Your Relationship's on the Skids
Anna Erickson, of Seattle, had just broken up with her boyfriend of five months when she learned she was pregnant. "I was so terrified of raising a baby on my own that I wanted to reunite with my ex even though we weren't right for each other," she says. "I kept insisting the baby would bring us closer."
Having a baby can be an amazing bonding experience, "but you can't count on it to 'fix' difficulties in your love life," says Karen Sherman, Ph.D., author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make It Last. "A newborn requires an incredible amount of care and attention, and that's time that you take away from working on your relationship."
Erickson and her ex started seeing a therapist, who helped them learn how to become friends again. "Counseling reminded us that our daughter was our first priority, and we had to cooperate for her sake," Erickson says.
Smart move, Dr. Sherman says. After all, just because your guy failed as a partner doesn't mean he'll fail as a father. Give your ex every opportunity to flex his daddy muscles: Share parenting books, ask him to attend Lamaze classes with you, and plan visits for after the baby arrives. It won't be easy, but it's worth it. "Kids are usually happier with split-up parents who get along than they are with a married mom and dad who fight all the time," Dr. Sherman says.
And remember, it does take a village to raise a kid, especially when you're single. Erickson learned to depend on her sisters and roommate and even her former beau's family, who pitched in with diaper duty.
Today, Erickson and her ex talk and text every day, and he watches their child three nights a week. "We're showing our daughter that working at a relationship, no matter how nontraditional, is essential to living a happy life," Erickson says.