Are you familiar with Chip and Joanna Gaines?
They are the famed couple of the hit show ‘Fixer Upper.’ According to insiders on the show, the couple is struggling after the birth of their 5th child. Rumor is this could be the ‘wrecking ball that demolishes their marriage.’
Of course, this comes from the National Enquirer. We know how accurate their journalism is, right?
Why mention this?
Truth is, the arrival of a new child brings changes to the marriage.
I’m not sure if Chip and Joanna are having problems, but I do know many young couples bringing home their new baby do.
Here’s a few quotes I ran across in researching this article. Just a couple of examples from online marriage forums.
Ever since she’s been born, my (husband) and I have been arguing so much! I don’t even want to look at him most of the time. I don’t know why, but everything he does annoys me so much! I don’t feel attracted to him like I used to. I just feel so distant from him now. We don’t talk like we used to. If we do talk, it’s about the baby and that’s pretty much it. I just feel annoyed and unhappy with my marriage now. – SouthernMother
He doesn’t seem remotely interested. I think he finds my post pregnancy body unattractive. I was sat in the mirror with just my underwear on a few weeks back and he came behind me and grabbed my stomach and squished it as though to make fun of my post pregnancy stomach. I’m really unhappy in my marriage right now and I don’t want it to affect our boy. I have spoken to him about my feelings on more than one occasion but nothing has changed. This is not how I expected family life and marriage to be. – Charlotte
Experiencing an unhappy marriage after baby doesn’t have to be the end. It is possible to respark love. It takes work and knowing what to do.
In this article we will look at three steps to respark love:
- Identify the Root Causes
- Understand the Complex Symptoms
- Commit to a Course of Action to Remedy the Problem
There is hope, but hope is linked to our understanding of what is really happening.
1. Identify the Root Causes
What are the Causes of Being Unhappy After the Baby Comes Home?
There are many causes. Let’s look at a few that occur over and over in marriages.
Stress happens when our expectation of something doesn’t match the reality we experience.
For example, our dreams of having children are filled with laughter, love and special bonding. In our minds we see images of
Some say the new baby only amplifies existing problems. I disagree. Stress changes things. Changes us. On the inside. It doesn’t simply bring to the surface what’s already there, it modifies what’s there.
I’ll discuss this more in a moment when we talk about hormones.
There are plenty of changes that are happening when baby comes home.
B. Hormonal Shifts
In the following video, Beth Wubbolt, RN,BSN discusses how hormones change during pregnancy and immediately after delivery.
Courtesy of Lehigh Valley Health Network
Not only does the body change during pregnancy, but there are chemical and hormonal shifts that occur. This is normal as the body prepares for the birth process.
However, it often brings emotional imbalance once the baby is born.
During birth, adrenaline is in overdrive. After delivery, the body begins to adjust back to normal operating mode. This can cause mood swings.
Add to that the depletion of hormones during birth which causes emotional and mental shifts. Sometimes it can seem like the perfect storm emotionally.
C. Unrealistic Expectations
Another factor that contributes to unhappiness is our level of expectations. We want and expect things to be a certain way. Only to realize that they are not.
Expectations about the baby
We love our newborn child, but sleepless nights, midnight feedings, and all night crying wear on our emotions.
Expectations about your spouse
We all long for the perfect homelife. Then we find ourselves disappointed when our spouse doesn’t understand what WE are experiencing.
A new child transforms the household. Things are not like they used to be. This causes misunderstanding and frustration.
When these expectations are not met, the result is unhappiness.
D. Becoming ‘Child-Centric’
Most normal couples get excited about having children. It seems to be the natural course of life (I realize there are couples who can’t or won’t have children…if that’s you, read on, this will make sense).
Children are a blessing.
But they were never meant to replace your marriage.
I often see couples who abandon their marital relationship and pour everything into their children. This is being ‘child-centric’ – putting your children at the center of your life, instead of your spouse.
One mom put it like this…
Once we had our baby, we were a little distant from each other. It obviously hurt my husband’s feelings-we were mostly distant because all I wanted to do was be around the baby. So he made me sit down and he lectured me about how we are still married and our relationship is just as important.
This is definitely not the right way to handle the situation (lecturing as opposed to sharing), but it does present the problem succinctly.
Why is this a problem?
It comes down to roles and jobs.
Our role as a spouse is to be connected and share life together.
Our job as a parent is to raise our children to be independent and equipped to move on in life. To help them be prepared to have ‘their own life.’
Many times we raise our children as if they will be with us forever. And we abandon our spouse as if the marriage is dispensable.
This is backwards (not that we abandon our children, but we raise them to be independent of us).
Getting this backwards causes marriage problems.
E. Communication Interaction
The details of raising children almost demand that we shift gears to task and parenting issues resolved. This change in ‘how’ we communicate with our spouse comes with complications.
What was once ‘romantic interaction’ becomes the business of taking care of baby.
This pattern interrupt (change in the way we communicate) can present problems if we fail to reconnect and establish the marriage bond.
These are only a few of the causes of an unhappy marriage after the baby comes home.
Now, let’s look at the symptoms. How does this usually play out in the marriage?
F. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is common with a new infant. Losing sleep causes stress, emotional imbalance, mood changes, and weakened immune system. It’s easy to see how this impacts your marriage.
The image below from Healthline show show sleep deprivation affects you physically and emotionally.
2. Understand the Complex Symptoms.
When we understand the symptoms, we can address the problem. But only when we properly diagnose the real issues.
In this video by Jamie Knight, she explains five ways it changed and challenged her marriage.
Video by Jamie Knight – JlynneMama
Below is a short list of symptoms related to marriage problems when baby comes home.
This is not a complete list of all the symptoms of problems involving the birth of a child, it paints a pretty good picture of what often happens.
Emotions are often raw after a baby is born. Especially if there were complications during delivery.
Many couples (both husband and wife) experience increase frustration and irritability.
This is often the result of the drastic changes in the household because of a new baby.
B. Lack of Sexual Desire
I read where one husband complained about the lack of sex during pregnancy and after the baby was born. His wife had difficulty during the pregnancy and was medically unable to have sex.
After the baby was born, she bleed quite a bit because of tearing during delivery.
His response? Well, you can do something to me!
I realize that sexual tension produces problems.
It’s so easy to put sex at the bottom of the list when you’re exhausted from kids and work, but it’s crucial for a healthy relationship. As Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University told me, your physical connection with your partner strengthens your emotional connection.
With new responsibilities and changes in how things used to be comes tension. With tension, arguments.
Working through these issues is normal and natural. Arguments aren’t always bad. But they can lead to more serious issues, if they are not handled properly.
In this 2 minute video called Bickering and Fighting, Dr. Lee Baucom discusses how fighting is a love killer.
Courtesy Dr. Lee Baucom
Here’s a link to the program Dr. Baucom discusses in the video.
The reality is the symptoms are just that – symptoms. They are not the problem. Being irritable is not the problem. It’s the result of the problem.
If we fail to realize that we will
focus on the wrong thing.
If you are driving your car and you hear a noise – a squeaking sound – when you press the brake, do you simply try to eliminate the squeak? Or do you try to find the source of the problem?
You don’t just want the squeak to go away, you want to know WHY the brakes are squeaking in the first place. Once you diagnose the real problem, you can work on repairing the REAL issue.
Too often couples continue on the path of treating symptoms without addressing the root causes (see #1 above).
This only leads to more frustration.
Once symptoms are properly diagnosed, you can move forward and deal with the core issues.
This leads to point 3#…
3. Commit to a Course of Action to Remedy the Problem
Before we delve into a few things you can do to remedy this problem and get your marriage back on track, you need to understand that any movement forward must be built on shared values.
In essence, you have to want it because the marriage matters.
Too often young couples associate the health of their marriage to current feelings. I hope by now you realize that feelings (emotions) are sometimes driven by hormonal imbalance, stress and fatigue.
If you keep that in mind you will avoid throwing away the relationship because you feel unsatisfied in the present moment.
The key is to determine ‘why’ you feel the way you do.
Is it hormones?
Are you tired and worn out?
Are you stressed over all the changes the baby is bringing to the household?
Is there something deeper going on?
The first step toward finding a cure to get your marriage back on track is to assess the real problem.
Only you know the answers to this question. But it is the most important question you need to answer.
What you do depends on the seriousness of the problem.
Below are a few tips to resolving normal relationship issues following the birth of a child.
A. Be Intentional about Your Marriage
This is perhaps the most important aspect of getting your marriage healthy again.
Anything left to itself will eventually deteriorate.
My wife and I have a patio with beautiful flowers. We enjoy our evenings watching the sunset surrounded by our small garden. It’s one of our ‘little pleasures’ each day.
The only way we can continue to enjoy this is by maintaining our garden. Left to itself, this little oasis would wither and die.
It’s the same with intimacy.
Make it a priority, and it will flourish.
B. Seek Counseling and Medical Help
There is no shame in seeking professional help to get past the change in your relationship.
One word of caution: If you do seek counseling, follow our checklist and suggestions on picking the right counselor.
I love these tips from ‘For All Moms‘ on how to keep a strong marriage after a baby comes home.
Video Compliments of ‘For All Moms’
C. Take Time
In most cases time is a great healer. In cases where it is not, it is usually because there were underlying problems in the first place.
If this is the case, the stress of having a new baby only intensifies the struggle and breakdown of the relationship.
Since time can be on your side, don’t forget date night. Sure, you may have to improvise, but get creative. Your time together will be well worth the effort.
Consciously working on reconnecting after baby comes home is important. Don’t neglect this aspect of your family life. Make it intentional to connect.
D. Don’t avoid discussing problems.
Keeping open lines of communication is key to staying connected.
It’s okay to disagree. Even okay to have a misunderstanding. It’s not okay to retreat, run or remove yourself from the relationship.
Talk it through. This doesn’t have to be a battle. It needs to be a discussion. Do your best to keep emotions in check.
Too much fighting will quickly erode your relationship. So learn to fight right.
For help learning how to talk, we recommend ‘Conversation Chemistry.’
E. Take Some Me Time
Just like your body often tells you when you need rest or nourishment, your emotions tell you when you need ‘me time.’
The tendency is to pour everything into your new arrival; but don’t neglect yourself.
Remember, in airline emergencies you are instructed to FIRST put your own oxygen mask on. Then help your children.
This is a great analogy for person care as well. Take care of you.
F. Divide Chores and Responsibilities.
Many conflicts arise simply because of failure to communicate and divide responsibilities.
Having a new child in the home means new Chores. New roles. New responsibilities.
Discuss what needs to be done and don’t leave it to chance. Be patient. And communicate needs clearly.
This eliminates (or at least minimizes) friction over things that need to be done.
G. Do Child Care Together
This goes along with dividing chores but takes it a step further. Working together to provide care for your children is one of the things that bonds you closer.
Child care doesn’t have to be a thing that divides; it should be ‘the thing’ that unites you closer to your spouse. It comes down to a matter of perspective.
When baby comes home things change. This causes friction and stress.
Realizing this is normal is a big part of the battle.
Dealing properly with hormonal issues, stress and change will help you maintain a healthy marriage.
Having a child is one of the greatest blessings of life. But don’t forget that sharing your life with your spouse is also one of life’s greatest treasures.
It’s your turn now. How has having a new baby affected your relationship?
Programs Mentioned In This Article
Save the Marriage System by Dr. Lee Baucom
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