Research says kids are bad for a relationship. Yeah, probably. So what?

It’s official. The research findings are in. Kids are bad news for a relationship. Apparently, if you and your partner want to stay happy together, you should forget the idea of having children.

Psychology professor Matthew D. Johnson has drawn on three decades of research into children and relationships to write a book, Great Myths Of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex And Marriage.

These are some of the findings:

  • Most couples experience a decline in relationship satisfaction over the years, but for couples with children, the decline is nearly twice as steep. In fact, it’s what researchers term a “sudden deterioration” after the birth of the first child.
  • If the pregnancy is unplanned, that decline in relationship satisfaction will be steeper, especially for men.
  • Although couples with kids are more likely to be unhappy, they’re less likely to split up.

“Parents often become more distant and businesslike with each other as they attend to the details of parenting,” Johnson explains in The Guardian. “In the effort to keep the family running smoothly, parents discuss carpool pickups and grocery runs, instead of sharing the latest gossip or their thoughts on presidential elections.

“Fundamental identities may shift – from wife to mother, or, at a more intimate level, from lovers to parents. Beyond sexual intimacy, new parents tend to stop saying and doing the little things that please their spouses. Flirty texts are replaced with messages that read like a grocery receipt.”

Well, yes. That’s all pretty much true. I can imagine child-free couples reading those lines and going, “And that is why we don’t have kids.”

And yet… I don’t regret having kids. Not one bit.

No regrets. Photo via iStock.

For a long time, my husband and I were going to be one of those child-free couples. We were together for 18 years before we had our first baby. We focused on careers, travel, doing stuff we loved. It was great.

I couldn't understand why so many other couples had kids. I was sure that a lot of them secretly regretted it, but felt it was socially unacceptable to say it. I just didn't get it.


But now I have kids, I get it. I totally get it.

You may lose a little in relationship satisfaction when it comes to your partner, but you gain a huge, huge amount of satisfaction from your relationship with your kids.

Hearing my daughter say "mum" for the first time, or share her theories on thunderstorms or the moon or God, is more interesting to me than the latest gossip or thoughts on presidential elections. The Mothers' Day card from my son, scrawled with the words "you are the dest lady in the whole world", gives me more of a thrill than every flirty text I've ever received.

Loving someone you've made is so much deeper and more intense than loving someone you've met.

Anyway, I refuse to believe that having kids is totally bad news for a relationship. You see a new side to your partner. You bond over shared experiences. You appreciate the time you do get on your own together. You plan ahead for what you'll do when it's just the two of you in the house again.

You see a new side to your partner. Photo via iStock.

Obviously, having kids isn't for everyone. Just like not everyone wants to be a reality TV star or a healthcare worker in Africa or a cage fighter, not everyone wants to be a parent. That's fine. In fact, the thought of thought of children growing up with parents who don't really enjoy their company makes me a bit teary.

But if you do want to have kids, don't be put off by anything you read. Stuff the research. Have a baby.

How has having children affected your relationship?

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