Love and Pregnancy: Can a Baby Save Your Struggling Relationship?

Could getting knocked up save you from breaking up? We asked the experts.

In some rare cases (i.e. Hollywood movies that usually don't reflect reality), bringing a baby into the world can bring a couple closer together. Having a baby can create a bond that encourages mature personal growth and strengthens a couple's commitment to each other -- but that doesn't happen overnight, and more often, it doesn't happen at all. Remember how long it took Seth Rogen's character in Knocked Up to start living like a grown up? Fragile love and pregnancy aren't necessarily the combination you want. A struggling relationship only becomes more complicated and typically ends up dissolving faster when additional pressure is put on one or both partners.

Speaking of pressure, having a baby on the way can fan the flames of discontent and insecure attachment. "Pregnancy immediately changes the dynamic of the relationship and causes estrangement -- it's hard for men to understand what women are going through, creating a divide," says Craig Malkin, Ph.D., a psychologist in Cambridge, MA. Especially when it's not something he signed up for willingly -- suddenly being responsible for the health of the baby and the wellbeing of the mother is a lot for someone who didn't want to make a commitment in the first place. And it's very easy for an arrangement that was fun and carefree before the stick turned pink to feel forced after, so you shouldn't expect your partner to be ready to tie the knot just because you're expecting. "It's important to be honest with each other and share your expectations about your relationship before you become pregnant," says Malkin.

The bottom line? Trying to save a doomed relationship by getting pregnant just doesn't work. In fact, the fear of losing his attention only increases when a baby is tossed into the mix. "Something very primal happens during pregnancy," says Cathy O'Neil, co-author of the book Babyproofing Your Marriage. "A woman's hormones create a sense of panic and fear that her partner is going to leave. She becomes overly controlling and concerned about his safety, because she doesn't want to be left on her own to care for the baby." This can put an intense amount of strain on any relationship, but it's especially detrimental to one that already shows cracks in its foundation. "Men don't want to feel trapped or controlled," says O'Neil.

Don't try to force closeness by getting pregnant. Instead, take a break and reevaluate the partnership. You might realize the relationship isn't worth the struggle any longer, or you could discover a renewed sense of attraction -- remember, absence can make the heart grow fonder.

Copyright ? 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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