It is not easy bringing a life into the universe. Not only it is physically straining, it also takes toll on you emotionally. With the sleepless nights, less time for yourself and your partner, and the unknown and difficult challenges that being new parents brings, it may come as no surprise to many that the experience can put a strain on a relationship. Figures of 2012 from Statistics Sweden showing that 30% of parents with young children in the separate, many before their first child has turned five.
A team of researchers interviewed hundreds of couples and put together five tips based on their findings for helping new parents cope through the low points.
The team from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden wanted to look into the most important factors behind separations and divorces in couples with young children, surveying 452 first-time parents to measure relationship quality at three different points after the birth of the first child. About 46% of the parents were married and 54% were living together.
The researchers looked at five different components of a relationship -- consensus, cohesion, satisfaction, sensuality and sexuality -- and asked the parents to answer questions when the first child was 6 months old, 4 years old, and then 8 years old.
During the period of the study 23 of the couples separated after four years, and 16 separated after eight years.
Although they saw similar problems being experienced by all couples, such as a decrease in the quality of sex life, there were also differences between the couples who separated and those who stayed together.
Using their findings, the researchers compiled seven factors that they believe contribute to separation:
1. Strains from parenthood
2. Stressful conditions
3. Lack of intimacy
4. Insufficient communication
5. Differing personalities and interests
6. No commitment (in the relationship)
7. Negative effects of addiction
A combination of these factors also appeared to contribute to an overall feeling of ‘less togetherness’, with the couples who separated experiencing more disagreement with their partner, feeling less satisfied with their sex life, and less satisfied with the relationship as a whole.
To combat these risk factors, and help couples navigate the early years of parenthood together, the researchers advise the following for parents of young children:
1. Communication is key. Speak openly, clearly and with straightforward messages.
2. Include sensuality in everyday life. Show affection and be generous with hugs, kisses and physical contact.
3. Make time for time together. It is important to spend time together as a family but also as a couple away from the children.
4. Affirmation. Show each other you care, love and appreciate each other.
5. And if there are problems in the relationship, don’t wait too long to seek help and sort out the problem.
In addition to the above factors, the team also found that co-habiting partners were twice as likely to separate as married couples, and a low level of education and unemployment also made it more likely a couple would go separate ways. However such factors can be harder to control and resolve. The team believes that improvements made in other areas however, such as sharing responsibility in the home, and improving communication methods, could help reduce the number of “unnecessary divorces” that can be the result of what is just a “temporary downturn” in a relationship.
The results can be found online in the journal Nordic Psychology.