Having a child is, for many husbands and wives, the very peak of their marriages. The joint responsibility of looking after someone else can bring couples even closer together. Sadly, however, the experience is not without stress, given that it can totally change the dynamic of a relationship.

Such tensions have been reported by the Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who has just announced that she has separated from her husband of only 18 months.

One reason could be having “plenty of arguments”, which she had previously remarked were caused by the strain of parenthood following the birth of her daughter, Summer, last June.

We shouldn’t forget that Adlington and her husband (the swimmer Harry Needs) are – at 27 and 24 respectively - a relatively young married couple in England and Wales in current terms. Since the early 1970s, the average age at which men and women marry has crept upwards from the mid-twenties to the mid-thirties.

Raising a child can often exacerbate the kind of issues which partners might already face in their twenties. That is one reason why, according to the most recent statistics, women in their late twenties have the highest divorce rate of any female age group.

I have been involved in cases in which fathers of a not dissimilar age resent children replacing them as the central focus of their wife’s affections. It is also perhaps important to bear in mind the fact that both Adlington and her husband have competed for some years in elite level sport.

After retirement and years of self-sacrifice, many athletes experience turmoil when their lives no longer revolve around training or competing.

Despite the absence of much academic research on the topic, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence in the UK and abroad to suggest that significant numbers of athletes in a range of different sports experience domestic difficulties after they stop competing. The continued status of being a household’s main earner can add no little pressure of its own too.

Similar issues account for the rise in so-called ‘silver splits’, divorces among the over-50s, who find life after what might have been an entire adulthood of paid employment to be less than the restful idyll that they might have imagined.

With all that to contend with, it’s unfortunate but perhaps not surprising that even two individuals at home in water as Rebecca Adlington and her husband find themselves sinking instead of swimming.


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