As Brandi and I prepared for our new support group for expecting couples, this question popped up.
We know from John Gottman, the renowned couples therapist and researcher, that two-thirds of couples report a decrease in relationship satisfaction after the first baby is born. Gottman also tells us that sex and romance decrease, conflicts increase, and most affairs happen in the time after baby number one shows up. We thought this would certainly mean an increase in divorce as well.
Scouring the web for divorce statistics didn’t help so much with answering this hot question. Federal funding was suspended in 1996 for collecting and publishing detailed divorce statistics. Since then, the US Census Bureau has done it’s best to keep track by using a “crude” divorce rate, which measures divorces per 1,000 people. Among the problems with this way of measuring divorce is that it doesn’t weed out the single people or children, and some states don’t even report divorce statistics to the Bureau. In another way of attempting to calculate divorce rate called the refined way, the Bureau will take the number of divorces per 1,000 married women. This takes care of the problem with counting for singles and children but there are, of course, other issues. These statistics don’t factor in those unmarried couples who are cohabiting, and they also don’t take into consideration that the couples who are divorcing are not the couples who married in that same year in most cases. Thus, the rates turn out a bit skewed because rates of marriages per year also fluctuate which will affect the outcome of divorce percentage, even if divorce trends have remained steady. If it’s this complicated to get a general divorce statistic, the statistic we were looking for with regards to how divorce stacks up amongst couples with kids and without, we most likely weren’t going to find. If you’re curious, the one thing that researchers do agree on is that divorce has been on the decline since 1980.
The closest we got to an answer on the world wide web was a stat on a Huffington Post article that stated this: Of the divorced couples in the U.S., 66% are sans child, as opposed to 40% who have children (Larson, 2011). Larson goes on to explain that marriages with no children are easier to end, legally and emotionally. Some states even make couples with children wait up to a year before they can finalize their divorce. It’s not that kids make marriages better (as we’ve seen in countless studies, the opposite tends to be true); parents stay together to avoid a long, expensive, emotionally taxing legal proceedings and often times, as we’ve heard time and time again in the therapy room, “for the kid’s sake”.
Making decisions based on other people’s feelings or the fear of other people’s reactions, could seem selfless if talking about your own child, however, still lends itself to a difficult path of unhappiness and unhealthy behaviors. The only thing worse than a divorce is staying in an unhealthy, unhappy marriage, we think. Most couples unfortunately wait too long before getting help and end therapy just as miserable as they were when they began. Yes, therapy can save marriages, but timing is important and both partners need to be willing to do therapy (and we don’t mean just show up once a week).
ParentPrep is a 4-week workshop welcoming first time expecting parents to have an open and candid dialogue about expectations, fears and fantasies surrounding parenthood. We think that if couples are better prepared for parenthood before the baby arrives, they will be more likely to make it! Think of it as couple’s therapy before you even need it. This way, you will have the tools needed when conflict arises. You will know how to keep intimacy alive before it even wanes. You will know how to take care of your partner before they have to ask. We will talk about what things parents who are thriving post baby have in common and how you can incorporate it into your own relationship. We will also highlight Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, which hits up to 20% and 15% of mothers respectively (http://www.2020mom.org) and what to do if you find yourself suffering from these all too common symptoms. According to a doctor who writes for Parents Magazine, the best way to prevent PPD is to have realistic expectations (Epstein, R.H., Parents Magazine). Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
We hope you will join us in reaching out to those couples expecting and let them know of this opportunity to help themselves, their marriage, and their future family! Groups start October 13th!
“US Divorce Rates and Statistics”, (http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/main/u-s-divorce-rates-and-statistics-1037.shtml)
Gottman, J., PhD., 2008. And Baby Makes Three.
Larson, V., 2011. Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vicki-larson/are-childfree-couples-doo_b_913051.html)
Epstein, R.H., Ways To Prevent Postpartum Depression. (http://www.parents.com/baby/health/postpartum-depression/ways-to-prevent-postpartum-depression/#page=4).