One in Five couples split up during the first year of becoming parents. One. In. Five. Now that is a scary statistic.
There are many reasons cited for what causes these early break ups;
- A big adjustment
- Too much stress
- Not enough support (from each other or from outside the home)
- Poor communication
- Less time or energy for Intimacy
- Added responsibility
These issues impact every relationship in the first year, so four out of five couples are handling them (or avoiding them, but that is another blog post entirely!). So what is happening at the Root level of those relationships that don’t make it to their baby’s first birthday intact?
Needs are not being met.
Before you become a parent, you just have your own needs and the needs of your partner to think about. You have expectations that the patterns you have set in your relationship, can continue after the baby is born. Most of the time, they can’t.
Let’s take a look at all those reasons above and reframe them to be about unmet needs.
A Big Adjustment – Adding the intense needs of a small human to the mix is difficult to adjust to. Primary caregivers have less time to meet their own needs and even less time or energy to meet the needs of their partner. Many partners find themselves either working overtime to meet the needs of their partner and baby and therefore neglecting their own needs, or feeling rejected because their partner doesn’t have the time or energy to meet their needs in the way they are used to.
Too much stress – The root cause of stress is an inability to meet our own needs or have our needs met by others.
Not enough support – Your partner is unable to support you (meet your needs) and you have little support from other adults who could meet your needs or help out so you can meet your own and each other’s needs again.
Poor Communication – can look like any of the following.
- I don’t have the tools to communicate my needs to you.
- You don’t have the tools to hear and respond to my needs the way I would like.
- I don’t feel like my needs are important compared to the baby’s needs, so I will not communicate them to you.
Less time or energy for intimacy – Both physical and emotional intimacy with our partner are important needs in a relationship. It can be difficult to prioritise them, when a baby has such intense needs and when communication about needs in the relationship is difficult.
Added responsibility – Meeting the needs of the new baby becomes the top priority of one or both parents, most often trumping the needs of your partner and yourself.
One in Five couples split in the first year because they have unmet needs. They were unprepared for how their needs would change when they became parents and how significant the impact of meeting their baby’s needs would be, on whether their own needs could be met by themselves and/or their partner.
If you have worked with me, listened to me speak or read anything I have written recently, it will come as no surprise to hear me say that your past and especially your childhood, play a very big role in how you manage these needs. How you respond to your own needs, the needs of your partner and new baby are all tied up in your patterns of relational behaviour;
- How you manage and feel about change.
- Whether you feel worthy of asking for help and support.
- Whether you sacrifice yourself for others.
- How you feel about vulnerability.
- Your core beliefs about gender roles in relationships and parenting.
- What you feel you deserve or don’t deserve from your partner.
- How important you see your needs and the needs of others .
- Your core beliefs vs values when it comes to making decisions about parenting.
If you want your relationship to survive and thrive beyond the first year of your baby’s life, the most important thing you can do, is explore how your past relationships and childhood experiences have shaped your patterns of relating and encourage your partner to do the same. In fact, even if you already have children, doing this exploratory work will positively impact your relationship with your partner, your children and yourself.
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Emma Holdsworth is a mother of 2, Family Counsellor, Parenting Educator and pregnancy and postpartum Doula. Emma is passionate about supporting pregnant and new mums to feel empowered to become the parents they truly want to be. Emma supports parents to explore the deeper aspects of themselves, and understand how their childhood experiences, past relationships, values and beliefs will shape their future parenting experience.