Having Kids Can’t Save Your Marriage, Experts Say
So your marriage is in trouble. You wonder what to do. You consider the alternatives — and wonder — could you save your relationship if you just have a baby?
It might seem like a good answer, but not so, according to experts. “A lot of the time, people are feeling a loss of connection and love in their marriage, so they kind of hold this fantasy that if they have a child that will bring everything back to being okay. Part of it’s an idealization and the solution to fixing a problem,” says Debbie Bensching, a therapist in Portland, Oregon.
Numerous studies show that marriages tend to suffer after the birth of a child. In fact, Researchers the rate of decline in relationship satisfaction is almost twice as steep for couples with children than for childless couples. The problem, Benshing says, is that “people don’t stop and think about how even positive things in our lives bring in stress, so if we’re already in a bad place in our relationship, that will bring stresses and make our marriage more stressful.”
“When marriages get kind of rocky, people start casting about for reasons to stay together,” said Enda Junkins, a social worker and marriage therapist in Ouray, Colorado. “Sometimes, for some reason, it’s usually a woman, and she thinks if she gets pregnant, she can hang onto the husband, because we’re having this baby together, which is not a good reason to stay together or to have a child.”
“One thing is that people whose marriage isn’t working well tend to focus on their child, and then the child gets brought into that lot. Slow down, and at least get some advice from people who are sound,” she says. “Another reason is, clearly, the ability to communicate and resolve problems is important, so bringing a child into the relationship, so there’s more instability. That makes it harder to meet demands we set for each other.”
Junkins says couples in trouble should seek help. “I do believe that many, many marriages can be saved. Go to couples therapy. Find a therapist they can both relate to and try to work things out,” she says.
She also recommends that people try to recall why they fell in love. “What happens to people when their marriage gets in trouble is they forget the good things about the other person, which is the reason why they got married to them in the first place,” she says. “They need to focus. Try to remember the things you got married for. If you put fun and laughter back in your relationship, it’s very apt to get healthy again.”
Junkins adds that staying together for a child is similar to getting married because you’re having a child. “If you’ve got a responsible man, then he may feel like he needs to stay to be a father to his child. But for the same reason, some people get married, because they got pregnant, and that’s not what relationships are built upon.”
Once you have children, there isn’t turning back, and people will likely get divorced anyway. “The problem is after the child is born. It adds stress to the relationship, and if things were already bad, they can get worse,” says Junkins.
More than a million children experience divorce each year, statistics show.
“The best reason to have a child is that you want to parent,” says Junkins. “Try seeking help first. To me, that’s the best way to fix the relationship, and after these things are good? Then have a child.”
HOW DO CHILDREN FEEL ABOUT DIVORCE?
The University of Missouri outlined six ways that your children might feel but are unable to explain:
1. Stay involved in my life no matter where you live and make me feel important and loved.
2. Do not fight around me or about me, as it makes me feel guilty.
3. Do not make me feel jealous or guilty of wanting to spend time or spending time with the other person.
4. Talk to each other directly and do not use me as a go-between.
5. Don’t badmouth the other parent.
6. Remember I want you both to be part of my life.
About the author: Krystle Russin is a freelance journalist in Austin, Texas. She has been involved in journalism for seven years, hosting a PBS show and contributing to different print and online publications. She graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in government (pre-law), and minors in journalism and history.