#053: Contemplating Divorce After Baby? Consider This First:
Are you wondering if your relationship can go back to normal after a pregnancy or first baby?
This is not an uncommon question for modern-day couples who experience pregnancy in the early stages of their relationship. You’re exhausted. You’re feeling disconnected.
But don’t give up yet!
Later in this post, we’ll discuss 5 marriage-saving ideas to consider if you are losing hope.
First, let’s take a close look at what’s been going on in your relationship.
“Did we make a mistake?”
During the last several decades, the way we approach relationships, marriage, and the creation of a family has changed drastically. New perspectives and life situations are emerging constantly for today’s couples.
Ideas about marriage and commitment have shifted in ways that couple 30 to 50 years ago, would not have recognized as common at all.
Therefore, it may not be surprising that the couples visiting my practice in serious marital trouble early on in their marriages seem unable to grasp where all of their problems are coming from.
These couples often find themselves wondering if it was the right decision to marry or have a child with their partners. Overwhelmed with the problems of their relationship, and the intensity in which they present themselves, that they often resort to mentally throwing in the towel thinking, “this was a mistake – we need to end it”.
“We are in SERIOUS trouble”
Are you like many couples who marry and have a baby right away?
You know them: They did not rush to get married at 23. In fact, they are probably well into their 30’s. They’ve had some time to grow as people and understand the world and themselves better. Their incomes are solid and stable. Perhaps they’ve even experienced a few serious relationships before marrying.
These partners generally don’t need another person to lean on or “another half” to complete them. They feel that they were doing quite well as whole human beings on their own.
And then it happened. They meet that person. So in-tune with what they look for in a partner, they know they are meant for each other. So they start on a relationship journey that is NOT about wasting time.
Is this a familiar story for you and your partner?
Perhaps you remember saying and thinking the following:
- I want you
- I think you’re a great person
- You want me, respect me, we get along
- “We’re pregnant and I’m over 30. It’s true, I don’t know you well enough, but I do know I want this baby.”
You were excited. You were having your baby. You were getting married.
But during pregnancy or a few months after the baby was born, you realized you were in serious relationship trouble.
Maybe you catch yourselves saying these kinds of things to each other now:
- “I don’t know who you are anymore!”
- “I haven’t met this side of you…”
- “You’re not doing what you said you’d be doing!”
- “You’re not providing.”
- “You’re disengaged.”
- “You don’t care!”
The next step? You consider your short relationship a wrong judgment call and start thinking about divorce. This is when many couples reach out for help.
“Can couples counseling save our relationship?”
Here’s what I say to you:
Wait! The number of life changes/transitions you’ve been through in the past year or so, are what other couples generally experience in 5 to 10 years time. Consider the following, usual course of things:
- Dating, falling in love, thinking about a long-term relationship and a possible engagement
- A surprise pregnancy, deciding how to continue, and carrying the pregnancy to term
- Moving in together and share finances
- Giving birth and adjustment to a newborn
Phew! Squeezing all of that into a year or two is harrowing! Beyond physical changes, do you understand how much change your body has gone through?
Every life transition takes so much energy and adaptation that just one major change is enough for us at a time. You’ve just handled anywhere between 5-12 life transitions in a year or so.
It’s no wonder that you are experiencing difficulties.
Statistics show that the quality of a marriage declines for approximately two-thirds of couples within the first 5 years after their first baby. Similar research indicates that your marriage has a higher probability rate of surviving 10 years of marriage if you wait at least eight months into your marriage to start a family.
So, what now?
1. Give yourselves some credit here
You did what other couples accomplish over many years time.
2. Breathe and slow down
It’s okay to expect change, but not immediately. You both need time to adjust to each other and to the realities of your new situation.
3. Remember, the most important thing right now is to improve your connection
As a strong couple, you can be better parents, better problem solvers, and overall, enjoy a better at life. Do your best to stop thinking like an island. It’s true, you’ve been doing the single life and you’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself, but your new life is different. It’s time to learn to become a couple.
4. Become a real “good old couple”
Why do I say “good old couple?” Because today we tend to think that old-fashioned relationships are wrong. Well, not in this case.
The following do not make you a strong couple:
- Your new baby
- Your shared home
- Your marriage
- Your shared finances (See episode #52 to learn more about how to be a couple financially and the difference between married couples who act like financial islands vs. those who don’t).
Two people sharing space is not a couple. Two people sharing a life is a couple.
Do your best to become friends and a support system to each other. Share mutual commitment and trust. Learn to have each other’s backs and join forces. That is being a real “good old couple.”
5. Lastly, reach out for help
Your new life happened so fast. There’s no shame in asking for help. Gather a team of supportive people to help you. Or seek a professional’s help, especially if matters are reaching a point where immediate assistance is necessary.
I hope this information was helpful
You, like many new couples who visit my office, may be feeling depleted and hopeless about the state of your relationship. You may be wondering whether things can really work out with your partner.
I want you to know that there is hope. You can absolutely create the change you want if you give yourself some time and then make the right choices during that time.
Hopefully, this post provided some new ways of thinking about your relationship after the birth of your baby. For more support and information, please visit my specialty pages regarding couples therapy and healthier communication or contact me for a consultation soon.