Couples in Crisis After the Arrival of the First Child: Causes and Solutions
The birth of a child is a transformative event. It doesn’t matter if the news of the pregnancy came as a surprise or if it came after months of planning and yearning. Whatever the case, from this moment on, the lives of the parents will change, drastically and irreversibly. Furthermore, if they don’t successfully manage their emotions, their life together may suffer. This is why couples so often experience crises after the arrival of their first child.
We should emphasize that these crises aren’t inevitable. However, there’s little doubt that parenthood puts relationships to the test. Furthermore, it’s common for exhaustion, lack of communication, and all the sudden changes to negatively affect the relationship.
However, good management of the situation will help restore order and well-being.
A relationship crisis after the arrival of the first child
The crisis isn’t always too serious. Sometimes, it’s characterized by constant disagreements, arguments, reprimands, and a negative dynamic that tends to escalate more and more. On other occasions, there might be a progressive estrangement and emotional coldness between the couple.
Nevertheless, in both situations, the deterioration of the relationship is evident. This can often translate into sadness, anger, dissatisfaction, and difficulties in exercising their roles as parents. Indeed, we mustn’t forget that the well-being of children is always closely related to that of their parents. For this reason, if the parents are going through emotional difficulties themselves, they’re not in the best position for establishing a good bond of attachment with their baby.
Unfortunately, these relationship crises can lead to a breakup or drag on for years, damaging the quality of life for the entire family. Therefore, knowing its causes and addressing them from the beginning is always the best course of action.
These are the main factors that contribute to the triggering of a crisis in the couple after a baby is born. As you’ll see, all of them relate to the demands of the new situation.
The first reason varies for each individual. That’s because becoming a father or mother triggers a series of highly personal internal processes. For instance, the new mother experiences significant hormonal fluctuations that can often affect their mood. Furthermore, their body has changed and recovery from childbirth can be difficult to cope with.
In addition, a new mother has to assume a great responsibility. This transforms their identity as they integrate into their new role. It can also lead to feelings of uncertainty, fear, confusion, and guilt.
In the case of the father, similar psychological processes take place. Added to these, is the need for them to forge a bond with the baby in a shorter period of time. That’s because the woman has already developed a relationship with her baby during pregnancy. However, for the man, it can be a more complicated process.
In addition, the father may feel displaced by the close bond between mother and child. In fact, he may not be aware of his place in the new dynamic.
Change of routines
Daily life changes completely with the arrival of a child, as they become the main priority of the couple. Schedules are changed and activities are focused on meeting the child’s needs. Furthermore, the rhythm that was previously maintained at home and that worked perfectly is no longer adequate.
This change in life can be difficult to cope with. That’s because, to a certain extent, it involves the new parents putting aside their personal preferences and the time they have to themselves to focus on the well-being of the baby and the functioning of the family.
Stress and division of tasks
The division of tasks is one of the main causes of arguments in couples. After the arrival of a child, it becomes even more relevant. Because it may well be that, previously, the couple had established an agreement that satisfied both of them, and now this has to be modified.
Now, the care of the baby and the home have to be combined. However, this isn’t always achieved in a natural and equitable way. As a result, frustrations and resentments can arise.
Exhaustion and lack of time with a partner
Finally, time spent with the partner is drastically reduced in both quantity and quality. Indeed, parents have little free time and are almost always exhausted. This reduces the time they have for intimacy and enjoyment as a couple and can lead to increased feelings of estrangement.
How to prevent a crisis after the arrival of the first baby
Bearing in mind that a crisis is quite probable after the arrival of the first child, if possible, it should be prevented. Or, in cases where it’s already appeared, it must be reversed. In order to do this, here are some recommendations:
- The parents-to-be should make certain preparations before the birth. For example, inform themselves about the changes that are going to happen, the challenges they may face, and the best way to deal with them. Talking to experts or learning about the experiences of other parents can be of great help.
- They should expect certain difficulties to occur. Consequently, they’ll probably find it helpful to talk about how they’ll organize their routines and tasks after the baby arrives. For example, to decide who’ll be responsible for each chore and how they’ll distribute them. This, of course, has to be flexible and can be modified according to the needs at the time. However, they can establish some kind of guide in advance to avoid any future arguments.
- They should give themselves some personal space and time. This isn’t easy for new parents. However, it’s essential for their psychological well-being. Therefore, they should try and organize themselves so that, every week, each of them is able to enjoy some time to themselves. This will refresh them, recharge their batteries, and allow them to resume their tasks with renewed energy.
- They should ask for help. Indeed, even with two of them, they may not always get to do everything they have to do. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, either from family and friends or professionals.
- They must make time for themselves as a couple. For instance, they could put aside an hour each night to talk together or enjoy a movie, have a monthly date, or a romantic getaway. This kind of time together can make all the difference in protecting their relationship.
The crisis can be overcome
It’s important to remember that a crisis in a couple after the arrival of the first child marks a moment of transition. Nevertheless, despite how intense and uncertain it might be, it’ll pass. At this time, communication is the best ally for the couple. They need to be able to share their inner feelings and to tell each other what they’re looking for, as well as understand the other’s needs at the same time.
New parents need to understand their partner’s feelings and work together as a team. Indeed, these actions are essential processes if the couple wants to emerge stronger from their first year of parenthood. Therefore, they should renounce silence, pride, and reprimands and instead, opt for frank and assertive communication based on the love that unites them. After all, at the end of the day, they’re in it together.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Olhaberry, M., Escobar, M., San Cristóbal, P., Santelices, M. P., Farkas, C., Rojas, G., & Martínez, V. (2013). Intervenciones psicológicas perinatales en depresión materna y vínculo madre-bebé: una revisión sistemática. Terapia psicológica, 31(2), 249-261.
- Zaldívar Rodríguez, J. M., Naranjo Ferragut, J. A., Delgado Cruz, A., Sosa Hernández, J., & Sarmiento Reyes, D. (1997). Impacto Psicológico del nacimiento del primer hijo. Revista de Ciencias Médicas de Pinar del río.