The Top 7 Reasons Parents of Small Children Split Up

A new study outlines the most common reasons couples break up once they have kids, and what to do about it.

divorce concept with shoes
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A 2012 Swedish study showed that one in three couples with young kids break up. Given the extreme demands of parenting, sadly, I'm not surprised by this statistic. Luckily, researchers wanted to dig a little deeper to understand why so many parents are throwing in the burp cloth on their union, with the hope that couples can address their issues before they separate.

Researchers surveyed 452 separated parents (notably, the average age of separation was when the first child was 4 years and 8 months) and came up with these seven factors that tend to lead to the dissolution of a couple:

  • strains from parenthood
  • stressful conditions
  • lack of intimacy
  • insufficient communication
  • differing personalities and interests
  • no commitment to the relationship
  • negative effects of addiction

Many of these factors can be caused by kids, no doubt. Because raising children is stressful, no matter who you are. And intimacy? Does that mean brushing hands accidentally while trying to catch kid puke in the middle of the night? Communication can also be tough when you are trying to talk over a baby crying, and/or a toddler repeating the same word 82 times.

The lead author of the study, Malin Hansson, along author Wendy Walsh, offered these tips to Yahoo Parenting for moms and dads who want to keep their families together:

  • Take an active share of parenting responsibility.
  • Show your spouse appreciation, even for simple parenting tasks like emptying the diaper pail.
  • Practice sensuality in everyday life through simple gestures like hugs and kisses.
  • Talk about how you are feeling, be it lonely, frustrated, or even horny! And try not to accuse your partner, but rather tell him or her what your needs are. "I would like you to help around the house more," not "You never do anything around here to help!"
  • Help your partner get some "me" time to pursue interests he or she had before kids. On the flip-side, make sure you also get that time.
  • Seek counseling if needed, before it's too late to address issues in your relationship, or as they pertain to addiction.

My take on this study is that marriage with kids is very difficult, but the rewards are many. If you focus all your energy on the challenges and not the many joys of parenting as a couple, it's easy to feel defeated, and you may even want to walk away, thinking that will solve your problems. Instead, we must all make a conscious effort to appreciate the good times, like when your child draws a picture of his family and everyone looks like a Minion, or when you finally complete that impossible fish puzzle together. Those are the moments that make staying together worth it.

Oh, and don't forget about your spouse either, even if it's a quick kiss in between diaper changes! Because when it comes to showing you still care, despite all the craziness and messiness of parenthood, a little goes a long way. Even a short, flirty text or doing something nice for the other person (drawing a bath, making a favorite meal) can mean the difference between staying connected and drifting apart.

What's your take on this study?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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