If there’s one thing that constantly surprises me it’s that we don’t really talk about how fucked up a relationship can get after a baby.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always permanent and is hopefully just a temporary downturn but it happens to so many couples though that I really can’t understand why we aren’t more open about it.
I recently asked a group of new mums if their relationships had been affected by the arrival of their baby. The yes was unanimous (and instant). I asked if it had been affected negatively. Again, it was an unanimous yes.
Then I asked if they would have believed it would be this way before the baby came along.
Every one of them said that they wouldn’t have believed how strained their relationship could become or that it would happen to them. Most of them felt that relationship problems after a baby were something that happened to other couples. Couples who already had issues. Couples who weren’t strong enough to make it.
In short, couples not like them.
And therein lies the problem.
No expecting couple thinks that it will happen to them. They think that they will cope fine. That they will work as a team. Split the load and make sure the other one is supported. Everything will be equal. They’ll be tired but not so tired that they want to punch each other over something tiny. Sex will stop for a few weeks then resume as passionately as it was before. They’ll have a few disagreements but will resolve them quickly and happily.
I’ll give you a second to stop laughing.
And if they do find that life with a baby isn’t so rosy, they probably aren’t really used to handling conflict or dealing with serious issues. Usually, most relationships go along without any major problems (hence people feel that having a baby together is a wonderful idea that can only add to their happiness as a couple). Which means that a baby is the first time that there can be serious disagreements, resentment or unhappiness. And if we don’t know how to deal with this constructively then there’s a chance that things will implode quite spectacularly!
So what do we do about it?
The first thing is to talk about it. Let’s be more honest about how hard relationships can be after a baby so that when it happens to someone else they don’t feel like they are in the minority. Ask new mums or dad’s how things are in their relationships. If they are struggling reassure them that it’s perfectly normal. Tell your story first if necessary to show them that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Then it’s important that we help couples know how to fix it (read about how to baby proof your relationship here). Whilst it’s common for relationships to flounder in the early days of a baby, it is by no means inevitable that problems aren’t resolvable.
The issues couples come across are faced by pretty much every couple that has a baby. So most of us will know some tips and tricks to deal with them. Share them (but in a loving way not an ‘I know more than you do because I’m a smug bitch’ kind of way).
If you’re ‘that couple’ that is struggling then don’t worry. You’re not alone and you’re not doomed to be miserable forever. There is always hope for a difficult relationship if both parties want to put the work in. Make time to talk to each other about how you are feeling and really be honest about how things are. Work together to find the solutions that work for you both and be supportive of each other.
Your relationship is the reason that you have a baby in the first place so make sure it’s a priority and put the effort into making it great again.
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