HAVING a baby can feel like the icing on the cake for some couples but for others the strain of starting a family can push them to breaking point.
Aimee and Davin Bradley, both 35, were at each other’s throats for the first three years of their daughter Autumn’s life and didn’t have sex for a year.
Aimee and Davin’s marriage nearly ended after the strain of having their first child[/caption]
During one heated row, Aimee threw her wedding ring at Davin, calling him a useless husband, and Davin admitted things got so bad he considered taking the car keys and driving off a bridge.
Fabulous Digital has teamed up with Relate, which provides relationships counselling nationwide, to help ordinary couples overcome some of the most common marriage problems, including infidelity, excessive arguing, an unfulfilling sex life and having kids.
More couples filed for divorce yesterday – now dubbed D-Day – than at any other time of year.
Here Aimee and Davin, from Hampshire, reveal how they went from being on the verge of splitting up to getting their marriage back on track…
“There were many moments in the first three years of our daughter’s life when the tension was so awful between us that I considered taking the car keys and driving off a bridge,” says Davin, an electrical engineer for the NHS.
“Our daughter didn’t sleep and had colic and reflux, and Aimee’s hormones were all over the place. I felt pushed out and all we did was get nasty with one another.
“During one blazing row, Aimee threw her wedding and engagement rings at me and told me I was a useless husband and dad, which I really took to heart because I didn’t fully understand the issues at the time.”
Aimee, who’s currently on maternity leave from her insurance job looking after their three-month-old son, Ashton, says: “I wasn’t ready for the exhaustion, the trauma, the hormones, or how I felt about myself after giving birth.
“Suddenly I was a mummy, but Davin still wanted a wife too. But I didn’t have the desire or inclination for intimacy.
“For three years all we did was row. We couldn’t afford to live apart but we didn’t want to live together either.
“I’d tell him he was useless and unsupportive and he’d yell back that I was greedy and selfish. We competed constantly over who was most tired.”
Davin and Aimee married in May 2011 after dating for three years and were blissfully happy. They had Autumn in January 2013 – and almost immediately their marriage imploded.
They’d been so unprepared for the massive impact that having a baby would have that they reached a stage where they couldn’t stand being near each other.
But they’re not alone. According to research by Relate, half of couples with young kids argue “frequently” with their partner, compared to just 39 per cent of those without kids.
With no family or friends nearby to offer support, guidance and perspective, Davin and Aimee’s problems spiralled out of control.
Davin admits: “The idea of starting a family together had been phenomenal but we weren’t prepared for the downsides or the major shift in the dynamic of our marriage.
“I was no longer Aimee’s priority because, quite rightly, she was preoccupied with our daughter, and when babies are tiny they just want Mummy.
“Aimee was agitated and emotional because Autumn wouldn’t sleep or stop crying and struggled with breastfeeding.
“She took her frustrations out on me and I felt very isolated as there wasn’t much support for new dads at the time.
“Aimee resented me because I got to leave the house and go to work but I didn’t have a choice because I had to provide for my family.”
I’d tell him he was useless and unsupportive, and he’d yell back that I was greedy and selfish
Things finally came to a head in 2016. Aimee recalls: “By then we couldn’t say anything to each other without snarling and hadn’t had sex for a year.
“Part of me hated Davin and part of me wanted to give him a cuddle and sort things out but I was too stubborn.
“Meanwhile friends would post comments on social media about what easy babies they had and how hunky dory their marriages were.”
On the brink of breaking up, an unexpected lifeline came from a friend of Aimee’s who told her about marriage counselling workshops run by an elderly couple at the local church.
“I was willing to try anything so I went to see them and poured my heart out,” Aimee says.
“Davin was reluctant but realised it was our only hope, so he had a session too. Then we had a joint meeting with them during which they repeated back to us the things that we’d told them.
“It made us realise how selfish and ‘woe is me’ we’d both been. They literally spelt it out to us like we were children and we just sat there in tears.”
Counselling wasn’t a magic bullet; it was up to Aimee and Davin to work on their marriage, which included acknowledging how the other might be feeling, or how tired they each were.
They also started making time to go to the cinema as a couple and have outings as a family.
“Instead of yelling at Davin when he got home, I’d say, ‘I know you’ve been at work all day and you’re tired, but would you mind having the baby for a few minutes so that I can pop dinner on?”’ Aimee explains.
“It meant that his feelings were being validated instead of me having a go at him.
“Another bone of contention had always been his love of football – any time Manchester United were on TV he’d just down tools and leave the childcare to me.
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“Now, we put all the televised matches in our joint calendar so I can plan for the afternoons when he wants to watch footie instead of it causing a row.”
They talked at length before having their son in September and say that, thankfully, parenthood this time around is a different experience.
“Ashton is a chilled out baby who sleeps really well, took to breastfeeding straight away and only cries if he’s hungry,” Aimee says.
“Married life is good again.”
Davin adds: “Until counselling gave us a jolt, we could never have imagined been happy again but now life as a family is how we’d always hoped it would be.”
FIVE TOP TIPS FOR DEALING WITH RELATIONSHIP WOES AFTER KIDS
SIMONE Bose is a counsellor with Relate and says it’s incredibly common for marriages to fall apart after having a baby.
She says: “It’s so easy for couples to become disconnected, especially if dad’s going out to work and mum’s had to take time off from her career to care for the baby.
“Many women feel that they lose a big part of themselves after having a child, and many men feel pushed out of this new family unit.
“The greatest challenges are tiredness, time, and falling to the bottom of each other’s priorities.”
- GET AHEAD by talking about your hopes and fears before your baby arrives. Discuss the things you’re each going to need help and support with and agree to keep talking.
- DON’T COMPARE YOURSELVES to other parents who reckon it’s a breeze. We all cope differently and some couples are lucky enough to have a strong network of family and friends around to lighten the load.
- ASK FOR HELP with your children. You might feel too tired for nights out, but how about asking a loved one or babysitter to look after your little one for a couple of hours so that you can go for lunch together alone?
- HAVE A SCREEN AMNESTY often. Even if it’s just for half an hour, leave your phones, tablets and laptops in another room when the kids are asleep and chat to your spouse, ensuring there’s eye contact.
- MIND YOUR LANGUAGE. If you’re feeling resentful don’t call each other hurtful names and don’t let things fester. Remember, this is a colossal change for BOTH of you.
Relate offers counselling services nationwide for every type of relationship including face to face, by phone, Webcam and online. For more information visit www.relate.org.uk.
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