Are Kids Bad For Marriage?
Are kids bad for your marriage? Do kids make marriages stronger? Or do they put the marriage at risk? Are people with children happier than childless couples? What are the advantages to having children (when you are married) to not having children? Does having children reduce the likelihood that you will divorce?
These are some of the questions we have been debating at Divorce Saloon and apparently, so have a lot of other people. I found an article in the UK Guardian and another in the Washington Post both of which seem to suggest that kids are bad for marriage. Are they right with that? Are kids bad for your marriage? Sometimes, yes. However, there is a silver lining. Even though kids are bad for marriage i.e. they mess up the game between mom and dad, and make a once happy and idealistic couple “miserable,” it is STILL less likely that the couple who has children will divorce than it is for their childless counterparts who, though happier on the outside, have a less solid marriage because they don’t have kids. Go figure.
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. In the event that a pregnancy is unplanned, the parents experience even greater negative impacts on their relationship.
The irony is that even as the marital satisfaction of new parents declines, the likelihood of them divorcing also declines. So, having children may make you miserable, but you’ll be miserable together.
The thing is that a lot of young, married people believe that having children will bring them closer to each other and make their marriage better. They really believe that having children is the raison d’être of being human. And for some people it works out to be true. But it seems for the majority, it’s total nonsense. It is a myth. Children do not make your happier and they do not bring you closer. On the contrary, kids are bad for your marriage and for your relationship. According to the Guardian article:
The belief that having children will improve one’s marriage is a tenacious and persistent myth among those who are young and in love.
It seems that the most profound change that occurs happens in the bedroom. Sex is not the same when kids are involved. It is less frequent for one thing and for another thing, maybe less spontaneous and inventive. Couples with children tend to focus more on the children and less on each other and their relationship with each other. Their conversations are all about the kids. This is great for the co-parenting but not great for their relationship with each other. Having kids just fundamentally is a paradigm shift in a marriage, reshaping the very way in which a person identifies themselves to each other and to the world. Again, the Guardian:
Fundamental identities may shift – from wife to mother, or, at a more intimate level, from lovers to parents. Even in same-sex couples, the arrival of children predicts less relationship satisfaction and sex. Beyond sexual intimacy, new parents tend to stop saying and doing the little things that please their spouses. Flirty texts are replaced with messages that read like a grocery receipt.
With that all said about kids being bad for your marriage, there are positives to having children. As the Guardian article points out, once children leave the nest, these marriages could simply disintegrate because without the kids acting as a sort of adhesive stick, the couple may otherwise have very little to talk about. So in a way, having kids may be a lucky break for some couples, and the last thing they should do if they don’t want a divorce does NOT have kids.