundred dollars a week, or whether you choose to live off of one source of income, the financial strain can often cause resentment, stress, and ultimately a break-up.
The key is to realistically discuss your financial situation and your options-decrease hours at work, look for cheaper childcare, look for ways to shave expenses-doing so will relieve some of the stress that can lead to arguments.
13Lack of sex
Just like money, sex is usually at the top of the list of reasons why couples argue. As if the lack of sleep weren’t enough, there are many other factors in the bedroom that contribute to an altered sex life. For women, it could be feeling unattractive due to the post-baby weight, soreness and fear of soreness, or feeling physically and emotionally drained.
Also, though we tend to think of our male counterparts as less emotional, men also struggle with intimacy post-baby. For example, men may be concerned about both your physical and emotional well-being after baby, which can in turn affect their sex drive and performance.
It’s important to not only understand your own needs but to focus on the needs of your spouse, finding alternative ways to build and regain intimacy.
12Lack of sleep
Like a good man, a good night’s sleep is hard to find. Even though we know we’re supposed to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, the typical American averages less than seven. Even worse, people with newborns live by the “cat nap” philosophy and basically take what they can get.
Obviously a lack of sleep can lead to a cranky mood but there are also other negative effects of sleep deprivation that can impact your romantic relationship such as decreasing your physical attractiveness, decreasing your sense of humor, and impairing your decision-making abilities. So do yourself a favor and sleep on it—it’s a step in the right direction to ensuring a healthy you and a healthy relationship.
11Newborns are stressful
A newborn can be equated to the Tasmanian Devil: cute when it’s standing still but a whirlwind of destruction when it gets going. Newborns can cause parents to experience high levels of stress because they devour both your time and energy.
Not only do babies not care about your schedule or what’s on your to-do list, but they also tend to demand your attention with the diaper changes, feedings, spit up sessions, and of course the intermittent crying for no reason at all.
While newborns are a handful for any parent, it can be especially daunting for new parents who are walking into a whole new world. Luckily, there are practical strategies that can calm even the most panicky parents.
10Honeymoon period over
Ah. The honeymoon period. The beginning stages of a relationship when everything is rainbows and butterflies. This period known as limerence has been scientifically proven to be a period of infatuation and strong sexual attraction driven by bonding hormones such as dopamine.
While it’s an amazingly beautiful experience, the sad part is that it comes to end, with the shelf life of this phase only lasting for up to two years. Once the newness of a relationship wears thin, it can feel as if you’ve fallen out of love with your partner. When a relationship is already strained, a newborn can just add fuel to the fire as you find yourself arguing about everything from your lack of sleep to someone’s lack of involvement.
The important thing to realize is that just because you’re moving into a new phase of your relationship (and your life), does not mean that your relationship is over. Spend some time reconnecting with your loved one in order to build a strong foundation for your new family.
9“Sticking Plaster” baby
Relationship counselor Zelda West-Meads cautions to never have a baby as a quick fix for a relationship that’s in turmoil. She refers to this as a “sticking plaster” baby, or a baby which acts as a Band-Aid to fix a broken relationship. Initially, the outpouring of love that is felt when a child arrives will seem like the cure-all for an ailing relationship.
However, as the newness wears off and the stressors kick in, you’ll come to realize that the problems that were evident before (trust, commitment, finances, sex, etc.) still remain, and are sometimes even made worse. Before making the choice to bring a child into an unstable environment, try reaching out for help from a professional to tackle the issues instead of trying to cover them.
8Different family values
Time outs or spankings? Religious or spiritual? Hilary or Trump? While your values may seem obvious to both you and your mate, sometimes the question of how you will raise your child may not be so clear.
Often, people assume that they know their spouses stance on certain issues but when it isn’t openly discussed, it leaves the door open for misgivings and misunderstandings. When your values seem like a gulf that’s too wide to reconcile, it can lead to stress and the eventual downfall of your relationship.
To avoid this, be sure to discuss your values and how you want to live your family life to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.
Resentment is the act of repeatedly replaying events where you feel as if you’ve been treated unfairly. We tend to allow these experiences to silently simmer within us until we explode in a fit of anger.
The birth of a baby can cause resentment to fester: unfulfilled dreams, discrepancies in pay, one person pulling their weight more than the other. While there are many causes of bitterness and anger, there are also many ways to help alleviate some of those feelings before they push you over the borderline.
Postpartum depression is a more intense and longer lasting version of the “baby blues.” It is characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt, fear, overwhelming stress, and an inability to bond with your baby. While postpartum depression is a difficult condition for a new mother to deal with, it also has negative effects on the spouse involved.
Often times, women will hide their depression because they’re expected to feel happy when they’re with their child; at the same time, they expect for their husbands to know how to support them during this difficult time.
This can cause conflict in a relationship because the women will often feel disappointment or resentment, while partners can face confusion and guilt. If you’re suffering with any of these symptoms, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about how to treat your condition.
After my sister gave birth to her second child last year, she discussed her feeling of paranoia and fear surrounding her baby. She always feared for her safety such as getting into a car accident, or choking while feeding. While postpartum depression is being openly discussed more and more, few people are aware of a similar condition which can cause emotional strife: postpartum anxiety.
Postpartum anxiety is characterized by constant worry, fear, and even physical panic attacks. Like depression, postpartum anxiety can cause confusion and dissatisfaction in, which causes one spouse (or both) to pull away. Recognizing and treating your postpartum anxiety is the first step in working towards keeping your relationship on track.
4Fell out of love
Love is extremely fragile. Just as it is easy to slip into a romantic relationship, it is just as easy to fall out of one, often times without even being aware of your changing feelings.
Many women report that they fall out of love after having a child because they now have someone else to love: someone who needs them, someone who genuinely loves them, and someone who doesn’t have any other priorities. This points to bigger issues within the relationship, and the addition of a baby just acts as a distraction.
There are ways to determine if you’ve lost that loving feeling, as well as ways to address the issue and move forward (whether you choose to move forward alone or with your mate).
3Dissatisfied with parenting life
Parenthood is supposed to be a wonderful experience. But what happens when you’re not happy about being a parent? If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone. According to the Washington Post, 30% of new parents stayed at the same level of happiness, while 37% experienced a “one-unit” drop in happiness on a scale of 1-10.
The study shows that having children hurts people’s happiness more than divorce or unemployment. This can be due to health problems, pregnancy complications or just the unbelievable amount of stress associated with caring for a newborn. Being honest about your feelings and leaning on your mate for support and understanding can assist in easing tensions in your household.
2Not ready to settle down
Marriage and relationships are not for everyone. Unfortunately, it takes the birth of a child for some people to realize that. Men and women tend to operate on different time frames when it comes to relationships.
While women tend to know early on that they want to spend eternity with their mate, men are typically slower to get the memo. During this time (and sometimes amidst external pressures) men can make decisions for which they’re not really prepared such as having a child.
If this is the case, it is important to openly discuss your feelings with your spouse to determine if it is just nerves or fear, or if the relationship is truly coming to an end.
Rafiki, the wise old baboon from the Lion King, taught me one of my favorite sayings of all time, “change is good.” Though uncomfortable, change is necessary in order to grow and to move forward in life. Having a child brings about many changes but often the positive is overshadowed by the negative.
Negative feelings associated with change can have a major effect on relationships because the adjustments no longer affect just one person. When worlds overlap, people have to learn to adjust to situations together in order to avoid diverging onto different paths.
There are many ways to deal with the changes presented with the new addition to the family. The first step is to open up and discuss your feelings with your spouse.
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