How to Prevent a Break-up After Baby
Regardless of whether its mum and dad, dad and dad, or mum and mum, having two parents who stay together is still one of the biggest contributors to growing healthy resilient children.
So why do nearly a third of all relationships fail within the first year of having baby, and how can parents give themselves the best chance of surviving the first year?
Why relationships fail in the first year
There are many complex and overlapping reasons why relationships struggle in the first year of having kids. The obvious ones are increased stress, lack of sleep, changing routines, and the overwhelming shock to the family system that is a new baby.
The less obvious ones are the inequitable workload, maternal gatekeeping, changing roles and identity, less intimacy, and insufficient communication, and post-partum depression in women and men.
With all of this going on, plus much more, it’s amazing that any couple survives the first year at all!
Improving the odds of surviving the first year (and all the years to come)
If you're lucky enough to be thinking about these things ‘before’ baby arrives, then there are things you can do to increase the overall resilience of your relationship. If it's too late for that, and the storm has arrived, then the following tips could give you a better shot of making it as a couple.
Communication is a good place to start. Talk through the pressures you are facing and listen to your partner. It’s not rocket science, but it will build closeness and resilience, and can easily be the difference between a relationship that survives, and one that doesn’t.
Communication in good times is easy. Communication in bad times can feel almost impossible. Take advantage of the good times to get in some practice. If you are in a habit of communicating all ready, it is much easier to reach out for help, and meet each others needs, in the midst of sleep deprivation and general desperation.
Expect everything to change (including your partner)
For most people, the arrival of baby no. 1 is a time of radical lifestyle and identity change. Don’t expect that you and your partner will stay the same, because you won’t.
Becoming a parent will wake up all kinds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but you won’t have time to process any of these, because you're knee deep in diapers.
You won’t have much time for your old friends and old habits either. You’ll be forming new routines and probably feeling terribly alone and overwhelmed in the process.
It’s very hard to prepare for this level of change, but knowing it is going to happen no matter what, makes adjusting to the ‘new normal’ that much easier.
Remember that it won’t last for ever
I always feel really sad when I hear about people who have broken up in the first year. I remember how hard things were for me and my partner back then, and how far we’ve come since then.
People can tell you that it won’t last forever, but with the first baby, it truly feels like things will never be ‘normal’ again. Throw post-partum depression in the mix, and you will feel desperate.
But it does end, and always sooner than you think. The second year is way easier than the first (unless you have another baby straight off the bat!), and it keeps on getting easier from there (until they become teenagers apparently).
Trust that your partner is doing their best
It’s easy to feel like you're giving everything you’ve got, and you're not getting enough from your partner. The trouble is, both parties often feel like this... at the same time!
While it could be true that one partner isn’t pulling his or her weight, in the vast majority of cases both parties are giving it their all. Raising a child takes a village, but more often than not two (or even one) people are going it alone.
Trust that your partner is giving it their all, because they most probably are.
Don't beat yourself if it doesn't work out
Not every relationship was meant to be, and thousands of healthy happy kids are being raised by two parents who live separately.
Don't rush into separating in the first year if you can help it, because things will almost definitely get easier moving forward. But don't beat yourself up either if that's the path you've chosen. There are many ways to raise a family, not just one.
If you and your partner are struggling, check out family support services near you, and get a little help to survive the first year.
Brolley, B. (2019). The real reason couples break up after having a baby. Retrieved from https://www.thelist.com/145553/the-real-reason-why-couples-break-up-after-having-a-baby/
Rossiter, E. (2019). A fifth of parents break-up in the year after having a baby. Retrieved from https://www.goodto.com/wellbeing/relationships/relationship-news/break-up-after-baby-513710
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