Having a baby is usually a happy event, but it’s also a major milestone that forces changes on your lifestyle and relationship.
Adding a baby into your family dynamic can stir up issues and test you to the limit. It’s normal to feel unsettled and adjusting to the new situation can naturally put a strain on your relationship.
Research shows that many parents feel less satisfied with their relationship after a baby, at least in the short-term. This isn’t surprising, since both partners are probably tired, anxious and emotional. You may also be worried about issues like money and loss of freedom, or you may be just generally overwhelmed by new responsibilities.
Becoming a parent can also bring up difficult memories. It might help to talk to each other about your own experiences of being parented, your expectations, and any feelings you haven’t yet shared. Understanding each other can help you to be more realistic and prepared for the ups and downs of parenthood.
Less time for each other
A new baby means extra work and less time for each other. It can be hard to find time alone just to talk and support each other, or to go out as a couple.
As your identity shifts from ‘partner’ to ‘parent’, it can feel like a threat to your relationship, particularly for dads. You may even feel jealous of the mum’s new closeness with the baby. Mothers may also feel left out once the baby is a little older and the initial intensity fades.
Lack of sleep… and sex
Lack of sleep can leave you feeling permanently exhausted, vulnerable and emotional, so it’s easy to react badly to each other or the baby.
Many couples find their sex lives disrupted, at least in the short term. New mothers often feel too tired and not sexy. Some feel unattractive because of post baby weight, still sore, or afraid sex will be painful. New fathers can then feel rejected and isolated.
Men can also feel differently after childbirth. They often worry about their partner’s physical and emotional changes and are frightened of hurting them. Or they may worry about another pregnancy and the responsibility that goes with it.
Breastfeeding also has an impact. It’s usually very tiring and some women say they feel their breasts belong to their baby now. Breastfeeding can lead to temporary physical changes in lubrication that can also make sex painful. Men may need time to adjust to breastfeeding too.
There are no hard and fast rules about how long it should take for both partners to be interested in sex again. Even when the desire returns, you may find other things like the baby crying and needing to be fed, get in the way. You might also both be worried that things will never get back to how they were. Talk openly about your feelings and keep reminding each other that this is only temporary.
A ‘sexless’ relationship is defined as one in which sex happens 10 times or fewer per year. However, research shows that many couples aren’t even achieving that.
Studies repeatedly show that married couples of all ages who have good sex lives also report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Most relationship therapists agree that not having sex when you want to makes people unhappy, causing feelings of frustration, depression, rejection, self-doubt, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem.
Sex and research
When psychotherapist Brett Kahr carried out a sex survey of 19,000 people in the UK in 2007, he found that 32 percent of people have sex less than once a month and that 21 percent of women and 15 percent of men do not have sex at all.
Research from the sociology department at Georgia State University suggests that about 15 percent of married couples have not had sex for around six months to a year. Denise Donnelly, who led the study, answered the following question:
Can people in a marriage that has become sexless rekindle their sex lives?
“Some do. But once a marriage has been sexless for a long time, it’s very hard. One or both may be extremely afraid of hurt or rejection, or just entirely apathetic to their partner. They may not have been communicating about sex for a very long time (if ever) and have trouble talking about it. Couples who talk over their sex lives (as well as other aspects of their marriages) tend to have healthier marriages, but it’s hard to get a couple talking once they’ve established a pattern of non-communication.
“There are mixed opinions about what to do to rekindle marital sex. For some couples, it may be as simple as a weekend away from the kids, taking a vacation or cruise, or just having some time off, alone. Others may need help in re-establishing communication and may seek professional assistance”.
Reasons we go off sex
Some of the most common reasons for decline in sex in long-term relationships are:
- Female sexual dysfunction
- Erectile dysfunction
- Male mid-life crisis
- Online infidelity
- Low libido
- Negative body image
- Monogamy and monotony
- Unresolved conflict
Too busy for sex?
There are various health problems that can affect your sex life, ranging from back pain, insomnia, arthritis, migraine and asthma. However, with a third of British couples spending only 30 minutes of quality time together each day and a culture of longer working hours, tiredness, household chores and childcare can all make it easy to fall out of the habit of having sex.
If you’re in a sexless relationship and want to try to get the ball rolling again, the following tips may help:
- Talk about it. It can be tricky to bring the subject up, so find a moment when you’re both relaxed and unlikely to be interrupted. In the first instance, just talk about how you’re both feeling and establish where you’re at with things. Does your partner feel the same way as you?
- Listen to your partner. Your partner might share some things that you find difficult to hear. Try to listen with an open mind as this will make it easier for you to find solutions together.
- Figure out what you want. What would an ideal sex life look like for you? What about for your partner? See if your desires match up and have a think about where you might need to compromise.
- Take the pressure off. Give yourselves time to work things out and accept that progress is likely to be slow.
- Celebrate the little things. If holding hands at the cinema is a step forward, then let yourself be happy about it. It may take months of getting used to back rubs and kissing before you can start to feel like sex is OK, so enjoy each little milestone.
Although money isn’t the most romantic topic, it’s an unavoidable part of any relationship. Your financial situation as a couple differs depending on whether you are married, civil partnered, or not. Married or civil partnered couples have a legal duty to support each other but cohabiting couples don’t, even after a separation.
Working out a budget can help you keep track of the money you have coming in and how much you spend. You can find a budget planner on the Money Advice Service website.
Separate bank accounts
If you are not married or civil partnered, you won’t be able to access money held in each other’s separate bank accounts. If one of you dies, any money in the account will be unavailable until the estate is settled.
If you are married or civil partnered, you can only access money in your spouse’s or partner’s account with their permission. If one of you dies, the account becomes part of the inheritance and automatically goes to a spouse or civil partner, unless the will says otherwise.
If you have a joint account, you both have the right to access the money. If one of you dies, the account immediately becomes the property of the other, even if you are not married or civil partnered.
If you are the only one putting money into the joint account, the money and any purchases you make from it, legally belong to you.
If you have a joint bank account with your spouse or civil partner, the money – including any debts or overdrafts – is owned jointly, regardless of who has been paying money in, or taking money out. If one partner dies, the account immediately becomes the property of the other.
Whether you are married, in a civil partnership, or not, you are not responsible for any debts in your partner’s name, including in their separate bank account. If you do have debts, always take advice as soon as possible. You can speak to Citizens Advice or a debt counselling agency such as the National Debtline (0808 808 4000). In some circumstances you may need to contact an insolvency practitioner.
If you have a joint bank account, things may be more difficult if you are not married and not civil partnered. To close a joint account, you both need to give consent. If the account is not closed, one of you could run up an overdraft and leave the other one responsible for it.
If you have a joint mortgage or rent, you are legally responsible for covering each other’s share.
Relationships aren’t born fully formed. After you and your partner get together, you continue to grow as individuals and as a couple. There will be ups and downs and all couples go through difficult phases as they adjust to these changes. But those who make it through the tough times often find themselves stronger at the other side.
As relationships develop over time, most people try to find a balance between keeping their individuality and being part of a couple. The trickiest times are usually the transitions from one stage of a relationship to the next. Being aware of how conflict can come up during these times will help you to deal with difficult times and find a way through together.
The following model is from OnePlusOne’s booklet ‘Supporting Couple Relationships: A Sourcebook for Practitioners’, showing some of the different stages a relationship might go through. Couples don’t necessarily move smoothly from one stage to another and you might find you go back and forth, depending on various life events.
If you’re going through a rocky patch, this model might help you to see that it’s perfectly normal and that things can get better. During these difficult periods, it can help to make more of an effort to:
- show affection and support
- spend time together
- express and share your feelings
It’s not always easy to work through an unhappy phase but many couples do push through and find happiness again. One study found that nearly two thirds (62 percent) of people who were unhappy in their relationships but stayed together said that their relationships were happier again after they worked things through.
The myth of common-law marriage – that couples who live together have the same legal rights as married couples – springs from a time when there was uncertainty about what constituted a marriage. Church and State marriage ceremonies are relatively recent, having been grafted onto older popular rites where legitimacy was not dependent on written law.
Marriage by consent
In earlier times, the validity of a marriage depended on the consent of two people publicly announced or at least symbolised by the exchange of rings or love tokens.
These were spoken rituals, celebrated by the people themselves; their witness and memory of the events was evidence that made the marriage legitimate.
Among Anglo-Saxons, the Beweddung was a public ceremony led by the father of the bride. The groom and his people offered weds to the bride’s guardians – these were guarantees that the bride would be looked after.
In Scotland and northern England, couples exchanged vows (plighting the troth) by joining their hands in the handfast. They were then called wyf husband. A woman without a guardian – such as a widow – gave herself to the groom. The partners exchanged weds and rings, kissed and clasped hands and this was overseen by an orator. The man would give the woman the gift of a ring to imply a formal contract.
Married ‘in the eyes of God’
In the 13th century, Pope Innocent III declared that the free consent of both spouses was the sole essence of a marriage, not the formal solemnities by a priest or in church. A valid and binding marriage was a verbal contract, through an exchange of vows between a man and a woman over the age of consent (14 and 12), with two witnesses and expressed in the present tense. A promise in the future tense was only binding if it was followed by sexual intercourse, which was taken as evidence of consent in the present.
Married ‘in the eyes of God and the Church’
Priests initially got involved as orators, inviting witnesses and prompting the vows. They later offered the church porch as a place to announce and witness vows made at other public places such as the market cross. Gradually, the clergy took over the role of orator, asking those attending whether there were objections to the marriage and then getting the couple to repeat their betrothal agreement publicly. This was symbolised by rings and coins placed in the priest’s book.
By the 1500s, most people brought their vows to church as the final part of the marriage process, following the betrothal and church services started to take place at the altar rather than in the porch.
The church did not approve of men and women taking themselves as man and wife before their vows were ratified by the church, since canon law recognised this as the basis of holy matrimony. However, the church courts recognised common rites – spousals, handfasts, and trothplights followed by intercourse – as valid marriages.
Marriage and the law
All three branches of the law – ecclesiastical, common and equity – had control over some aspects of marriage. Medieval canon law determined the rules of marriage. These were revised and restated in the Canons of 1604 and enforced by the church courts. The criminal courts could become involved if either party chose to sue the other for a statutory offence like bigamy. Equity law had jurisdiction over trust deeds and became involved in marriage where there was litigation around marriage settlements and the enforcement of trust deeds. The various courts overlapped and sometimes contradictory verdicts were returned as to what was or was not a legally valid marriage.
After inheritance, marriage was probably the single most important method of transmitting property. As a result, much of the litigation about marriage was about property over which the common law had legal jurisdiction.
Moving in together is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a couple. Whether you are buying or renting, there are a number of things to consider and it’s important to get your legal position clear from the beginning, whether you are buying or renting.
Mortgage lenders tend to treat couples similarly whether they are married or civil partnered or not. However, some mortgage lenders require you to have life insurance as a condition of the loan and single (unmarried) men are treated as a higher risk. You can get past this issue by choosing a mortgage without a compulsory insurance clause.
If you are planning on buying a property together for the first time, you will need to decide how you are going to own the property and make this clear in the property paperwork. It is also a good idea to make a will, if you have not yet done so.
Joint ownership ensures that each partner has a legal share in the property. If you split up and the property is in only one person’s name, the other person has no legal right to a share of the property. This can be changed if an agreement is drawn up or if ‘trust principles’* apply.
There are two types of joint ownership:
1. Beneficial joint tenants
This means that the whole property belongs to both of you and neither has a separate share. If one of you dies, the other automatically becomes the owner of the whole property. This type of ownership suits most married and civil partnered couples.
2. Tenants in common
The property is still owned jointly, but each of you has a separate share. If one of you has contributed more money to the property, you may decide to reflect this in your shares. If one of you dies, that person’s share can be passed on in the will or under the rules of intestacy**.
If you own a property as tenants in common, you will need a separate document or deed setting out the shares in the property and how the proceeds of sale will be divided if the property is sold. This is usually called a ’trust deed’ or a ’declaration of trust’.
If you choose ‘tenants in common’, it is important to:
- Make a ’declaration of trust’: Your solicitor will be able to draw up this legal document which sets out each person’s share of the property and what happens if one partner decides they want to sell.
- Make a will: Tenancy in common does not make your partner the automatic beneficiary of your share, so it is very important to make wills saying what you want to happen to your share if you die.
When you feel like things aren’t what they used to be in your relationship, it can be a sad time. Having a baby can bring this feeling on overnight, so it’s important to recognise and accept that all relationships change and adapt over time.
Having a baby is such an exciting time with so many positives that it’s easy to see why couples expect to feel happier together and it can come as a real shock to find that you are not getting on. But research shows that this is normal – parenthood is often the most difficult transition anyone will have to make.
Struggling with new roles
You may struggle to hold onto a clear sense of who you are when you first become a parent. You have to get used to a new identity and sometimes the other roles in your life become secondary, at least in the beginning. This includes your role as a partner.
New mums may also find it difficult to adjust to changes in their body like increased weight, stretch marks, sagging and scarring. The demands of breastfeeding can be difficult to adjust to and many new mums find themselves feeling unattractive or at odds with their body.
However, while some mothers and fathers may feel the loss of their old selves, others are happy with their new identity.
Loss of freedom
The demands of having a baby to look after can leave you feeling like you no longer have any individual freedom. Many parents struggle with not being able to come and go as they please, to go out and to enjoy their own interests.
Life with children brings a new routine of mealtimes, nap times and bedtimes. Adjusting to this new lifestyle with no letup can feel very suffocating for some parents and may take a lot of adjusting to.
Changes to other relationships
Having a baby can also change your relationships with other people, including your family, friends, parents and in-laws.
Many couples find they develop a stronger bond with their own parents and their in-laws. This often comes from a combination of enjoying a shared interest in the baby, and a reliance on support with childcare. But it isn’t all plain sailing. There are often difficulties with partners’ families, particularly if they interfere with your way of doing things. Some couples struggle with interference or criticism from their own parents, and difficult relationships may become even more strained.
Some partners want to go back to the traditional ways of doing things that they were brought up with, which can lead to conflict between couples because they each have different ways of doing things.
New parenthood can stir up past childhood experiences and feelings and it may also stir up old memories of parenting for the new grandparents.
If you have difficulties with your parents or in-laws, it’s often best to discuss them with your partner first and work out what you’re going to say. That way you can present a united front and avoid letting your in-laws or parents create any difficulties in your relationship with your partner.
Relationships with friends
It can be hard to keep up with old friends, particularly if they don’t have children of their own. They have different schedules and may not understand the demands on your time – especially at the beginning. But having a baby gives you lots of opportunities to make new friends with other new parents, who can be a great source of advice and support.
What else helps
Remember to look after yourself. This means eating well, resting when you can, and exercising if possible. Most importantly, though, try to recognise that things will get easier.
Meet other new parents Being with a baby can be lonely and isolating; other new parents can offer support or just be someone to talk to from time to time. Your health visitor or GP may know of local groups, or you can try your local Children’s Centre, library, NCT group, or faith centre.
Don’t expect too much of yourself. You, your partner and your family are the most important thing to care about, especially when the baby is small. Don’t worry too much about the housework or cooking fancy meals. Most other things can wait.
In stressful times, couples can often find it hard to communicate and may feel misunderstood or ignored by their partner.
During pregnancy and the first few months of a baby’s life both partners tend to cope better if they can find specific ways to support each other. However, you might find that you and your partner have different ideas about how to be supportive.
Some new parents, particularly mothers, might just want to vent their frustrations, perhaps expressing desperation at feeling unable to meet their baby’s needs. You might hear this and feel your partner wants you to find the answers. However, she might just be looking for reassurance that she’s doing her best and is a good mother.
What most new parents want is simply reassurance from their partner
Many parents, often fathers, feel overwhelmed by having to be the breadwinner, particular if they feel that this is their main role. They may be looking for attention or hoping to be let in more to the parenting decisions. When a parent feels left out, they may also feel angry or resentful towards their partner and the baby.
Both parents can be left feeling unsupported and unloved, which can lead to further difficulties if the problems are not dealt with. In reality, you both still want the same things: to be happy together with your baby and to be comforted and supported by each other. Couples who get through the difficult early months and take pleasure in enjoying the baby together, can find a deeper bond emerging.
Working out ‘how’ to be a parent
New parents often argue about differences over how to handle the baby; pick her up or leave her? Feed on demand or four-hourly? Should they follow their parents’ methods and, if so, whose parents?
Mothers, or primary carers may feel they know best because they spend more time with the baby and feel they know them better. However, if you find it hard to let your partner help or question his handling of the baby too much, he may end up feeling undermined and unsupported. So it’s better to talk through your differences calmly – criticism on either side will only make things harder.
As new parents, you may find it difficult to get time to talk, as well as not always knowing what to say. You may just want to bottle up your feelings or you may become more argumentative because you’re tired and irritable. It can start to feel like you’re on different sides and you may start to feel hurt and resentful.
But it’s always worth opening up a conversation. Be honest about how you feel and the part you want to play, both as a parent and a partner. Give your partner the opportunity to talk too. Keep listening to each other and try to agree that you’ll both do your best to support each other in your new roles.
Power dynamics refers to the way decisions are made and who makes them. In a balanced relationship, both partners have an equal say in things.
Finding a balance may take some work. After the initial romance of a new relationship, it’s natural for both partners to start trying to regain a sense of independence. This is a common step in most committed relationships. However, when one partner starts trying to get an unbalanced share of power, the relationship can become manipulative and, in extreme cases, this can turn to aggression .
Equality is good for both of you
Equality is one of the most important characteristics of a good relationship. Both men and women say their relationships are happier and more open when both partners have an equal balance of power . In an unbalanced relationship, the partner who feels disempowered may have other negative psychological outcomes, including anger, frustration, and even depression .
If you notice an ongoing unbalance in the power dynamic of your own relationship, try to be aware of any signs of aggression creeping in ] and make sure you stay safe. You do not have to stay in a relationship where someone is trying to control you.
The basis of power
Historically, power in relationships was based around money – which usually favoured men. These days, most young couples have a more balanced financial setup, and this is linked to having more equality overall in the relationship . Seeking a balance in your own relationship is a good sign that you’re stepping out of the shadows of history.
Money isn’t the only factor in how people exert power in relationships. Power is also built around emotional resources like communication skills and the ability to meet each other’s needs. Someone who is stronger emotionally may be better equipped to love, support, and commit to a romantic partner. Think of a person who is very insecure and afraid that their partner will leave them. In this situation the other person would hold more emotional power.
An age thing?
One thing worth being aware of is that among some friendship groups, things like looks or popularity might be important ‘relationship resources’, meaning some people will accept a less equal role in a relationship because it gives them access to a peer group that they admire and otherwise wouldn’t be able to spend time with.
Generally, teenagers and young people are more likely to be in equal relationships than older couples Younger people are less likely to have to rely on each other financially, but there’s also been a general shift in attitudes towards equality, compared to previous generations
Whatever your age, men and women both say that commitment, attention and good company are among the things that are most important in their relationships
Judgment traps a person into having an midlife affair, judgments force affairs to go deeper and finally judgment creates conflicts that make affairs even messier situations than they need to be. Judgment prevents people from learning from their mistakes. Judgment after a midlife affair prevents the healing of everyone involved in the aftermath.
Three Angles of a Midlife Affair
We can break down midlife affairs to three different cases to consider:
- Pre Affair
- During the Affair
- Post Affair.
Lets look at each case separately.
Pre Midlife Affair
If you are considering a midlife affair, it means it’s time to take a deeper more honest look at both yourself and your current relationship. The desire to start a Midlife Affair often represents being afraid to directly work with your partner or that your partner has stopped communicating with you.
Many midlife affairs happen because a person is seeking to move past feeling stuck in their current life. The affair represents motion and new options. Affairs also represent the seeking of another person to provide comfort and finally often are an attempt to validate oneself through another person.
If you are longing towards an midlife affair the first step is to realize that your current relationship is already having serious enough problems to end it.
Finding a counselor to help you begin work out issues is often the more graceful path to explore rather than suppressing your feelings. The problem is individuals are often blind to personal problems so they cannot spot and fix them on their own (hence the pull to an affair). Understand that an affair rarely fixes personal problems, rather affairs usually only add additional complications into the mix.
The common approach to avoid having an affair is by suppressing personal feelings. Suppression of personal feelings will always fail as an answer. Suppression of feelings leads to (a) you breaking down to having the affair, (b) the pent up feelings coming out volcanically to break your current relationship later in a much more painful manner or (c) pent up feelings slowly rending your heart apart to the point you spiritually die, or even worse (d) the pent up feelings slowly tear a person up inside to the point they stop caring about life, many early deaths come out of not taking care of your body properly.
During the Midlife Affair
The truth is sometimes the midlife affair has to happen. Too much tension exists or the need for freedom is so strong that a person finds themselves in a relationship with another person. Part of this attraction comes out from that fact all new relationships are relatively judgement free still. New relationships are fresh, this opens up new experiences and kick starts the exploration of life again. The pull to live again is very irresistible. The pull to be with a person that doesn’t limit one down with judgements or measurement is intoxicating.
The only problem is this: having started a new relationship by breaking trust, this also sows the seeds of hidden judgements, judgements that will grow and circle back around to slowly eat away at your choices. A person can run only so far before having to start dealing with the very issues that created the previous set of relationship problems eating away at the earlier relationship.