When you bring a baby into your marriage, it should be a time of joy, as well as a time for two people to prepares themselves to feel a love and bond like no other. That is usually the case if you and your spouse have a happy and healthy relationship and are in the right place, emotionally and financially, to welcome a child.
However, if your marriage is already on the rocks, having a baby can have adverse effects on your relationship.
In episode two of the OWN docuseries Black Love, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and her husband Cory briefly mentioned that a baby could bring a married couple closer, but only “for a minute” before the dynamics of the relationship would quickly change.
In fact, according to the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle (via a report done by Babble), within three years of having a baby, two-thirds of couples acknowledge that the quality of their relationship has declined. Within five years of having their first baby, 13 percent of marriages end in divorce for those married at the time of their child’s birth.
Even though my husband and I were happy before having our first child, and still are, it was no secret that having a newborn was tough on us and added pressure to our relationship.
For example, a sense of bewilderment will rear its ugly head more often than desired. The ambiguity surrounding a newborn’s high-pitched cries will leave the both of you extremely frustrated, as you want to calm your baby down but neither of you have the immediate answer for how to do so. An innocent question of “Why is she crying?” would often be met with a tart response like, “I have no idea!”
Not to mention, after a baby’s arrival, most of your focus will shift to them and away from the needs of your spouse, which is more damaging to your marriage if you two are going through a rough patch. Babies require a lot of attention and can be mentally exhausting (you’re constantly worrying and seeing to their well-being), making it difficult to keep your husband or wife a priority. Also, basic conversations that were once as basic as trying to figure out dinner plans or home decorating ideas will turn into debates on the proper way to heat up breast milk or whose turn it is to check on the baby. Those concerns, along with fatigue caused by sleep deprivation, will cause any person to forego sex or any intimacy with their partner.
Then there are the financial obligations. Kids are expensive! Depending on where you live, daycare can cost anywhere from $11,000 per year to $19,000, and that’s just one line item. If you factor in the extra cost of formula, medical fees, and the constant clothing expenses (since babies grow so quickly), you’re looking at a huge increase in your family’s expenditures. Since finances are the number one cause for stress in a romantic relationship, the cost of a child will only add to an already tense situation.
Additionally, you don’t want to bring a baby into an already broken marriage, as it can do more harm to the child and leave lasting effects. According to experts like marriage and family therapist Jeff Palitz, children learn from their parents and will model their behavior. That means they’re learning what a relationship should look like and how to resolve conflicts from you. Therefore, they are more likely to repeat patterns seen from the actions of their mother and father.
Although having a baby can take its toll on any marriage, this does not mean that your relationship has to completely fall apart, even if it’s fragile.
When asked for suggestions on how a married couple can work together after a baby’s arrival, clinical psychologist Carla Marie Greco, Ph.D. actually recommended planning well before the baby arrives. Greco says it’s important to focus on committing to regularly scheduled date nights and knowing when to let go of the small stuff like extra laundry or a missed outing with friends. She also suggested that having a support system, like a therapist or regular meetups with friends, can help with this major transition.
Although Greco’s sentiments can ease the stress of a new baby, I believe that planning ahead of time can only help so much, as adding a human being to your family is a huge step and a life-altering decision. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re bringing a child into the fold for the right reasons, and that you’re ready, together, for the commitment it will be.
While a baby can certainly be a blessing to any couple, procreating should not be used to repair a marriage. The mental, physical and financial load is one that only a marriage with a strong foundation can undertake. So if your union is shaky, think long and hard before adding a new member to things, because if you don’t and ultimately move forward with bringing a child into the world, your relationship will fall through the cracks.