One of the most damaging societal myths we believe is that marriage or having a baby can fix underlying relationship issues. This myth isn’t only misleading, but it creates more significant issues down the road.

For example, breaking up is much easier (mentally and financially) than getting a divorce. Bringing a child into this world under the wrong pretenses can burden your children with deep-seated trauma that takes decades to fix.

The truth?

Marriage and parenthood aren’t solutions to your relationship problems. In fact, they heighten these issues. And jumping into marriage or parenthood before you’re ready can come with devastating consequences.

But don’t worry. In today’s show, I’ll reveal how you can best prepare—as an individual and as a couple—for both marriage and parenthood.

Listen now!

 Show highlights include:

  • Why getting married or having a baby won’t fix your underlying relationship issues (and how these create even more hardship) (1:06)
  • The weird way marriages based on love and personal fulfillment end abruptly (3:31)
  • How parenthood triggers new relationship problems (and how to address them without divorce) (6:15)
  • Why addressing your own internal issues profoundly impacts the health of your relationships (13:49)
  • The insidious “Imago Match” theory that explains how seemingly minor relationship problems erupt into full-blown fights (and how to leverage it to build a healthier relationship) (15:35)
  • 4 steps to properly prepare for marriage or parenthood (22:59)

    Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at now.

For more about David Tian, go here:

    Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:


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Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.

David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, I’m tackling a profoundly-important question that I received from a listener. It’s a question that I believe touches on a fundamental misunderstanding many people have about what it takes to succeed in a relationship.

The listener asked, “We’re constantly fighting. We thought getting married would fix it for us, but it didn’t. It only made it worse. Why do people think getting married will make things better? Then we thought having a baby would fix it, but it didn’t. It only made it worse. Why do people think having a baby or getting married would make things better in a relationship?” [00:57.3]

Okay, so this question cuts to the heart of why we make certain life choices and what we expect from them. It’s a poignant reflection of a common but misguided belief that external changes, like marriage or having a child, can magically resolve underlying relationship issues. This belief is not only flawed, it’s also very dangerous.

Marrying or having children for the wrong reasons can lead to consequences far more serious than the challenges of a struggling relationship. Divorce, with its emotional and financial costs, is often a complex and painful process, much more difficult than just breaking up. More crucially, bringing actual children into an unstable environment can have a lasting psychological impact on them. The core issue here isn’t about the external status of your relationship, whether you’re married or are parents, but about the internal dynamics at play. [01:59.4]

In this episode, we’re going to dissect why the myth of marriage and parenthood as problem solvers still persists, and what the real work involves in transforming a relationship from conflict to harmony. This is crucial, because the decisions to marry and to parent should come from a place of love and readiness, not as desperate measures to fix a troubled relationship. So, stick with me here as we explore this important topic, and I promise, by the end of this episode, you will have a clearer understanding of the right path to a genuinely fulfilling relationship.

First, let’s examine this myth, the myth that marriage or parenthood can magically resolve relationship issues. This myth deeply ingrained in our societal narratives and our cultural pressures leads many of us into making life-altering decisions under false pretenses. [02:56.3]

Renowned relationship therapist Terry Real provides valuable insights into this very dynamic. He emphasizes that external solutions, like marriage or having a child, don’t actually address the root causes of relational or individual dysfunctions. I highly recommend Terry Real’s books and resources.

Marriage, historically, has been a social and cultural construct, evolving significantly over time. Stephanie Coontz, a historian who has extensively researched the history of marriage and has authored the book Marriage, a History, points out that the institution of marriage has transformed from an economic and political arrangement to one based on love and personal fulfillment.

This evolution has led to a modern-day idealization of marriage as a hallmark of personal success and happiness. However, this idealization is misleading. It suggests that simply achieving the status of being married is an end goal, a finish line that, once crossed, guarantees a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment. [04:02.3]

But the reality is starkly different. Marriage is not like a magic pill to heal relationship problems. In fact, entering into marriage amplifies any unresolved relationship problems. The added pressure of marital commitment and the societal expectations that come with it exacerbates any underlying tensions and conflicts.

When a couple views marriage as a goal in itself, they often overlook the importance of nurturing the quality of their relationship. They may ignore deep-seated issues, communication barriers or breakdowns or emotional disconnects, believing somehow that marriage will inherently resolve these challenges magically.

Further the belief that having a child will fix a struggling relationship is even more problematic. Parenthood introduces a whole new set of stresses and responsibilities into a relationship. If a couple is already dealing with unresolved issues, the added strain of parenting will make things worse. [05:05.3]

I’ve experienced this with my wife in the first couple of years of our son’s life, and you know, in childhood, each stage brings its own set of challenges, which means that each stage also holds the potential for new breakthroughs, if you can stick with the adversity and face it.

When she first got pregnant, we read several books on pregnancy and we were going to ace the pregnancy, and we totally weren’t prepared for the first three months of life, which has its own new set of challenges completely different from the pregnancy, and then we caught up with that and then there was a whole new set of challenges from about three to six months. Then six to 12 was totally different than 12 to 18, and now 18 to 24, and 24 to 36, new challenges, new differences. [05:47.8]

Soon after the baby was born, I added on to my store of knowledge about parenting, which was based on a few really good books, but then I added on to that several more books about parenting, and yet it still wasn’t enough to prepare us for the realities of actually implementing all of this theoretical advice, and we found ourselves having new fights and conflicts that it turns out were triggered by and revolved around parenting our new child.

That’s because we were both so busy that we didn’t sit down to talk through which parenting styles we wanted to adopt, and even though we thought we had the same approach, just because we never talked about it, we didn’t discover that we actually did have some differences. In fact, neither of us was an expert and were actually students, both learning at the same time and would often learn new things every few days that would alter our views, but because we were so busy, we didn’t sit down and talk about it. Once we figured out that that wasn’t a big issue, that that was causing these relationship problems, thank goodness, this was an easily resolvable one once we recognized the root of our conflicts and disagreements. [06:53.5]

But at this point in our relationship several years into our relationship, we had resolved almost all of our known issues, but once we had our child, it triggered all of these new undiscovered issues, and thankfully, we had the wherewithal and the skills to address these issues as they came up or a few months after they were already brewing. I know that most couples still have a lot of unresolved issues that they’re currently working on or currently avoiding, and then adding a child and the strains of parenting into the mix will simply 10x the underlying conflict in their relationship.

On top of that, as you research developmental psychology, you will discover that children are highly perceptive and pick up on the emotional and relational dynamics between their parents, even though you may not even realize it or maybe they’re still pre verbal. Bringing a child into an unstable environment is not only unfair to the child, but can also lead to long-term emotional and psychological impact in the child. [08:00.0]

This misconception about marriage and parenthood as potential problem solvers is often perpetuated by romanticized portrayals in media and in societal narratives. These portrayals gloss over the complexities and challenges of real relationships, presenting an idealized version that’s far from reality.

The truth is, a healthy fulfilling relationship requires ongoing efforts, attention, communication, and mutual growth. It requires both partners to address their individual issues, while working together to build a strong resilient bond.

Okay, so what’s the alternative? Instead of viewing marriage or parenthood as solutions, couples need to focus on strengthening the relationship itself. This means investing time and effort in understanding each other, improving communication, resolving conflicts, deepening their connections with each other. It’s about building a relationship based on unconditional love, trust and emotional connection. These are the foundations of a strong healthy partnership regardless of whether the couple is married or has children. [09:13.0]

The myth that marriage or parenthood can fix relationship problems is not only misleading, but also leads to more significant issues down the line. It’s crucial for couples to understand that a strong healthy relationship is built on ongoing attention, effort, and mutual growth, not on achieving certain relatively arbitrary social milestones.

Okay, so a couple is composed of two individuals, and when you bring them together and force them to relate to one another, you’re now doubling their problems. Unless you have embarked on the therapeutic process as an individual, once you create an intimate relationship with another person, not only do you have to deal with your own problems, you now have to deal with that person’s problems. [10:00.4]

So, before you can succeed in a relationship, whether or not you tack on the label of marriage onto it, you had better be getting pretty far along on the therapeutic process for yourself. If you’ve been following my podcast for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me mention IFS therapy and this is an Internal Family Systems therapy, and the IFS therapy model offers a profound understanding of how our internal world influences our intimate relationships.

According to IFS, each person is made up of multiple parts, or you can think of it as sub personalities. These parts have their own perspectives, feelings and motivations. When these parts are unbalanced or carry unresolved issues, they often manifest as conflicts in our intimate relationships.

I’ll give you an example of . . . we’ll call them Mike and Anna, a couple I worked with. Mike had a part that was extremely critical, a carryover from his upbringing where criticism was common. Whenever Anna, his partner, would make a mistake, Mike’s critical part would take over, leading to harsh words and escalating conflicts. [11:09.0]

Anna, on the other hand, had a part that was overly sensitive to criticism because of her own childhood experiences, and of course, this dynamic led to a vicious cycle of criticism and hurt that escalated, impeding their ability to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. This dynamic of complementary neuroses contributing to the chemistry between them is exactly what you’d expect if you understand the work of Harville Hendrix, which I will get into later in this episode.

Okay, so Mike and Anna found themselves stuck in this escalating cycle, and this is where self-awareness in individual therapy became essential. By engaging in the therapeutic process, Mike began to understand his critical part, recognizing it as a protective mechanism that aimed to prevent failures or mistakes, even though now in a very maladaptive way. [12:04.5]

Through the therapeutic process, he learned to communicate with this critical part, understand its fears, and then to reassure it, and this understanding allowed him to respond from a more compassionate place, a more compassionate state to his partner, Anna, reducing the frequency and intensity of their conflicts, leading to deescalating them when they arose.

Anna, meanwhile, worked on her understanding of her sensitive part. She realized that this part of her was trying to protect her from feeling inadequate, a feeling she often experienced in her childhood. Through the therapeutic process, she learned how to soothe this part and how to build her sense of self-worth, making her less sensitive and reactive to Mike’s criticisms.

Another great book, Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel. World-renowned psychiatrist and neuroscientist and eminent researcher, Daniel Siegel. He emphasizes the importance of understanding our own personal histories and the emotional baggage that we bring to our parenting, unconsciously bring to our parenting. [13:10.0]

He argues that by making sense of our past, we can then raise our children with a lot more empathy and understanding, and in a sense, right the wrongs from our own past. This concept applies to relationships as well. By understanding our own emotional history, we are then able to interact with our partners in a more informed and compassionate way.

In Mike and Anna’s case, their individual therapy journeys help them to understand their own emotional triggers and patterns, and this understanding transformed the way they interacted with each other as a couple, allowing for more empathy, patience, and leading to constructive conflict resolution. It’s a great illustration of how addressing our own internal issues can profoundly impact the health of our relationships. [13:56.3]

When we understand and work on our internal parts, especially those shaped by our past, we bring a healthier Self to our relationships. This process not only enhances our individual wellbeing, but also lays the foundation for stronger, healthier, more resilient, intimate relationships.

Now shifting our focus to intimacy challenges and getting to what I had seeded earlier of Harville Hendrix’s work who has shown that the root causes of most relationship issues lie not in the external status or circumstances, but in the deeper realms of emotional intimacy and the ability to navigate our own triggers.

I’ll give you another example of a different couple. We’ll call them James and Lily. James and Lily were both successful professionals. Their relationship seemed perfect on the surface, but they frequently found themselves in heated arguments over what started out as seemingly minor issues. It turns out the crux of their problem wasn’t a lack of passion or compatibility, but rather an inability to deal with deep-seated triggers and a lack of emotional courage to be truly intimate. [15:08.8]

Okay, James, he grew up in a household where emotional expression was discouraged—this is common for most men—and he found it difficult to open up and share his vulnerabilities out of fear of punishment or ridicule, which is what he got whenever he expressed his emotions growing up. Lily, on the other hand, longed for a deeper emotional connection, but felt rejected whenever James withdrew.

This is a classic example of what Hendrix calls the Imago match, where partners mirror each other’s unresolved issues. James’ withdrawal triggered Lily’s fears of abandonment, which stemmed from her childhood experiences, while Lily’s desire for emotional closeness triggered James’ fear of losing his autonomy. In our therapeutic work together, we focus on creating a safe space for them to explore these triggers when they happen and to dive deeper into the origins of these triggers. [16:07.2]

No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.

Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.

Learn more about this transformational program by going to

That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.

In James and Lily’s case, the therapeutic work involved in learning to express their vulnerabilities and learning to listen to each other without judgment or defensiveness, this process requires a lot of emotional courage, which is the willingness to face and share one’s deepest fears and desires, and the courage to take on what we believe to be the most painful emotions. [17:26.3]

Through consistent efforts and guidance over time, James learned to articulate his feelings better, and Lily learned to provide him with the space he needed. This transformed their conflict into opportunities for deepening their understanding and connection. Emotional courage and self-awareness are foundational in building emotional intimacy. It’s about moving beyond the superficial aspects of a relationship and delving into the deeper emotional currents that drive our interactions. It’s about being brave enough to face our painful emotions and to explore the parts of ourselves that we often keep hidden even from those closest to us. [18:08.2]

In James and Lily’s journey, they discovered that true intimacy goes beyond physical closeness or shared interests. It’s about creating a bond, where both partners feel safe to reveal their innermost parts, their innermost selves, with all their fears, hopes and dreams. Through the therapeutic process, they learned that their conflicts were not just obstacles to be overcome, but opportunities for breaking through to greater growth and deeper connection. They learned that by understanding and empathizing with each other’s triggers, they could transform their relationship into a source of strength and healing.

Moving on to the next point now, I want to emphasize how major life changes, especially things like getting married or especially having a child, introduces stress and pressure into a relationship, and if that relationship is already strained, it will probably collapse over time as a result of these newer strains and pressures. [19:05.3]

These life events, which are initially joyful and, of course, are significant in the eyes of society, also magnify the existing dynamics and underlying unresolved issues within an intimate relationship. Imagine a couple, let’s call them Tom and Sarah, who thought that having a baby would bring them closer together.

Before the baby they, let’s say, experienced occasional conflicts and unresolved issues. Post-baby, these issues didn’t just remain. They now intensified the added responsibilities, the sleep deprivation, the shift in their relationship dynamics, having to deal with childcare while still working. Being forced to go from partners and now into parents just further exacerbated all of their problems.

When a couple enters a new phase, such as parenthood, they bring their unresolved issues into the new phase, into this new context. For Tom and Sarah here, the stress of parenting would bring their communication issues to the forefront, let’s say. Where there was once neglect of certain issues, now there was an amplified effect as the stakes were higher now with a whole human being, a child, involved. [20:14.0]

It’s important to recognize that these life changes don’t fix preexisting issues. They test. They stress test the foundations of a relationship. If the foundation is shaky, the additional weight will cause the cracks to widen. This is why it’s essential for couples to work on their relationship issues before making, ideally before making these major life decisions, and if it’s a little bit too late, because you jumped the gun or in troubleshooting stage, it’s even more important to just stop everything and work on those underlying issues that have now come to the surface.

Another aspect to consider is the romanticization of these life events. Society often portrays marriage and parenthood as ultimate goals and the implication is that they magically bring happiness and solve problems, like the movie ends with a couple getting together or getting married, and then they get married and then the car drives off happily ever married or whatever, and then the movie ends. This fantasy romanticization can lead couples to make these decisions without adequately preparing for the realities they entail. [21:17.7]

So, what can couples do? First, it’s about setting realistic expectations, understanding that marriage and parenthood are not solutions, but new chapters that come with their own challenges. This is key, this understanding is key. Couples need to prepare themselves for these changes, not just in practical terms, but emotionally and relationally. They need to develop the courage and skills to communicate openly, honestly and empathetically with each other, and get some practice navigating the complexities of these life changes. It’s about creating a space where both partners can feel heard, understood and supported. [21:59.3]

For the couples that I’ve worked with, seeking professional help was a huge turning point. Through the therapeutic process, each partner in the couple has learned to communicate more effectively, address their unresolved issues, and find ways to support each other as partners and parents. Their relationship doesn’t just magically become perfect, but they develop the tools to manage their conflicts and strengthen their bonds.

Okay, it’s also important to maintain the relationship outside of these roles, so the couple has to remind themselves that they’re not just parents, but they’re also romantic partners. Finding time for each other, nurturing their connection, and keeping the romance alive is essential to maintaining a healthy, balanced relationship.

Transitioning into a significant life stage, like marriage or parenthood, requires more than just romance and good intentions. It demands a realistic understanding of what these commitments entail and a strong foundation for the relationship itself. [22:59.2]

Okay, so now let’s unpack what healthy preparation looks like and contrast it with the misguided notion of using marriage or having a baby as fixes for relationship issues. Preparing for marriage or parenthood starts with setting realistic expectations. It’s vital to understand that these aren’t panaceas for existing relationship problems. Instead, they’re journeys that come with their own sets of challenges and responsibilities.

A stable relationship foundation is crucial for this. This means having a relationship built on mutual understanding, respect, a deep connection, effective communication, and emotional resilience. Partners should be able to navigate conflicts constructively, hold the space for each other, support each other’s individual growth and share core values and life goals.

Part of this preparation involves acknowledging and accepting the responsibilities that come with these life changes. For example, parenting isn’t just about the joy of having a child. It also includes sleepless nights, financial planning, lifestyle adjustments, and the continuous process of learning and adapting, especially at each of these stages. [24:10.6]

Similarly, marriage is more than a romantic union. It’s a partnership that involves shared decision-making, compromise and facing life’s challenges together unified. Couples often overlook the importance of ensuring that their relationship has a stable foundation before stepping into marriage or parenthood. The stability isn’t just about being in love romantically or having a long-term relationship that goes through a certain number of years. It’s about having a relationship where both partners feel understood, secure and valued, a relationship where they can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment or rejection. [24:50.4]

Another critical aspect of preparation is seeking professional help. Engaging in individual and couples therapy can be immensely beneficial. A good therapeutic process provides a safe space to address personal and relational issues. It should help in understanding each other’s perspectives, and develop skills for healthier communication and conflict resolution, and building emotional courage to face the painful emotions that will necessarily come up in an intimate relationship as it grows. This is a proactive approach to ensuring that both partners are emotionally and mentally prepared for the ensuing life changes.

The therapeutic process can also help couples explore their reasons for wanting to get married or for having a child. It’s essential to understand whether these decisions are being made for the right reasons, for example, out of an expression of unconditional love and a desire to share a life together, or as an attempt to fix or escape from underlying problems within the individuals or between the couple. Professional guidance helps couples discern their motivations and address any issues before they take these significant steps, and especially with parenthood, steps that are irreversible. [26:06.4]

A common scenario in couples therapy involves couples who rushed into marriage or parenthood, hoping it would bring them closer or resolve their issues. However, without addressing the root causes of their problems, these couples find themselves feeling more distant and frustrated and depressed. The therapeutic process can help such couples by providing them with tools and strategies and guidance to strengthen their intimate relationship, improve their communication and resolve conflicts in a healthy manner.

Hopefully, you get now that marriage and parenthood are not solutions to relationship problems. They are significant life choices, and they should entail careful consideration, preparation and a strong, healthy foundation of your relationship. If you’re considering the significant life milestones, I encourage you to reflect on your reasons. Communicate these with your partner openly, and seek professional guidance, if you need it, which I highly recommend for everyone. Remember, the goal is to build a loving, stable and fulfilling passionate relationship that can withstand the challenges of any of these major life changes. [27:17.0]

Okay, so now let’s do a quick recap. We’ve busted the myth that marriage and parenthood can fix preexisting relationship issues. We’ve delved into how unaddressed individual issues and intimacy challenges can significantly impact your relationship. We’ve also talked about the stress and pressure of major life changes, like getting married or having a child, and the importance of realistic preparation for these life stages.

You see a version of this myth happening for single people, too. That version of the myth is, if they get into a relationship, then it will solve all of the problems, or they’ll finally feel worthy enough or like they’re enough, and those of you who are in relationships for any length of time know how much of a B.S. view that is. [27:58.8]

Similarly, if you’re entering marriage or parenthood for the wrong reasons, it’s really important that you take what we’ve covered seriously, because when you do it for the wrong reasons, hoping this life change will magically solve your problems, you often find yourself in a deeper crisis. The unresolved issues that were present before will only get magnified. This will lead to increased conflict, resentment and emotional distance. In the case of parenthood, the additional stress and responsibility will be overwhelming, potentially leading to a breakdown in the relationship, and of course, negatively impacting the wellbeing of your child.

When it comes to your marriage, if you rush into it without doing the proper groundwork, you’ll either end up in divorce or in a life of quiet desperation where the two of you live separate lives, or you might share a domicile, which is not that uncommon in Asian countries. Or you could go through with a divorce, which is not just emotionally draining, but can also have significant financial and social consequences for you. [28:57.6]

When it comes to your children who are born into such relationships, the impact can be profound and long lasting. Not only have you messed up your marriage, you’ve now messed up your kids, and they will grow up in an environment of instability and uncertainty and conflict, which will, of course, affect their emotional and psychological development.

However, there is a brighter picture for those who prepare properly for marriage and parenthood. When you take the time to work on your relationship, address your individual issues, and understand what these life changes really entail, you then set the stage for a more fulfilling and stable future together.

In a well-prepared marriage, partners support and understand each other better, leading to a stronger, more resilient bond, and in parenthood when both partners are ready and have entered this phase for the right reasons, they’re more likely to work as a team, providing a nurturing and stable environment for their child. Children raised in such homes are more likely to develop healthy emotional and social skills, setting them up for, of course, a brighter and better future. [29:58.8]

When you prepare adequately for marriage and parenthood, you not only enhance your own life, but also positively influence the lives of those closest to you, you create a legacy of love, understanding and stability that can be passed down through the generations.

So, if you’re considering, seriously, marriage or starting a family, take a step back and honestly evaluate your real reasons and your actual readiness. Seek professional guidance, if necessary. Engage in open and honest communication with your partner, and ensure that you’re both on the same page about your expectations and responsibilities. Remember, marriage and especially parenthood are not fixes for existing problems, but are in themselves beautiful journeys that require their own commitment, understanding and preparation.

As we close here, I encourage you to reflect on your relationship and your life choices. Consider the long-term impact of your decisions and ensure that you’re making them for the right reasons. With proper preparation and a healthy approach, you can build a fulfilling and enriching life for yourself and your loved ones. [31:03.1]

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Masculine Psychology podcast. Remember, the key to a successful relationship and a happy family life lies in understanding preparation and genuine love. If you liked this episode, hit a like or subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening to this on and leave a review that helps us get found on these various platforms. And let me know what you think. Leave me a comment or send me a message. Again, this episode was inspired by our listener question, so let me know your feedback. I live for your feedback. If this has helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it.

Thank you, again, so much for listening to this episode. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [31:43.8]

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