Study Reveals the Effect That Having Children Has on Marriage

You’d be hard-pressed to find a couple that claims that raising kids is an easy task, especially when it comes to bringing up newborns and toddlers. Between middle-of-the-night feedings, handling childcare, maintaining careers, and so much more, it’s no wonder why parenting is often regarded as being both “magical” and “hellish.”

But, mechanics aside, one factor that, we feel, doesn’t get enough attention is the issue of what parenting can do to a marriage. Sean Grover, L.C.S.W calls this phenomenon “parenting burnout,” and, according to the therapist, when left untreated, it can have a destructive effect on marriages.

To back this up, Grover provides data taken directly from American parents, stating that their parenting duties have overshadowed or put extra pressure on the marriage as a whole.

In the Psychology Today article entitled, “Is Parenting Burnout Destroying Your Marriage?” the therapist points to a study that found that roughly two-thirds of couples experience a quality decline in their marriages within the first three years of having a child. Apparently, women seem to suffer the most, as more report dissatisfaction and a higher percentage file for divorce than men.

The study also shows that the stress of having a kid can be so detrimental that a staggering 40-percent of couples file for divorce within the first five years of a birth. To make it even worse, a sizeable percentage of couples end up splitting just 18 months following the birth of a child.

Grover describes parenting burnout as being something akin to complete and utter fatigue, something to which virtually all parents can relate.

If you’re a burnt-out parent, you’re exhausted in every way; you’ve neglected yourself without mercy. Depleted emotionally, intellectually, and creatively, you stumble through your routines, doze off in mid-sentence, or stare at a computer or television screen in a weary hypnotic trance,” the therapist says. “You’ve probably even forgotten that you have needs.”

So, what’s the solution to remedying “parenting burnout?” Luckily, it’s not about re-thinking having children altogether, the key is for both parties to change up their mindsets.

In an interview published in Today, David Ezell, the clinical director of counseling and mental wellness group, Darien Wellness, echoes the findings in the study. His theory for the unhappiness is that too many couples carry warped perceptions of what it means to have children and be in a marriage, a factor which can, ultimately, put unnecessary stress on the relationship.

“I see a lot of couples who are completely burned out because they are comparing themselves to a fantasy,” Ezell reveals. 

In addition to shifting up mindset, experts suggest burnt-out parents spend as much time as possible on self-care activities, like scheduling a weekly date, keeping up a dedicated exercise routine, indulging in creative activities, and keeping an active social life.

We know, we know, easier said than done, right? Self-care may seem impossible to fit in for new parents, but it’s the one factor that could end up saving an otherwise great marriage from splitsville.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you find that having children adds extra stress to a marriage? Have you experienced this yourself? If so, do you have any tips on combating it?