Over the years, we have worked with so many individuals and couples who have come to us with this problem. Their relationships had ups and downs like anybody else’s, but when they had a baby, it seemed that everything changed. They couldn’t seem to connect in the way that they did before, and they began to argue and bicker more and more. Small problems became big problems, and it started to feel that they had no idea how to reconnect anymore.
When this happens, I always begin by analyzing the current dynamic. I worked with a client recently, Rebecca, who had come to me asking about what to do. Her marriage was really struggling and she and her husband had just had their first child together, who was about 5 months old. She explained to me that her husband, Rick, always seemed to be in a bad mood and he was spending less and less time at home. She didn’t suspect him of cheating or anything, but she was beginning to resent him for not helping out with their newborn. In turn, she was being more and more hostile with him. As you can imagine, the foundation of the marriage began to crumble.
So we needed to take a look at what was going on on a deeper level. In my experience, one of the most common reasons for marriage problems after a baby is actually biological. If you’re the one who gave birth to the baby, then your body is biologically designed to want to focus on nurturing and caring for your newborn. This is natural and beautiful, but a side effect is sometimes that your partner starts to feel neglected, and every person handles the feeling of neglect in a different way. In many cases, I see the other person start to become needy, cold, distant, or like in Rick’s case, hostile. For Rebecca and Rick, the solution could be found in reconnecting through both of their Love Languages. But I’ll go more into detail about that in a moment.
First, I wanted to talk about another common cause for marriage problems after two people have a baby: Fatigue. There is no denying it. Having a newborn is absolutely exhausting. Yes, it’s a labor of love, but it is exhausting! You don’t sleep much, your schedule is completely changed, and your life is entirely transformed, so it is very important for you to be gentle with yourselves. When you haven’t slept properly and everything is new and challenging, you and your partner might clash. Patience is running thin and you feel like you just don’t have the time or energy to deal with another person. So, of course, your relationship starts to suffer.
The third most common cause for problems in a marriage after having a baby is something called “postpartum resentment.” Postpartum depression is something that you’ve probably heard about, but postpartum resentment is a bit different. Postpartum depression can be characterized by emotions that make it hard for a new mother to bond with the baby. Postpartum resentment has more to do with the relationship between the two parents. As I was saying, when you have a new baby in your life, your life completely changes. Many couples are really good at splitting the new responsibilities 50/50, but there are a lot of cases in which one person feels like they are doing way more than the other, and that the other has way more freedom.
In the vast majority of the cases, the mother spends more time taking care of the baby, and when she sees that her husband has time to go do things that she hasn’t really had the time to do (like spending time with some friends, going to work, getting a haircut, taking a long shower, etc.) she can start to resent him. This can also happen when the husband is the one who is spending more time taking care of the baby, too. When one person feels like they are carrying more of the weight of this new responsibility, it becomes very easy to resent their partner.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most challenging parts of marriage problems after having a baby. So, let’s take a look at how to fix these things!