According to a recent study, one in five couples believed that having a baby led to the breakdown of their marriage. Startling figures when most couples believe that having a baby will "complete them" or bring them closer together. Many factors contribute to relationship breakdown, including the following:
As a couple lives their lives together, the life cycle of their relationship goes through three main stages: Coming Together, Growing Apart and finally, Growing Together. The coming together stage forms the strength of our initial bond. The Growing Apart stage allows us to become our complete selves and in the Growing Together stage we learn how to be both separate individuals and intimate partners too. What most couples aren't aware of is that having a baby can tip us into the Growing Apart stage at a time when we expected that we would, in fact, be growing together.
Knowing about relationship stages and preparing for and working with them, can in many instances prevent relationship breakdown.
Separation and Divorce
There are times when it is best for parents to separate. If the parental relationship is abusive, if there is high conflict, or there are serious addiction issues then separation is sometimes advisable. These issues are best explored in counselling before you make any final decisions that will affect the family.
Nearly half of all divorced couples regret their decision a few years later when they are able to look back with hindsight and see their own contribution to their relationship problems. Even an amicable divorce can be distressing for a child. The family unit that your child is born into is their safety-net. When this net is cut in half, a child can feel loss and grief. The sad irony of the situation is that for the sake of their children separated parents need to find a way to re-negotiate their relationship so that they can both be involved in their child's life. This takes a great deal of skill and an attitude of co-operation. Many separated parents realise later that this is, in fact, what they needed earlier in their relationship together.
Being a parent is hard sometimes, even if you have a full-time partner sharing the load. For single parents it's vital to have a reliable support system you can count on when you need a well-earned break, or time and energy to fulfil your other obligations.
Single parents often have to make choices around employment issues that they would not make under different circumstances, like returning to work sooner than they had planned, or working longer hours.
Single parents are also faced with the juggling act of sharing their child with another parent who lives in another suburb or another state. All of this can add stress to an already full life. Learn to recognise when you are stressed and find ways that work for you to deal with it. Eating well, exercising regularly and doing something you enjoy every week are a good start.
Even though your child's other parent may no longer be your partner in life, ideally they are still a partner in raising your child. It is very important for a child to have a good relationship with both parents: it strengthens their sense of identity, rounds out their personality and gives them a sense of security in themselves that forms the basis for their future relationships . Unless having a relationship with your child's other parent is harmful to them, it is important that the two of you develop a working relationship for the benefit of your child. For some this means loving your child more than you dislike your ex.
In order to be able to do this you may have to work through any ill feeling between the two of you. It is natural that when a relationship ends we can be left with anger, hurt, depression and resentment. It is healthy for us to go through a grieving process where feelings of shock and distress pass through to feelings of anger and sadness and eventually to an acceptance of the situation. If we get stuck in our anger or sadness we can get consumed by it - it can take over and affect other areas of our lives - and our children. There are resources available to help you move through the stages of the grief process so that you can find acceptance, healing, balance and recovered self-esteem.