Child-proofing your relationship?

A vital part of being ‘More than a Mum’ and remembering that you are also a ‘woman’ is to safe guard and nurture your relationship with your partner.  A new report by the relationship charity OnePlusOne reveals this morning that nearly a quarter of parents in the UK are no longer with the partner they had their first child with. What’s more, of those parents who had split up, two-fifths parted company either during pregnancy or before the child reached three-years-old. The report, entitled ‘Sleep, Sex and Sacrifice: The transition to parenthood, a testing time for relationships’, is available to read on the OnePlusOne website.

The report of course intrigued me as my relationship with BearCub’s father broke down shortly after his first birthday.  Many times I’ve gone over whether there could have been a different outcome and still feel a degree of guilt at times that my son is growing up without his Daddy living with him.  However, whereas I am sure that the relationship was irreconcilable and that there were problems in the relationship before my son was born, there is no doubt that having a child puts a huge strain on any relationship so the statistics of this study do not surprise me.

I remember reading an article when I was pregnant that quoted, ‘having a child is like throwing a grenade into a relationship!’.  I was appalled and terrified.  I was even more horrified to discover there was a lot of truth in the quote.  Nothing can prepare you fully for the transition to parenthood and your world is literally turned upside down in every sense.  Key aspects of your relationship come under attack and suffer due to the relentless demands of one very small person – sleep, sex, time, communication – all come under fire as you struggle to adapt to every day hectic life.

“Two in five new mums, who had a post-baby concern about their relationship, felt they might no longer be sexually attractive to their partner and 25% of new dads were worried their partner was no longer interested in sex.”

How you view yourself changes, how you think your partner views you changes and insecurities are rife with reassurance and support desperately needed at this time.  It was interesting to read that new issues emerged in people’s relationships after they became parents and all the parents surveyed said they felt there was a need for advice on strengthening relationships.

‘Almost two thirds (64%) of new parents (with their oldest child under the age of three) had concerns about their relationship that were not there before they had a baby.’

The charity says that helping couples stay together is vital as previous figures show family breakdown costs around £46bnX every year – without factoring in the emotional cost to the family and particularly children.

OnePlusOne is releasing the new report as part of a project funded by the Department for Education that encourages couples to see accessing relationship support as a normal thing to do to strengthen their relationship, rather than something sought at crisis point. I whole-heartedly agree with this; support through this mind-blowing transition is vital even if it’s just hearing other couples admit they have the same issues, struggles and frustrations.  Most of all I guess having access to those who have gone through it before and come out the other side could greatly encourage couples.  To remind them that they will not always feel so tired that they want to lie their head in their own dinner, or so unattractive that they can’t ever contemplate having sex again – besides that might lead to pregnancy – and generally that things get easier and there is time to rediscover each other and your relationship and you just need support through this extremely ‘testing’ time.

To do just that, OnePlusOne is working with Netmums, Dad.info, YouthNet, Student Room and Contact a Family to create online spaces where people can get advice and discuss their relationship in forums with their peers.

Most of all we need to talk about this.  So in the interest of supporting parents out there – What aspects of your relationship did you find most difficult or strained after becoming a parent? And what are your top tips for baby-proofing your marriage?

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