Pregnancy & Love-Life Problems

Pregnancy is a lousy time for love-life problems. Period. Ideally, pregnancy should be a happy occasion for both parents. Especially when both parents are excited about having a baby. When this is the case, the connection between them is drawn closer by the pregnancy. Pregnancy should be a special time with fond memories of it for both parents. If there are other children, they are sensitively prepared for the baby’s arrival.

Unfortunately this ‘ideal’ is not always the experience couples have when there is a pregnancy. Let’s take a look at some of the love-life problems that can emerge when pregnancy occurs. For example, some people ‘freak-out’ when a pregnancy happens, mostly when it’s unplanned, but some people, even when it’s planned. The most common emotion is ‘fear’ and its close relative ‘anxiety.’ Fear and anxiety commonly taking the form of feeling unprepared to parent and support a child.

Pregnancy is one of those real life events that is impossible to ignore or deny, from changes in physical shape to the actual presence of a very dependent third person. Pregnancy will no doubt test the commitment that exists in a love relationship whether the couple is married or not. If distance shows up in a relationship, this is a sure sign of commitment fear. You may notice an increase in disagreements, arguments, or conflict whose unspoken objective is to create distance.

Mild forms of this fear can be addressed with efforts to communicate and understand them. Often when fear is discussed openly and thoroughly, the end result is an ability to differentiate what is rational from what is irrational. In the more extreme cases of pregnancy fear, either parent can feel ‘trapped’ by the pregnancy. This feeling of being trapped is common when there is considerable distance, conflict, or a breakup between parents of the unborn baby. Pregnant mothers who are separated from the father of their baby during pregnancy often report a trapped feeling and fantasies of running away from the looming responsibility.

Apart from whatever feeling of abandonment is experienced, the feeling of being trapped indicates that a pregnant mother is understandably uncomfortable with the idea of going through the pregnancy and birthing experience alone, especially if it’s her first time. When abortion is not an option, a pregnant mother has to contend with a life changing experience she cannot step out of or avoid. This is precisely where the intimate bond between both parents has a psycho-biological importance for a pregnant woman.

The love relationship from whence conception usually occurs has the added task of freeing a pregnant mother, even momentarily, from the emotionally and physically dependent relationship with the as yet unborn baby. This permits a pregnant woman to replenish herself for the unilateral dependency of her unborn baby. This arrangement is not forever but long enough to help the pregnant woman through one of the most vulnerable and demanding experiences of her life. If the father is emotionally unprepared for this task he will feel overwhelmed and distance or conflict will occur, leaving his pregnant lover frustrated, angry, and depleted.

This is when a pregnant woman’s family of origin comes in handy. How? Even though the family of origin will never do the job as well as the loving intimate father of the unborn baby who happens to have a developed ability to give love. But, what the family of origin can give is certainly better than nothing. This is especially true if the pregnant woman gets to have the last word in choosing what she will and will not accept from family of origin members. The biggest problem is, the family of origin sensing her ‘need’ may rush in and attempt to dominate the pregnant woman’s life and choices. This is never useful and can recreate old conflicts to say the least.

The best outcome is family of origin support and love at a difficult time when the pregnant mother is feeling abandoned and trapped. If they make it easier for her, support her emotionally without taking over, the help will be invaluable. Otherwise, feelings of loss and being trapped get replaced by an old conflicts about separating and control between the pregnant mother and her family of origin. This is never helpful especially now during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some families or origin wait until their more independent members are vulnerable and in need before moving in with too much protective control.

Let’s consider all the physical and emotional changes that are going on naturally in a woman’s body when pregnant and her psychological ability to tolerate and cope with them. Some people find the natural changes in the shape of the body difficult to cope with. This is common for people who are extra invested in appearing a certain way. You could say their identity and self-esteem are dependent upon their body remaining the way its been. When there are changes, even short-term changes like pregnancy, there is disruption in their feeling about themselves and their relationships with others. A disruption that can get misinterpreted as negative with the consequence of decreasing self-esteem.

Sexual issues can also occur during this period. It is common for a pregnant woman to feel more sensual and with a heightened interest in some level of sexual contact. Her need to feel affection with physical contact and assurances of love may increase during pregnancy. Other women may lose interest in certain sexual activities and even become more preoccupied with themselves. The important point is this temporary change does not mean a loss of love for the father of her unborn baby. The interpersonal dynamics that take place between pregnant women and their lovers can become irrational due to ignorance, misinformation, or fear. I have encountered a number of men over the years who believed that having sex during pregnancy would surely hurt their unborn son or daughter.

It is also common for a man to lose interest in his pregnant lover because of the physical changes that have taken place in her body. And of course there are other men who find a pregnant lover extra sexy and respond accordingly. The point here is, there is a considerable amount of variability. This is precisely where the communication of feelings between lovers comes in handy. The possibility of misinterpreting what certain actions and reactions mean during pregnancy is very high. A simple dialogue about mutual feelings and thoughts can provide the invaluable opportunity needed to reach understanding and avoid overreactions based on misunderstanding.

Preparing children for the coming of a new baby is an important and sometimes complicated issue for everyone involved. Children may feel anxious about losing the love they are currently getting from a pregnant parent when a baby arrives. This feeling of loss can spawn a whole host of problematic behavior. In fact simply trying to turn children into ‘Mommy’s little helpers’ does not really address the problem adequately enough and may have the opposite effect of hastening unwanted behaviors. Remaining sensitive to the ‘needs’ of older children, even with a cut in the amount of time spent now that a dependent baby has arrived, can avoid a lot of trouble later on.

The emotional investment in a new baby is undeniably strong and demanding. Finding ways to rejuvenate oneself in family relationships during pregnancy and afterwards so that the love that’s taken can be balanced to some degree with love that’s given is an important move for every pregnant mother. This may even be the issue with the father of your baby. Who’d expect that your lover would ever feel competitive with your new born baby? The emotional immaturity that lies latent can emerge whenever a change occurs in the emotional arrangement a couple keeps with each other. Pregnancy and childbirth are two experiences in a love-life that can drastically alter an emotional and physical arrangement that a couple is dependent upon in ways they are not aware of. Dr. T. Jordan







Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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