After months of anticipation, the birth of a baby is such a joyful event for both mom and dad. In the years that will follow, however, co-raising a child can put a strain on the partnership. Raising a child, after all, requires resources, time, effort and commitment. Incidentally, so do relationships.
For some couples, the relationship gets put aside due to the added responsibility. Sometimes it simply gets ignored and doesn’t get the kind of attention it needs to thrive. In other cases, the responsibilities fuel conflict. This is especially if the relationship was tumultuous and tension-filled to begin with.
In fact, some studies on happiness and marriage have found that after the birth of a child, overall satisfaction with the relationship declines for most couples. This is especially pronounced after the birth of the first child, fairly understandable since this is usually a new experience for one or both parents.
But just because the relationship may take a nosedive after the baby arrives doesn’t mean that it is doomed. Many couples manage to learn from the experience, recovering their relationship and go on to be partners for life. Or until some other bigger stressor finally drives them apart.
In any case, it might be handy to know some of the signs that the relationship is in danger. If the issues behind these signs go unaddressed, chances are that the dynamic duo is going to split some time soon. But if both parties are willing to sit down and talk about them, well, there just might be hope.
15 Jealous Of The Baby
Speaking of resentment, one common thing that many don’t like to admit when the baby comes is a sense of jealousy. It will be natural that one or both of the partners will be spending extended periods of time with the baby. The baby does need plenty of care, after all. However, this can result in one partner or the other just feeling that they’re being ignored or shut out of the relationship.
Fathers, in particular, are prone to feeling this especially since they’re on the “outside” during the pregnancy when the mom is carrying the baby inside of her and then during breastfeeding when the bond between mom and child is at its closest. If left unaddressed, this can lead to resentment and, perhaps, the partner spending less time on the relationship as a result. Fortunately, however, there is an easy fix for this. Simply looking for ways to getting him involved in child care should make everyone feel better.
14 Different Priorities
It’s extremely important to discuss priorities in any relationship. After all, it’s important that the couple both work hard to ensure that their relationship stays together and that the little one is raised well. In some cases, however, one partner might be over-fixated with career or pleasing certain friends or living a certain lifestyle or, in the case of the celebrities out there, fame. Of course, having interests and goals other than baby and the relationship is perfectly fine. It’s healthy, even. But when pursuing these interests and goals make for a huge sacrifice in time and resources spent on the family, things can go stale really quickly.
This doesn’t only apply to the relationship of the couple. Having other priorities can also mean an inadequate relationship with the little one. Even when it comes to babies, relationships require a lot of time and getting to know each other, and it’s just not pleasant to realize that you don’t know your own child.
13 Avoiding Problems
Life coaches, inspirational blogs and even random reposts by friends on Facebook all often ask us to “be positive.” While this is great advice that makes for a better, happier world, in some cases people misinterpret this as “avoid the negative.” But the truth is that negative things are inevitable. There might be a misunderstanding about date night, or a conflict over who washes the dishes after an exhausting Monday with a colicky baby. While undoubtedly unpleasant, it’s important to talk about these problems and discuss how to make things better in the future.
Dismissing these as “not a problem” and “we don’t need to talk about it” may avoid the issue, but it’s going to put a strain on the relationship in the long run. Contrary to what most people believe, healthy couples do fight. It’s just they fight in a way that improves the relationship, not one that ruins it.
12 Too Much Fighting
If the new parents are having arguments for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it may be a sign that the relationship is going downhill. While, as we’ve discussed before, the occasional conflict is a sign of a healthy relationship, arguing about every single thing from the way he shuts the door to how she keeps on forgetting the car keys is no longer cool. Granted, many couples do have harmless little “play” fights, which can be fine when done with humor and restraint. But when one or both parties become condescending and even insulting, resentment and bitterness can ensue.
Things that indicate that the fight is going out of hand include not giving the partner a chance to speak, resorting to low blows, and being inconsiderate about the partner’s feelings. This sort of tension can build up when the new responsibilities of having a baby can overwhelm both parents so it’s probably best for a couple to learn how to fight productively before having a baby.
11 No Me Time
Just as important as dedicating time to the baby and to the relationship is spending time for the self. One common mistake that many new parents make is to ignore their own needs and interests for the sake of the family. Sure, some sacrifices will have to be made. But that doesn’t mean that a bit of time can’t be freed up to read a favorite book, or take a solitary nature walk, or even just to take a long nap.
Sacrifices may feel great at first. After all, everyone likes to brag that they’re spending so much time on the family and that they love them so much that they’ve given up everything for them. But the hard truth is that this can make one feel resentful on the long term, something which can definitely put a strain on the relationship. Remember, it’s healthy to be selfish occasionally.
10 No Sense Of Humor
So how can couples deal with all the minor annoyances that may inevitably surface during the first year after the baby? After all, it’s not productive to deny them, and it’s certainly not doing anyone any favors to fight about every single thing. This is where humor comes in. Humor can be a great way to allow the other to lower down their defenses, to step back and laugh at their own flaws. For instance, instead of being overly confrontational when the partner forgets to do the laundry, saying something like “I guess I’ll have to attend the meeting tomorrow with BO so bad everyone won’t have to listen to my presentation” might diffuse the tension.
It’s not just in fights that humor can save the relationship. Just spending half an hour or so together, talking about things and laughing together is a simple but excellent bonding time that can make any pair happier with their partnership.
Passive-aggressiveness is just another way of avoiding a problem, only it’s coupled with hostile behavior. This includes procrastinating from a chore that is perceived as an unfair division of responsibility. Or, in modern times, posting vague but obviously exasperated wall posts on Facebook or Twitter.
Often, this is done in hopes that the partner will realize what he or she is doing wrong, which often doesn’t happen and can lead to resentment that he or she just doesn’t “get” it. Well, guess what? There’s a better way to do this and it’s called talking to each other. It gets the point across much better, and it’s more likely to result in a solution. Of course, the occasional passive-aggressive act may be forgivable, although when it’s unearthed it’s probably better to confront each other in an “I wish you had told me” sort of conversation. But when passive-aggression is often used as the mode of expression of choice with every conflict? There will be problems.
8 No Chore Talk
One of the reasons why couples often break up in the years following the baby’s birth is an “unfair” division of chores. Sometimes, this is a legitimate concern. After all, doing all the household chores on top of being the baby’s primary caregiver can be overwhelming for one parent. But the breadwinner may feel entitled not to help out since he or she is bringing home the bacon. Well, doing the dishes at dinner time and getting up to change the baby’s diaper in the middle of the night may just save the relationship.
It’s important to know, however, that there is a tendency to perceive the self as putting in more work than the other even when they’re fairly equal. In some couples, the feeling is even mutual. Ultimately, it’s best to communicate with each other regarding responsibilities and come up with a chore plan that both can agree upon.
7 No Long-term Commitment
For some, long-term commitment can be represented by getting married or, if the baby happens before that, a plan to get married. Of course, not all couples feel that marriage is right for them and marriage vows may not be an indicator of an actual commitment to those vows. Perhaps the best indicator of long-term commitment, therefore, is simply having plans together, perhaps even working on shared projects towards common goals. Naturally, raising a child well should be one of those common goals.
After all, it’s tough to be in a relationship that doesn’t have any direction, where there’s no reassurance that one or the other will stick on through thick and thin. That’s not to say that every detail has to be meticulously planned. But it’s far better if both parents make concrete commitments, and stick to them, to pour time and resources into the things that they share.
6 Forgetting Date Night
Yes, looking after a child takes time, so does making a living, and so does doing household chores. But none of this is an excuse to forget to put time into the relationship. After all, practically all couples are still together because they’ve invested time in getting to know each other, and to enjoying pleasurable moments together. But just because the couple has a baby doesn’t mean there’s an excuse to let dates go down the drain.
The relationship still needs time and togetherness, regardless of whether there is a baby or not. Granted, there may not be as much time as there used to be for this. Which is why it’s best to schedule weekly date nights so that the couple gets to clear out their schedules in advance to spend some quality time together. Ask a family member or trusted friend to look after the baby. Get a babysitter if need be. Date night can make all the difference. It can remind you why you are together to begin with.
5 Lack Of Novelty
One of the common reasons why relationships break down is because one or both of the partners may get bored. With a baby, after all, there is a need to settle into a fixed routine of work, feeding the baby, changing the diapers, and so on. Because of this, the couple may no longer do things that are new or fun. Stability is important. It can keep couples together because it makes them secure with each other. However, it’s just as important to sprinkle stability with flecks of excitement so that the couple remains motivated to stick around for more.
This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone should go skydiving tomorrow, or engage in BDSM right away. A surprise date one week or, perhaps, a random little gift can lift the mood when it’s needed. Trying a new sex position or making love somewhere that’s not usual can also spice things up.
4 An Absence Of Touch
Even when all things seem fine, a couple that doesn’t touch each other often may not last long. Of course, those who have to stay apart for long periods of time due to work or other factors may have to settle for a digital touch through calls and conversations. But the idea is still the same: there has to be a sense of closeness and togetherness between the pair.
Physical touch works best, even when it’s non-sexual. Skin-to-skin contact between partners can actually stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is essential in breastfeeding and, as it happens, pair bonding. Holding hands in public. A playful slap on the knee. Slipping an arm into the partner’s arm randomly during a conversation. A fond kiss on the forehead. These things may seem trivial, but they do matter. And if all that touching leads to other things, all the better for the couple.
3 No Trust
If one partner can’t trust the other not to engage in a random hookup on a single night out with friends, having a baby isn’t going to help at all. This can go two ways. In some cases, one partner, sometimes even both, is actually untrustworthy and doesn’t value the relationship enough not to commit to it. The exception is, of course, if it’s an open relationship, which both parties have to wholeheartedly agree to.
On the flip side, some partners tend to be over jealous, sometimes even restricting the other’s time with hobbies and work or even with family and friends. Either case is really, really bad for a relationship. Trust is, far more than love, the foundation of a good relationship. It allows the couple to be open to each other and even to allow each other to live their own lives knowing that they’ll always come back at the end of the day. Not even a baby can save a relationship that lacks trust.
2 Disapproval From Family And Friends
Sure, there may be an overly critical mother-in-law. Or the family might have a bias against someone of a different race or religion or socioeconomic status. That can certainly put a strain on the relationship at times, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Plus, it’s a bad idea to rely on someone else’s opinion for one’s own happiness.
However, when it comes to family and friends, there are a few things that a couple will need to watch out for. First of all, this may be a case, such as the one described above, where one partner limits the other’s time with family and friends. Granted, this can be reasonable as raising a child does mean more time has to be spent with the nuclear family. But altogether keeping the partner from communicating with them? Not cool. In addition, family and friends can often provide much-needed support to the new parents. A lack of this support can make for a dangerous lack of social support systems, something that good relationships must have.
1 No Communication
Perhaps the piece of advice that encompasses pretty much everything in this list is this: communicate with each other. A distinct absence of communication can result in problems that can strain the relationship, or complicate any existing ones. Another thing that could complicate things entirely is when one person takes over every conversation and doesn’t give the other any chance at all to voice their opinion. Communication is a two-way street. It involves telling each other about what they like, what they don’t, what they need and what they want. It involves listening to each other’s concerns, and then responding in a way that is supportive and accepting.
Healthy communication ensures that any fights that occur are resolved and don’t spiral into endless arguments or passive-aggression. It ensures that chores are done or if someone forgets, action is taken straight away without the need for blaming. But healthy communication is tougher than it looks. It requires practice and patience but, ultimately, it will ensure that the relationship survives, even after the baby is born.