Kids transform even the happiest, most care-free marriages. Sleepless nights, strained finances, and social isolation can test the strongest relationships. The good news? It gets better. Read on to learn about the role kids could play in your relationship:
The Bad News: Children Reduce Relationship Satisfaction
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that stress harms relationships. One of the biggest sources of stress a couple can face? Welcoming a child into their family. This concept is backed up not only by common sense, but also by ample research. A longitudinal study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychologyrevealed sudden deterioration of relationship functioning among new parents, along with gradual decreases in overall marital satisfaction as their children grew up.
While kids clearly increase stress levels, researchers believe that the real culprit behind struggling marriages is conflict over key decisions. Parents must make a variety of difficult choices regarding things like breastfeeding, school district, religious affiliation, and more. Those who agree—or who at least can communicate constructively while operating on five hours sleep—are more likely to keep the romance alive and navigate the ups and downs of parenting.
The Role of Unplanned Pregnancy
While kids generally strain marriages, stress can be mitigated through careful family planning. Unplanned pregnancies prompt out-of-control feelings, which can greatly damage relationships. Additionally, these pregnancies often cause significant financial strain as parents struggle to keep up with unanticipated expenses.
The Stress of No Children
Children can place significant burdens on adult relationships, but it’s not all roses for childless couples. Spouses fare best when they agree about life goals, but in many relationships, one spouse desperately wants children while the other feels ambivalent or dead set against the idea. Other couples are not childless by choice, but rather, due to infertility—which can drastically increase the likelihood of divorce.
The Good News: Despite Stress, Parents Insist It’s All Worthwhile
Parents acknowledge the inherent difficulties in keeping the spark alive while raising kids, but they insist that, given the opportunity to start fresh, they’d still embrace the stress of parenting. Surprisingly, children appear to have a protective effect against divorce; research presented by journalist Anneli Rufus indicates that a clear majority of divorcees lack children. Skeptics claim that spouses with kids simply remain in miserable marriages rather than divorce. An opposing argument: parents are less likely to make impulsive decisions when their relationship hits a rough spot.