Your Relationship & A New Baby
Few events have the potential to bring more joy into a household than the birth of a child. Just looking into the face of their new baby can give a person true happiness that is hard to eclipse. However, a new baby can also have a great impact on the relationship between the parents. Some of these effects can be positive, and some of the effects can be negative.
Making the change from being a couple to being parents doesn’t always come easily and research shows that a decline in relationship satisfaction is quite common during the first year of a new child’s life (1). The advent of a new baby coming into your family will certainly bring about several changes to your life and your relationship. In fact, your relationship can be affected from your first decision to have a baby. Once the child is born, it can be tricky to find time for yourselves and each other, your sex life can stall, you will have a whole range of new commitments, and you’ll need to agree on how to bring up the children.
How the birth of a child affects the individual family will depend on the family itself and their strategies for coping with the changes brought on by the baby. Let’s examine a few of the effects that a new baby can have on the relationship between partners:
COMMON PROBLEMS FOR NEW FATHERS
New fathers may not be prepared for the fact that a new baby will consume much of the time of their spouse. Especially for first time fathers, it may be a new experience to have their spouse’s attention and affections directed elsewhere. On some occasions, a new mother can become so focused on caring for her new child that the father can feel left out of this new bond, which can impact his emotional wellbeing and sense of identity. Men who have been with their partner for quite some time without children can feel quite shaken by this sudden loss of closeness and intimacy with their partner. Preparing for this huge change in the relationship is the best way to avoid bigger issues.
COMMON PROBLEMS FOR NEW MOTHERS
Many women find that they feel extremely isolated after childbirth, and the total dedication to the infant’s schedule can seem overwhelming for some mothers. A new baby demands care and attention almost 24 hours a day, every day, and most of this responsibility falls on the mother, particularly in the first months of a child’s life. Even if the father is very supportive, the burdens placed on a mother are usually greater (2). This includes the physical impact on a woman’s body, the day-to-day care and feeding of the new child, and the impacts on a woman’s social life and career. Women who had an active career or social life before childbirth often feel cut adrift from their networks when they are at home caring for their new baby. Many women feel that they are losing contacts at work and with friends after a child is born and in some cases this isolation may lead to resentment, or even depression.
FAMILY RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS
Adding a new person to your family and home will also have an impact on the relationships of everyone who already lives there, as well as on your extended families. Certain members can end up feeling “left out” of the new dynamic or have trouble coping with their new roles and responsibilities. Sometimes a relative’s history or past experiences with family change can cause them difficulty in accepting the new situation. A shift in focus towards a new baby can cause resentment or anger in those family members who feel that their position in the structure has altered.
THE EFFECTS ON YOUR SEX LIFE
It is essential to understand that childbirth will have a major effect on a couple’s sex life. A common rule-of-thumb statistic is that a couple’s frequency of intercourse will halve during pregnancy and halve again after childbirth – at least for the first year or so. Apart from the obvious fact that a woman’s body will need to heal and recover after giving birth, women usually suffer from a loss of libido due to the hormonal changes which normally occur after childbirth.
Though this may not be true for all couples, it is an indicator that most couples are at risk of losing their sexual routine during pregnancy and childbirth. Also, caring for a new baby is time consuming and demanding, and tiredness is common. Getting up during the night, frequent feeding and keeping the household ticking along, may mean that many women and men find they are just too tired for sex.
Dads may be able to get a bit more sleep than mothers do during the early weeks of caring for a new baby, but when it comes to overall feelings of exhaustion, most parents are pretty much on par. That’s one of the key reasons why sex falls off the radar screen for many parents of newborns: no one can stay awake long enough to get the deed done.
A new baby can put a financial strain on some relationships, as budgeting becomes necessary to dedicate a part of the couples’ incomes to provide for the needs of the new baby. Again, this can be a shock to the new parents. If you are used to buying expensive clothes, eat out a lot or go on frequent holidays, you may need to out some non-essential expenditures on hold for a while in order to start investing in your baby’s needs. In addition to the likely loss of income of at least one of the partners in the relationship, it costs a lot of money to support a child. From the initial costs of setting up a baby’s room, right through to the daily needs: diapers, clothes, formula, doctors’ visits and other expenses can quickly add up to a significant part of the family budget. Unfortunately, financial issues therefore often cause a strain on many relationships, as parents sometimes have to go without the little (or large) luxuries they used to take for granted.
TIME AND SLEEP
Another way in which a new baby can affect your life is by impacting on the amount of personal time you have for doing the things that you need to do for yourself – including sleep! It can be a harsh reality check when you are waiting for your baby to go to sleep so that you can do things you used to do without thinking, like showering or going to the toilet. Sleep deprivation is a reality for many new parents and can really fan the flames of resentment when tensions are already a part of the picture. Many new parents find it difficult to be objective about their relationship and empathetic to their partner’s needs under the circumstances.
For all the reasons listed above, many couples find themselves arguing more than usual after having a baby and are sometimes unable to resolve these conflicts on their own. If you feel that having a baby has damaged your relationship it is important to get help before you and your partner feel like the relationship is beyond repair. A trained relationship counsellor will enable you to approach your problems without falling into a cycle of argument.
Marriage Counselling, Relationship or Couple Counselling works to identify the issues and to assist you in bringing your needs to your partner in a clear and productive manner. The counsellor or therapist may assist you and your partner with practical solutions and strategies to meet the new demands you face, and to importantly help you and your partner work through the emotional challenges and opportunities for personal growth that new parenthood brings.
We welcome your enquiry.
ASSOCIATED RELATIONSHIP & MARRIAGE COUNSELLORS SYDNEY
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Marriage Counselling across Sydney at:
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Lawrence, E., Rothman, A. D., Cobb, R. J., Rothman, M. T., & Bradbury, T. N. (2008). Marital satisfaction across the transition to parenthood. Journal of family psychology, 22(1), 41.
Belsky, J., Spanier, G. B., & Rovine, M. (1983). Stability and change in marriage across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 567-577.