One in three married couples with young children end up breaking up, according to a study conducted by Swedish psychologists. In our country, the situation is not much different. Given the extreme demands of parenthood, this statistic is not surprising. Fortunately, researchers wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why so many parents give up on their union and, most importantly, if anything can be done to prevent it.
The researchers analyzed 452 separated parents whose separation occurred when their children were on average 4 years and 8 months old. The results show that there are seven factors that most often cause family breakdown:
- Disagreements in views on the education and upbringing of children.
- Stressful conditions.
- Lack of intimacy between the parents.
- Insufficient communication.
- Differences in values and interests.
- Lack of commitment leading to infidelity.
- Negative effects as a result of addiction to various vices, such as alcohol, gambling, and other partners.
It’s important to note that these factors are not necessarily the only reasons for separation, but they are the most common ones.
What Should We Do?
Raising children is undoubtedly stressful, no matter who you are, and it could lead to any of the listed phenomena. Is intimacy lost because of baby puree stains on your favorite t-shirt that you now wear as a go-to outfit? Or is it difficult to communicate deeply when your baby is crying or your older child is asking you to play with them for the 82nd time?
Malin Hanson, the author of the study, and her colleague Wendy Walsh offer some advice to mothers and fathers who want to preserve their families:
- Show appreciation for your partner: Even if it is related to something as small as changing diapers or running the washing machine, showing your spouse that you appreciate what they do can make a big difference.
- Express your feelings: Many parents stop hugging and kissing at a certain stage of their relationship, and according to psychologists, this is one of the main reasons for family breakdown. Over time, people become estranged, which leads to an inevitable breakup.
- Talk: As difficult as conversations are in the chaos of the home, there are times when they are possible. When the children are asleep or at their grandparents’ house, use these moments to improve your relationship. Share how your day went, even if nothing exciting happened.
- Avoid accusations: Accusations can become a way of communicating, and the effect is alienation and troubled relationships. Even if you feel like saying, “You never do anything, you don’t help me at all,” try to come up with something constructive like, “I wish you’d help me around the house a little more.”
- Create family traditions: According to Hanson’s research, couples with young children who have managed to save their marriages are quite successful in keeping some of their family traditions, such as always eating at the table together, going on weekend trips, or playing family games. If each of you is staring at your cell phone or tablet during dinner, you can’t expect that dinner to lead to any closeness, sharing, or enjoyment for everyone. Instead, create mealtime rules where technology is absent, everyone tells interesting stories from the day, and helps set and clear the table.
- Plan date nights: Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t go out on a date. Hire a babysitter, plan a romantic evening, and spend some quality time together.
In addition to the above, here are some other things that couples with young children can do to strengthen their relationship: