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It’s no wonder many couples experience more ‘fighting’ after having a baby. If you’re desperately searching for ways to fix your unhappy marriage after baby, don’t fret!
There really is no other way to put it, having a baby changes your life forever!
Take that in for a moment. Having a baby is such a monumental life event that you will never see life in the same way.
You have been handed “I have a kid” glasses and you now see the world through these lenses. This is true even if you are not a first-time parent. Think about it.
Before kids, did you ever evaluate the safety of a swing set with such precision? Did you ever realize that kid’s fruit snacks could taste like sweet nectar and force you to down single packets in one gulp so the kids wouldn’t find out? Did you ever suspect that the soundtrack of your life would be Raffi and a sound machine’s white noise?
Having a baby is like landing on a new planet and walking off the spaceship as residents in a new world.
This new world is both exciting and stressful.
This new world is a huge adjustment for you and your partner as individuals and for your couple relationship.
You no longer exist as a couple with no kids or just one kid or a couple with two kids etc… Your couple relationship is brought into a place of great excitement and great stress, and this roller coaster of emotion is a recipe for conflict.
When a couple’s relationship is brought into a stressful context, like having a baby, it will experience strain and disconnection.
This is a guest post written by Stephen WB Mitchell, Ph.D., and Erin AB Mitchell, MACP. Read more about this awesome relationship-coach duo from their Author Profile at the bottom of this page!
Two reasons couples have an unhappy marriage after baby:
1) Fighting about who is doing more
Having a baby is wonderful and a lot of hard work.
Instantly there is a new human being in the house and instantly there is a lot more “work” that has to be done. Parents are tired, no, wait…parents are exhausted.
The normal division of home responsibilities is messed up, work schedules are impacted, and there is a level of strain on the couple’s system that makes everyone feel like they are doing more than the other partner.
Either the resentment goes unspoken — hoping the negative feelings towards your partner will just go away, after all, you just had a baby together and you want to be on the same page so you think it best to just shove it down and ignore.
Or people start feeling full and getting cranky.
For example, one partner might complain, “I am doing everything around the house while you are nursing on the couch and taking naps with the baby!”
The response to this might be something like, “Oh, me staying awake all night keeping your baby alive looks like nothing to you?!?”
Or one partner might say, “I changed 5 diapers in the middle of the night, I can’t even look at a diaper today” to a response of something like “oh did it seem hard having to wake up in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t know because I never even get to fall asleep!”
2) Fighting about the old routine
Birth has happened, it has been a week or two, and now, at least for someone, it feels like things need to be getting back to normal.
Typically, the feeling that things need to be getting back to normal comes from the partner that physically didn’t give birth to the baby.
So, while mom is still healing, getting to know baby, and in the place of learning this new person; The other partner is getting antsy or feels the pull of other responsibilities like work, a grocery store run, or taking care of other kids.
Their movement towards “getting back to the old routine,” may make mom feel forgotten, rushed, unseen, rejected, lonely, and the list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, mom’s resistance to “the old routine” makes the other partner feel weighed down, unseen, rejected, lonely, and that list goes on and on.
Rather than communicating about this openly, most couples either push it down, trying to ignore the unpleasant feelings (after all they just had a baby and want to start this new family off on a good, positive note) OR the couple starts criticizing one another for having different experiences.
Both of these options leading to no resolution. Just added frustration and much more resentment.
Although these fights are common, it’s just as important to know that these fights do NOT have to persist.
Three things to keep in mind to help curb the fighting & arguing after having a baby:
1) The issue is not your partner, the issue is stress!
Keep in mind that having a baby is stressful and it is reasonable to expect both you and your partner might be stretched thin.
However, DON’T blame your partner. Recognize you are both feeling stressed, try turning the intensity down and invite a conversation as to what feels overwhelming for both of you.
Open dialogue with one another is ALWAYS a promising way to be heard and come to a helpful solution.
2) Remember your partner has had a significant physical experience by giving birth.
The partner that had to give birth to baby has been through an intense physical experience.
Their body is going through innumerable chemical changes and if they are nursing baby, their body is needed in a way that you just can not understand.
Not to mention, all the ADDITIONAL hormonal changes and fluctuations that occur due to breastfeeding can also cause some emotional strain.
Try and remember that when someone’s body feels different than “normal”, it is difficult for them to find their bearings.
So if and when you try to approach them, take a more positive approach. Try saying something uplifting first to boost their spirits.
3) You both are doing a lot, keeping score is not helpful!
Don’t get caught up in this cycle of comparison. In fact, repeat after me, “ I WILL NOT KEEP SCORE OF WHAT MY PARTNER DOES AND DOESN’T DO“.
Rather, try and acknowledge what you see your partner doing and thank them.
For example, “Hey, I know nursing is really constant and can make you feel so tired, you are doing an awesome job.”
Another example could be, “I know you are picking up a lot of slack around the house, you have to be tired, I appreciate it so much.”
Having a baby is beautiful and stressful.
Don’t allow the stress to get you and your partner stuck in conflict. You two are in this together.
Looking for more parenting/postpartum tips and advice? Check these out:
Did you have an unhappy marriage after baby? How did you fix it?
About Couples Counseling for Parents
Dr. Stephen Mitchell holds a PhD in Medical Family Therapy from Saint Louis University. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a professor, and a web-based relationship coach. Erin AB Mitchell, MACP has her Masters in Counseling Psychology and works as a web-based relationship coach. They are working on 12 years of being married and enjoy working together seeing couples in their virtual telehealth practice. They provide practical help for couples in the parenting years at @couples.counseling.for.parents
Connect with Dr. Stephen Mitchell & Erin AB Mitchell below: