#Health and Well-being

Fighting constantly after having a baby? Here’s why

10 Minutes to read

Has baby’s arrival cause more arguments and fights in your relationship? Have you felt (or do you still feel) misunderstood or frustrated? Do you find that you and your partner no longer understand each other? Rest assured, this situation is widespread among new parents. What causes it? Can we prevent it? What can you do to get out of it? Here’s all you need to know to understand your situation and help you find your bearings as a new family unit.

Why couples argue more after having a baby?

Lochia, afterpains and potentially baby blues (that can lead to postpartum depression) are not the only bad surprises after delivery. Another very widespread postpartum phenomenon that appears in new parents after baby’s arrival is… fighting!

Considering that sleep deprivation is at its highest for all parents after a child’s birth, it is no surprise that fatigue comes as the main cause for these tensions in most couples. All parents, however, will not experience this situation in the same way, and depending on its length and intensity, it can even lead to separation. Hence the importance of explaining this phenomenon, of understanding its cause and its duration, and try to find solutions to get through it in the best possible way.

"Before I had my first child, a close friend once told me: 'Promise me you won't separate until your baby's first year - no matter what!’. At the time, I didn’t understand what she meant, and I even found it very strange. And then our daughter was born, and I remembered our conversation… because clearly, I found that my husband and I didn’t understand each other anymore. And the idea of leaving him did cross my mind more than once! But we held on and found our marks. However, the idea of having to go through it all again with a second child scares me a lot.”

Karen, 31 years old, mother of Léah



Why the relationship collapses?

Parents will agree, the postpartum period (a period that can last for over 3 years after your child’s birth) is a real hormonal roller coaster for mothers and an emotional upheaval for both parents. While the mother gradually recovers from her pregnancy and childbirth, both partners discover their new roles as parents and also need to find a new life balance with their baby – enough challenges to lose their bearings!

To this, add sleep deprivation with interrupted nights and you get the breeding ground for nervousness, lack of lucidity... and tension! In some cases, a child’s arrival will not only ruin the parents’ nights, but it will also generate a range of emotions that can accelerate or generate conflicts in the couple. The mental load and feelings of doing more than their fair share of parenting and household chores can lead to frustration for one or both partners. One may feel misunderstood, not considered enough, and the other may feel excluded, rejected from a new mother-baby relationship or a fusional father-baby connection. This is where it is important to distinguish the “romantic” couple from the “parental” couple. In the first case, the relationship is based on romantic feelings, in the second, the attention is very often directed to the children, and no longer to the couple and/or to oneself. In a daily life rhythmed by sleep deprivation and parenting tasks, the lack of romantic moments can impact relationships.

A baby’s arrival can also revive childhood issues that may not have been solved or that one may have wanted to hide away. Disappointment doesn’t come from the everyday hassles as much as it comes from the dream role that you expected from your partner as a parent and that he/she no longer meets.

“A few months after our son’s birth, I think we had a postpartum relationship meltdown that almost ended in separation. But we figured it couldn't just end like that. So, we took a break and stepped back, spoke a lot, and wrote to each other, to really tell each other how we truly felt. I hadn't realized that I was in tremendous control of everything that had to do with our baby and that I kept blaming my husband for not doing enough. He felt discouraged, not up to the role and completely rejected emotionally. Whereas I felt I was left to manage everything on my own and felt misunderstood. And nothing really mattered to me except my son. It took a long time, but we managed to rebalance each other’s roles.”

Mélisa, 36 years old, mother of Léon


Can you prevent the postpartum fighting phase ?

Absolutely! As Eve Simonet told us when speaking about her documentary on postpartum: “knowledge is power”. In addition to the birth and parenthood preparation workshops (to be done with your partner, ideally), the 4th month appointment with your midwife is a great opportunity to discuss how you picture yourself as a couple in your new life with the baby. This is an opportunity to ask questions on giving birth and to discuss as a couple, how things could take place.

This may seem trivial, but it is a first step towards real life with the baby: what will the roles be if the mother breastfeeds at every meal? How will you manage the nights? Etc. Of course, these will only be discussions at this stage and the reality may be different once the baby arrives. Still, it’s a way of approaching the subject and a good time to welcome your partner’s opinion, calmly… before birth.


How long does the fighting phase last?

Each story is unique, and this fighting phase will vary from one couple to another. To give you an idea, this can span from a few weeks to a few months, hence the importance of becoming aware of it, to act upon it and get out of the situation together.


How do you overcome the fighting phase?

The two “tools” that can help you get out of this situation are: dialogue and concrete actions.



Get a communication boost

Communicating sounds obvious, yet, when you find yourself in a tense situation, you may find it impossible to have a dialogue, or you may find it’s too late or unsurmountable. In these cases, getting help from a third party to put dialogue back at the center of your relationship can be key to improving the situation. Taking time to talk to each other, finding the words that explain each other’s feelings, these are the first steps to moving forward together.

Action N°1 to ease your daily life: seek help from family or friends

If your baby doesn’t sleep through the night and if your partner can't relieve you as much as you’d want, consider getting help from a relative 1 or 2 nights a week, for a while. Or a few hours during the day, so you can sleep and recover a bit. Having time for yourself or with your partner will help lift your spirits and find the bearings that make you feel better. An uninterrupted, “still hot” meal with your partner may sound very simple, but this shared moment can help reunite, bond, and recreate intimacy. If you can't call on your family, see if a friend can help you out for a few hours. Remember that a contented couple makes happy parents...and happy children!

Action N°2 to minimise conflict: prioritise your tasks

Obviously, the cornerstone to making everyday life more pleasant is limiting the mental load. To avoid overload and consequent feelings of resentment, sit down together and consider your priorities: you won't be able to do the full list and that's okay. It may seem obvious, but thinking about it twice and talking about it together helps to be aligned and avoids “blaming” the other for something that hasn’t been done.

Action N°3 to feel better: anticipate as much as possible

Finally, small things can sometimes be anticipated to ease your everyday life, especially in case you end up in a rush or must face the unexpected. This ranges from meals you can freeze in advance so you always have something to eat quickly, to sending your spouse to do the groceries/laundry so you can rest.


Can this fighting phase lead to divorce?

Unfortunately, yes. About 60% of couples experience this postpartum fighting phase and 20% end up in separation. Whether they go through a divorce or a separation, an increasing number of parents decide to separate when they have a young child. Hence the importance of knowing that you are not alone in this phase. When you know what to expect, it becomes easier to master the situation and overcome it without reaching this end - which is not what happens to most couples.