By Anja van den Berg
For around 30 years, researchers have studied how having children affects a marriage, and the results are conclusive: the relationship between spouses suffers once kids come along.
Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of the decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples.
If a pregnancy is unplanned, the parents experience even more significant negative impacts on their relationship.
This decrease in marital satisfaction likely leads to a change in general happiness, says Professor Matthew Johnson, Director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory, Binghamton University, New York.
The most significant predictor of overall life satisfaction is a person’s satisfaction with his or her spouse, he adds.
The daily grind and living up to social ideals can erode even the most loving marriage, according to David Ezell, clinical director of Darien Wellness, a counselling and mental wellness group.
“I see a lot of couples who are completely burned out because they are comparing themselves to a fantasy.”
The fantasy, he notes, includes perpetually optimistic, level-headed parents who have successful careers, a great marriage, and never lose their cool.
Dr Alicia Walker, an assistant professor of sociology, also points out the conflict between societal pressures to have children without offering the social resources to support parents. These social resources include paid maternity leave and affordable childcare.
“When both parents are working tirelessly on day-to-day tasks just to keep everyone going, they can become very businesslike in their relationship,” Dr Walker adds.
The relationship between husband and wife should trump everything else, says Dr Charles Schmitz.
Schmitz is dean emeritus of counselling and family therapy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His wife, Dr Elizabeth Schmitz, is president of Successful Marriage Reflections. Together, they have studied thousands of couples in 45 countries in their search for the secrets to a happy marriage.
“You have to keep it strong, keep the romantic energy,” he adds. “Everything else comes from that. Children are beautiful, but they’re not the sole purpose of marriage.”
The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/05/06/why-having-children-is-bad-for-your-marriage/
SAGE Journals: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/019251385006004004
APA psycNET: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0013969