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Is it a good idea to have a child to save a marriage?

The assumption that having a baby will save a marriage is still embedded in our society. However, that is not fair either to the child or to the couple, who are already facing a troubled relationship

Is it a good idea to put the pressure of parenting on an already shaky situation? Photo: Pixabay
Is it a good idea to put the pressure of parenting on an already shaky situation? Photo: Pixabay

Even in 2024, the age-old advice given to a couple in a troubled marriage is “have a child and everything will be sorted”. The belief is that a shared purpose of raising the children will leave no time for any negative distraction in the relationship. Your child will create the life long bond that will keep you together. In my journey, first as an observer and then as a relationship coach, I have only seen the opposite happen. 

My cousin, N, was 26 when she got married to V, a senior from college in the US. She was always academically inclined and had just enrolled for her PhD back then. Neither wanted to wait for her to finish. The first year of their marriage was not easy, but then that’s true for most marriages as couples discover each other more in that time. 

However, by year three, it was apparent to both N and V that they had, perhaps, hurried into a marriage and were not quite compatible as partners. It’s ironic that despite their exposure and education, both seemed hesitant to even talk about a separation, forget divorce. I blame this on our Indian social mindset and the stigma attached with divorce (which is changing, albeit slowly). Year four was when things got to a point where they told their respective families about the miserable marriage they were in. Both sets of parents advised them to have a child. 

In a country where we expect “good news” soon after a couple gets married, they were already three years late. The parents argued that not having a child was the reason that they were experiencing trouble in their marriage. Their logic was that if there had been a child by then, the issues arising from having too much time to dissect each other’s personalities would have not happened. The tragedy was that they ended up listening to their families and had a daughter. However, when the daughter was two-years-old, they finally got divorced.

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The assumption that a child will save a marriage is still deeply embedded in our psyche even now. Ninety percent of my newly-married clients bring it up. However, one case took me by surprise. A 32-year-old client approached me to help her usher romance into a one-year-old marriage. In our first session itself she told me about wanting to have a child, and ways in which she could seduce her husband. In the second session, I discovered that the couple had still not had sex.  However, that is not what concerned her—she only wanted to have a child to save her marriage. 

The obsession with saving the marriage, coupled with the assumption that bringing a child into the world would be the best solution, is unfair to both the couple and the child. N’s journey to save her marriage has scarred her to an extent where she hates men. It’s been a decade since her divorce and she still detests the thought of being with a man.  N’s daughter is torn between her parents, like all kids in her situation. Had she been older, N’s daughter would have also experienced the unhealthy environment of a home where a couple is just not getting along. Even if there are no fights and raised voices, the tension is palpable. How can that be good for a child? 

I urge parents, and anyone who gives this advice to a couple struggling to be together, to think about the child, who they are recommending to be brought into a troubled situation. Instead, recommend that the couple seek external help to resolve the issues that exist. It is better to call it quits if things are not getting better despite both partners making an effort to sort out the problems in their relationship. Is it then a good idea to put the pressure of parenting on an already shaky situation?

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The other important aspect is the environment at home. Our home is our ultimate safe space. It’s where we rejuvenate ourselves to face the world every single day. If you are married and don’t feel like coming back home to your partner, know that you have a problem that needs to be solved. Try every possible solution except having a child together. Your child—the most precious person in your life—does not deserve to be raised in a home that you and your partner don’t want to come to. Having a child together has to be a decision you both make when your relationship is rock solid and loving. Only then will the joy of having a child and raising them in a happy home be possible.  

This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating in and relationship coach, who can be reached on simran@floh.in

 

 

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