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Marriage Problems After Baby and How to Solve Them

Everyone fully expects to change diapers and rock a baby when crying, but no one really talks about the strain and impact a new baby can have on a marriage.

Anticipating and having children is an exciting and demanding time, bringing joy and significant changes to the newly minted parents’ lives.

Many couples plan parenthood for years, read books, and attend seminars. But no matter how detailed their plans are, child-rearing almost always tests the romantic relationship.

On the one hand, the presence of a third person expands a family and makes it more stable. However, it also changes romantic partners’ functions, rights, and obligations, often alienating them from each other due to enormous child-related responsibilities.

Transitioning into parenthood will be less tricky if you thoroughly prepare for the upcoming challenges. This article will help you avoid potential problems by identifying them and suggesting valuable tips to overcome them.

Impact of having a child on couple dynamics

A meta-analysis of couples’ interaction in the first two years postpartum found that many parents struggle to maintain the same level of marriage satisfaction as before a child. 

Everyone, without exception, faces conflicts related to child care and upbringing, but not all couples overcome this crisis stage. As statistical research suggests, about 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. 

Of course, they break up not because of solely having a child. Parenthood in itself brings much joy by fulfilling social and reproductive roles. Most conflicts arise due to increased child-related work and financial, communicational, and intimate problems.

The experience of having a child is different for mothers and fathers due to biological and societal factors. Women are more impacted by physiological changes, labor, and even PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders).

These factors can create tension between the parents since fathers can’t fully understand what the mothers go through.

Add inequity in chores and childcare, sleep deprivation, and less sex, and you’ll get a recipe for marital dissatisfaction. Yet, wise partners understand that the difficulties will pass with the child growing up and patiently deal with all issues coming their way. 

Related: Why the Invisible Load of Motherhood is Breaking You

You can and should be ready for the parenting challenges and know how to deal with them. And that’s what we’re going to discuss right now.

The marriage issues commonly faced after a baby

Below are five significant challenges all partners face during the adjustment period. If left unaddressed, all of them can cause deterioration in the relationships.

  1. Unequal division of childcare and household responsibilities.
  2. Less time for one-on-one communication.
  3. Financial challenges related to childcare costs.
  4. Decrease in social activities and leisure time.
  5. Reduced intimacy and sexual activity.

Let’s look at each aspect closer and find the best action to resolve the potentially conflicting situation.

1. Unequal division of childcare and household responsibilities

The new roles of the mother and father of an infant impose a vast amount of physical and material responsibilities. Before having a baby, the couple probably already had a lot of chores like laundry, cleaning, dishes, etc. However, these tasks grow exponentially when a baby joins the family. 

More and more families choose an egalitarian approach to housework these days. A Pew Research study found that the number of hours men spend running errands and doing chores around the house doubled since 1965. However, the bulk of duties still lies on women.

Adjusting and mastering a new life schedule is challenging for many couples. It is tougher for women since they might breastfeed about eight to twelve times every 24 hours. With the baby’s erratic sleep (1-2 hours at a time), mothers often tend to their child days and nights on end. 

On top of that, they’re also expected to cook, clean, and make decisions about virtually everything. It’s no wonder the resentment accumulates quickly, threatening the family’s unity.

Related: Feeling Resentment Towards Your Partner After Birth? Here’s Why

What you can do

Partners should understand that their life before the child will not be the same, at least any time soon. So instead of wasting energy returning everything as it was, parents must adapt to a new reality involving a new division of responsibilities. 

You can make a detailed list of duties for the week and each day and distribute them equally. Try switching days and roles so that each of you understands the complexity of your partner’s tasks.

Never expect the other person to know what they must do around the house because you’ll always be disappointed. Instead, calmly tell your partner what you want them to do, and remember to thank them. You’ll see what wonders such an approach will achieve.

Books like Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) can be an excellent guide for navigating household duties and invisible maternal load.

Communication is not the same

A new adorable family member requires so much attention from both parents that they usually don’t have time for each other. They only discuss a child’s health, needs, wants, etc. And there’s hardly ever a time for saying kind and tender words to each other. 

Read next: A Guide on Effective Couple-Based Communication After Baby

When communication decreases or becomes dull, the relationship loses quality, your emotional bond weakens, and you might even forget about romantic feelings for each other.

What you can do

Schedule time for dates and enjoyable things together. When a baby is about a few months old, you can leave them with grandparents for an hour or two once or twice a week. Watch a movie, stroll in the park, or cuddle at home while talking about all sorts of things (but not baby stuff, choose another time for that). 

A few hours together benefits your relationship and relieves your mind from constant worries and duties.

Increased financial burden

Raising a baby is financially challenging nowadays. Couples typically struggle with housing costs, mortgages, utility bills, insurance, and taxes. But it is manageable for most of them as long as both partners work and bring home income.

But what happens when one parent is laid-off work while raising a child?

Family income decreases while living costs rise due to economic processes and never-ending inflation. Housing alone takes about 32% of income, 27% goes to buying food, and 12% to 29% is childcare (the lower threshold is $5,436 annually), according to estimates for the year 2022

See Also

What you can do

Discuss and create a budget for raising your child together with your partner. You’ll be one step ahead if you put some money away before the baby is born. You can open a savings account and use it only for child-related expenses.

Also, think about finding ways to cut down on some costs to save for the necessities. For instance, restaurant meals and take-outs are usually pricier than home-cooked food.

Consider using second-hand clothing and toys from when your family member or friends had children. Babies grow so fast that a $30 body suit will be too small in a month, and you need more than one of those clothing items. And your baby probably doesn’t need that many toys. Thus, be smart with your expenses.

Decreased social activity

Not having enough social contacts and time for yourself also affects the relationship.

First, spouses may become overly dependent on each other for emotional support and companionship. Feelings of resentment can also arise when your partner gets to go into the “real world” and have “adult conversations” while you feel stuck at home with the baby.

Other adverse effects of social isolation are mental fatigue, depression, low self-esteem, and emotional burnout. 

What you can do

Each partner must spend time solo away from the other partner and the baby. However, don’t expect it to be more than one or a few hours. Pick one enjoyable activity or hobby and put it on your schedule. It will help you stay sane and recharge your batteries.

Also, don’t forget that the other parent needs the same opportunity for relaxation doing what they like.

Sex life becomes virtually non-existent

Sex is an essential aspect of intimacy and emotional bonds. Unfortunately, your sex life becomes less of a priority after having a baby. The primary factors contributing to this problem are chronic fatigue due to child-rearing responsibilities and women’s decreased libido (sex drive).

Plus, they might feel vaginal pain due to hormonal changes.

Read next: Five Ways Intimacy After Baby Completely Changes

What you can do

Pinpoint the underlying problem interfering with the regular frequency of sex life. If it’s a lack of time, arrange your schedule and make time for intimate dates. If it’s fatigue, re-distribute domestic chores – maybe someone does more work than the other. 

As for physiological and psychological issues, it’s better to see a professional (gynecologist or sex therapist). Overall, sexual functions “should” restore after four-six weeks after having a baby, but it can take much longer than that (especially if breastfeeding).

Final thoughts on marriage issues after baby

Having a baby is a beautiful experience, but it can also bring difficulties to your marriage. Hardly anyone understands the scale of these challenges until they face them in real life.

If spouses work together to solve them, their relationship will eventually follow its natural course and become even stronger.

More resources on relationships after a baby

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