Kids Ruin Your Relationship, Says Gwyneth Paltrow. What Do Parents Think?
Having young kids can crowd out the needs of an adult couple. For some, this can make things extra hard.
Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, 50, regularly makes wild claims that have landed her in some hot water. And among those eyebrow-raising statements is when Paltrow told newer mom Katy Perry a harsh reality about adding children to a couple’s life on the Goop podcast’s Jan. 10 episode.
“It’s hard on a relationship. Like, I’ve looked back now on like the data set of parents with young kids and it just… ruins the relationship,” Paltrow jokes. “It’s really hard!”
Indeed, one in every 10 children will witness three or more parental relationships fail, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But does that staggering stat mean that having kids is the cause?
According to the Oklahoma State University Bureau for Social Research, half of all divorces involve children and 61 percent of divorcees cited fighting or conflict as a reason for the marriage deteriorating. Getting married at a young age, having unrealistic expectations of marriage, or living in an unequal partnership also ranked high among the reasons for divorce. Some of these can certainly be attributed to the changes a relationship undergoes when you add little ones to the mix.
It’s not just celebrities who feel the pressures of sleepless nights, marital equity, and arguments over division of domestic duties. Of course, plenty of regular moms and dads also find adding young, helpless beings with urgent wants and needs can crowd out their own.
“I’ve met many people who have felt like their married lives got harder and less joyful after having children,” attests Kobe Campbell, licensed trauma therapist and author of Why Am I Like This? How to Break Cycles, Heal From Trauma, and Restore Your Faith. “Parenting is hard and parents don’t stop being human beings with needs, desires, and preferences once they have children. Burnout is a reality and without addressing it, some parents can grow to resent their children.”
Women, in particular, often find that the parental duties suddenly fall on their lap and their male partners don’t seem to be pulling their weight. Psychologist Darcy Lockman interviewed 50 moms and the majority of them stated that they did the bulk of the chores, in some cases leading to dissatisfaction with the relationship, reports Fatherly.
“We were fed the lie that parenthood is a partnership,” says Kristin Castle, a mom of four and writer in New York. “Men are told that financial support alone is an adequate contribution to the ‘partnership,’ and mothers end up doing far more of the hands-on parenting and household chores. That’s just a very common reality. It’s exhausting and thankless, but in an effort to be a ‘good mother,’ we keep striving and struggling, eventually resenting our partner. That unequivocally led to the demise of my 15 year union. It’s destructive as hell.”
This shift in roles is pretty normal, according to some therapists, and doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker. “This comes with very realistic changes that naturally happen when changing a family dynamic. For example, it’s typical for the maternal figure to take on more of the caregiving,” says Jennifer Covarrubias, LMFT, clinical director at the Mental Health Center of San Diego. “There’s also financial changes and a shift in sleep patterns which in turn affect energy levels and prompt changes in space and boundaries, i.e. the child may now sleep in the parents’ room, which decreases intimacy within the relationship.”
Still she doesn’t think that having children alone will inevitably end a perfectly good relationship. “There is research showing that relationship dissatisfaction actually decreases with the addition of a child,” explains Covarrubias. “While the changes may be challenging, I don’t entirely agree that a relationship will be doomed and ruined.”
Other parents feel that while the change in the family dynamic can certainly drive a wedge between a couple, the relationship may have had issues prior to having kids, especially in cases where people hope having kids will “save” their relationship.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that people who marry younger are more apt to split up. According to research published in Psychology Today, couples who marry before the age of 28 are statistically more likely to get divorced, regardless of whether they have kids or not.
“It’s not the young children a couple has during the marriage that wrecks the marriage, it is the young kids who married each other and weren’t mature enough in the first place,” attests Joy Charniga, a mom-of-three in Coxsackie, New York, who is currently getting divorced after 16 years of marriage, in part because she feels she married too young. “The only thing that our children are guilty of is becoming collateral damage of our downfall.”
After all, many of us unconsciously base our parenting styles on how we grew up, either following what our parents did or trying to completely avoid it. And a difference in parenting approaches may not surface until you actually have kids. “Being parents can be an opportunity to communicate about these new roles and create an even stronger bond as a couple,” says Covarrubias. But, like with anything else in relationships, it takes two to tango — meaning both parties have to be ready, willing, and able to take on new responsibilities and work on what is and isn’t working for the other partner.
Marisa Caprara, who owns a tutoring business in Schenectady, New York, is a mom-of-four girls under the age of 12. “My husband Brian and I have been married for 25 years and have the same issues now that we had prior to having kids,” she says. “You have to really allow each other to grow both separately — and together. If you do that, you’ll grow through each stage from babies to empty-nesters as a unit. It’s the adults that allow the stress of kids to supersede their relationship, instead of maturing and changing through each stage, that ultimately fail.”