Pregnancy is no less than a miracle. However, it’s also no secret that it’s back-breaking (quite literally) and brings enormous changes in a couple’s life. Sometimes, relationships don’t pass this test and you might find yourself in the middle of ending a relationship while pregnant.
Pregnancy is overwhelming enough on its own, but to go through a breakup on top of that can be arduous. However, when you realize that the relationship is not working for you, sticking around just because leaving seems too daunting simply means kicking the can down the road.
As scary as the prospect of ending a relationship during pregnancy may be, know that you’re not alone. We’re here to help you figure out how best to maneuver this unexpected curveball. In this article, trauma-informed counseling psychologist Anushtha Mishra (MSc., Counseling Psychology), who specializes in providing therapy for concerns such as trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness among others, writes about how to deal with breaking up while pregnant and living together.
What Challenges Does Pregnancy Bring About In A Couple’s Life?
Pregnancy marks a new beginning in a woman’s life. Your body is changing and a whole lot in your life is shifting, including the relationship you share with your partner. As a couple, this may not be one of the smoothest rides of your journey together so far.
Pregnancy is a delicate period in a couple’s lives and as much as you want to protect your bond with your partner, challenges are bound to come your way. It’s important to identify these to be able to figure out a way of dealing with them effectively. Below are a few challenges that pregnancy can bring up in a couple’s life:
1. It may lead to a lack of communication
Pregnancy is an overwhelming experience for both the parents-to-be. One among many similar studies shows that the prenatal stage can be very stressful for expecting mothers. In that study, about 17% of the women were psychologically stressed. This kind of stress makes it harder to communicate your feelings and thoughts to your partner because it’s already too much to process for you.
Lack of communication is a threat to the very existence of a relationship. It escalates conflicts and makes you form a negative perspective of your partner. It is detrimental to your health as well, which is the last thing you need when you are expecting.
So, it’s important that you try not to keep your concerns to yourself and talk about stress and anxiety. Discuss what it will be like to be a parent, including your expectations, challenges you may come across, and childcare arrangements.
2. There will be changes in expectations
Pregnancy brings with it a lot of changes. It becomes necessary then that partners’ expectations from each other are altered to make room for these changes. If the expectations are not adjusted, there will be disappointments because it will be very difficult for both partners to live up to the expectations they had from each other pre-pregnancy.
Women also go through a lot of behavioral changes during pregnancy. Your partner expecting you to do everything that you did before will lead to you being unhappy in a relationship while pregnant. It goes the other way around as well.
Changing the expectations in a relationship can seem overwhelming at first, making it one of the biggest challenges for a couple during pregnancy. It’s important to discuss the expectations beforehand so that the transition period is easier for you both.
3. A shift of responsibility between the couple
Along with changes in expectations, there will also be a shift in responsibilities. There’s a lot that you would both need to do like educating yourself on different aspects of having a baby, preparing the home for the arrival of your newborn, and so on. Your partner would need to take on a little more responsibility during this time, including taking care of you and your emotional needs.
Your primary responsibility would also shift toward yourself and taking care of your baby, and you may be more focused on learning about the process of labor, birth, and postpartum recovery. While you will rely on your partner, you also need to take the responsibility of letting your partner in. In fact, that will be one of their expectations as well.
Related Reading: Sharing Household Chores And Responsibilities Equally In Marriage
4. Sex might come down a notch
By this, I mean a phase where there’s little to no sexual activity between the couple. It’s normal for your sex drive to change during pregnancy. This isn’t something to worry about. You may either find having sex very enjoyable during pregnancy or simply feel you don’t want to.
A study indicates that pregnancy is a phase of sexual slack for couples. This was mainly due to the concern for the baby’s well-being. However, this comes from a lack of awareness. According to National Health Services (NSH), it’s perfectly safe to have sex while pregnant unless your doctor has advised you against it.
This lack of awareness and fear for the baby may become very challenging because periods of sexual slack can be frustrating and may give rise to feelings of loneliness, lack of connection, and understanding, especially if either of the partners wants to but the other isn’t up for it.
5. There may be a shift in the mood of the relationship
Pregnancy is a time when hormones fluctuate, making you feel moody a lot. There are a lot of emotions the to-be mother goes through – happiness, anger, irritability, sadness, and even anxiety.
However, your partner also goes through a lot of emotions, ranging from happiness to confusion to uncertainty. These mood swings that you experience and the whole pressure your partner feels might shift the mood of the entire relationship as well.
This is challenging because it can be really stressful holding space for each other’s emotional attunement when you are both vulnerable. Communicating with each other is paramount for working through this challenge.
Reasons To End A Relationship During Pregnancy
Anna, who is a teenager and 4 months pregnant, often asks her friends, “My boyfriend left me pregnant, will he come back? Why was I dumped while pregnant?” Her friends tell her that he is gone for good. But why is that so? What are the reasons that break up a relationship during pregnancy?
It is daunting to break up with your baby’s parent and I know that ending a relationship while pregnant is scary. While you can overcome some of the challenges that the couple face during pregnancy, there are some relationship challenges you can do very little about. It might then be essential to end the relationship.
You decide your own non-negotiables, your own reasons to be in or out of your relationship, pregnant or otherwise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of pregnancy and unsure about the future, it may help to be mindful of these common reasons why people end their relationships during pregnancy.
1. A lack of support
Pregnancy is a wonderful life event but also a difficult one for the couple. The focus shifts to the pregnancy so much that emotional connection sometimes takes a backseat. This can be confusing to your partner and they may become less or not at all enthusiastic about the pregnancy. If this persists and the lack of support continues, it can become a toxic relationship. It‘s your decision, but ending a toxic relationship while pregnant is a good idea, even when it is really scary.
Sometimes, it may also happen that a partner only thought of the cute fun aspects of the pregnancy such as maternity pictures but completely forgot about things like morning sickness. When they have to deal with the strenuous sides of pregnancy, it sends them headed for the hills. This is a common scenario for a breakup, especially among teenagers.
2. Your partner faltering over the pregnancy
The changes that come with pregnancy are overwhelming. Even when both of you thought you were ready for this, your partner might realize that it’s more than they can handle. This may lead to them getting cold feet. If your partner’s cold feet last longer than you can handle, then it can be a reason for ending a relationship while pregnant.
Having a partner who is not sure about their ability to handle a pregnancy or parenthood can leave you stressed and heartbroken, which is detrimental to your and your baby’s health. One out of many studies shows that stress during pregnancy is a risk factor for adverse outcomes for mothers and children. To avoid this kind of stress and heartbreak during pregnancy, it is a good idea to evaluate your relationship.
3. The changes in expectations might not settle in too well
One of the challenges we discussed before is that there will be changes in the relationship expectations when you are expecting a baby. This challenge can be hard to overcome. If your partner doesn’t adjust to these new expectations, it can be a dealbreaker.
The changes in expectation might look like, but are not limited to, your partner and you showing more support to each other’s needs that have changed, your partner taking on a little more responsibility, and you taking care of yourself more than you might be used to.
Any kind of change or uncertainty in a relationship is difficult and so is this one. Some couples are able to overcome this with the help of honest communication or by taking help from a mental health professional. But if it starts to overwhelm you and you don’t see the relationship moving past this hurdle, you can consider ending a relationship while pregnant.
4. Constant state of unhappiness in the relationship
It’s normal that the mood of the relationship shifts and drifts between excitement and anxiousness, but do you or your partner find yourself looking for excuses to ignore each other, feel put off by each other, and don’t share much anymore? These may be telling signs that there’s unhappiness in the relationship.
If you are unhappy in a relationship while pregnant, it is important to analyze what’s bothering you and then discuss it with your partner or reach out to a relationship counselor. But if despite trying everything, you’re at a dead end and the state of your relationship is affecting you negatively, it may not be a bad idea to end the relationship then.
Related Reading: Unhappy In A Relationship? 7 Things You Can Do
5. Emotional, physical, or verbal abuse
According to a study by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), one in six abused women is abused during pregnancy. More than 320,000 women are abused by their partners during pregnancy each year.
Abuse can not only harm you but also can put your unborn baby in grave danger. It can lead to miscarriage, your baby being born too soon, having a low birth weight, or physical deformities. It is important that you recognize that you are in an abusive relationship.
Once you realize this, you’ve made the first step toward getting help in ending a relationship while pregnant. Tell someone you trust. Once you’ve confided in them, they might be able to put you in touch with a crisis hotline, legal-aid service, a shelter, or a safe haven for abused women.
How To Deal With Ending A Relationship While Pregnant
Breakups are hard regardless of whether you are expecting them or not and some take the breakup harder than others. It’s definitely more complicated when you are pregnant because then you’re breaking up with not just your partner but also your child’s parent. There is a chance they’re going to be around in your baby’s life, whether you like it or not.
Anna found herself staring down a dark abyss of uncertainty after her boyfriend decided to walk out on her and their unborn child. Coping with the reality of breaking up while pregnant and living together wasn’t easy but she leaned on her support system and found ways to deal with the situation as best as she could. This support helped her transition from “My boyfriend left me pregnant, will he come back?” to “I am self-sufficient and I will be okay”. She didn’t let the experience of being dumped while pregnant hold her and her baby back.
There is no denying that this situation is tough and it becomes difficult to tread the water sometimes but know that there are ways you can cope with ending a toxic relationship while pregnant and come out brighter and better on the other side, just like Anna. Listed below are some ways to cope that I can vouch for as a therapist:
1. Take your time to grieve
It’s important that you give yourself enough time to grieve. Pregnancy is already a physically and emotionally taxing experience. A breakup, then, brings you face to face with a reality that is markedly different from what you had hoped for yourself and your baby. This can leave you grappling with the feeling of being abandoned during pregnancy.
Let your feelings flow and give yourself the space to grieve and process your loss. Do things you think would help you express your emotions. Indulge in that ice cream tub with a box of tissues by your side while you watch something emotional. Cry on your couch and take time to feel better and accept what has happened.
If it gets hard to navigate this loss, reach out to a mental health professional who can help you walk through this. If you’re looking for help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
2. Be in check of your finances
I know this is the last thing you want to deal with when you are already in emotional turmoil but it is important that you check in on your financial situation too. Ending a relationship while pregnant is a huge change from the life you had envisioned for yourself, and you need to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.
You are going to build a nest to take care of your baby and it’s only understandable that after a breakup, you calculate how much money you’ll roughly need to gain as much stability and independence as possible.
You also need to make sure you have a job and that you understand and take advantage of any maternity leaves that are offered by your employer without relying on the hope that your ex-partner would be willing to support either you or your child.
Related Reading: Does It Help To Talk About Mutual Finances Before Marriage?
3. Lean on your support system
This is a lonely experience and the best way to find comfort at this time is to seek strength through your support system. Your loved ones will offer ever-flowing and unconditional support in this time of need. Seeing them care for you will help you feel better.
Stress, as mentioned before, takes a severe toll on both the expecting mother and the baby. It is, for this reason, crucial that you seek support as a part of the breakup healing process. I understand that you may want to withdraw from interacting with anyone but keeping people who care for you close can help you heal. Try letting them in.
4. Practice positive coping skills
Breaking up during pregnancy is tough and this is only putting it mildly. I can’t stress enough how bad stress is for an expecting mother and her baby, and so now, more than ever, it’s important to practice positive coping skills.
Maybe try enjoying moderate exercise that helps release endorphins, which are known as happy hormones. Studies show and The American Psychological Association also mentions how exercise can boost our mental health.
Meditation or learning the art of deep breathing also helps. Doing yoga while pregnant also is a great idea. A study shows that yoga is really effective in improving pregnancy and overall mental health. Whatever healthy coping skills you’ve got, use them.
5. It’s time you focus on yourself and your baby
This is maybe one of the most essential parts of any breakup and pregnancy doesn’t change that. You do need to take care of your unborn baby but you also need to make sure you focus on yourself. Remember, taking care of and focusing on yourself will help the health of the baby as well.
It’s difficult to let go after a breakup. I can’t even imagine the strength it might take to do so while the hormones are magnifying your every emotion. But, remember, that you don’t have to do it all by yourself, take the support you need and keep moving forward one step at a time.
- Pregnancy is an overwhelming experience for both the parents-to-be
- There are many challenges a couple faces during pregnancy such as lack of communication, a shift in responsibilities and expectations, and dwindling intimacy
- Lack of support, a constant state of unhappiness, and your partner faltering over the pregnancy are some legitimate reasons for ending a relationship while pregnant
- Abuse is an absolute deal breaker in a relationship, pregnant or otherwise
- You can deal with the breakup during pregnancy by taking time to grieve and focusing on yourself. Being in check of your finances and leaning on your support system is also important
Ideally, a baby needs both parents to thrive. But real life is far from idealistic. Ending your relationship while pregnant could be the only option if your partner isn’t on board with resolving conflict, isn’t committed to the idea of parenthood, or has become abusive.
Children learn from their caregivers. If the child sees you in an unhappy union, they might learn that it’s okay to compromise your values and needs in order to stay in a relationship. While ending a relationship while pregnant is the last thing you would want to do, if you have your reasons, it might be the best decision for both you and your baby.