Tag Archives: marital transitions

Children Can Bring a Couple Closer Together

I’ve had several comments regarding the Marriage/Babies Won’t Fix Relationship Problems post that led me to clarify my thoughts on how children may affect a relationship. My earlier point stated that if you have a rocky relationship, a baby will not magically repair the relationship. It’s important to point out that children do not “cause” relationship problems. Stress coming from many different directions (demanding jobs, frequent travel, conflict with parents) can simply magnify the cracks in your relationship.

But children don’t necessarily cause stress or strife, particularly in strong marriages in which children are desired. On the contrary, it’s my feeling that a strong relationship can be made stronger when children enter the family. The year after the firstborn isn’t always difficult (although research shows it is a challenge for many couples). My own experience after my first child was born was quite the opposite. My husband and I experienced a real “high” for at least a month following his birth, and a closeness following that–based on our new shared role as parents and our intense love for our child. Children are a blessing, not a bother. But they do require a realistic look at your lives to determine how they will be properly cared for and how you will simultaneously manage your other responsibilities.

The first year after my second child was born was very stressful for my husband and for me, because unlike our first, our second child very rarely slept through the night until she was two and a half. She required more energy during the day as well, something we were lacking due to sleepless nights. Essentially, we felt like we were competing to have our basic needs met, and we didn’t have close family members to rely on for backup. We hadn’t really anticipated feeling this way since our first baby was so easy. But after we got through it, it also made us feel like a unified team. We love both of our children equally and feel extremely fortunate to have them in our lives. The love we feel for them and they feel for us is priceless. The laughter and joy they add to our home can’t be measured.

Still, we struggle with making time for the two of us, and as they are now school-aged, with not making our family life all about their activities. More tips on that topic to come! Also read: How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of the Marriage?

One of the keys to getting past a rough period in a marriage is being able to see to the other side of the dip in satisfaction you may be experiencing. Researchers refer to the dip as a U-shaped curve, with the lower portion sometimes passing through career-building and childrearing. If you missed this post, read Author’s Secret to a Long-Lasting Marriage, which explains the common trajectory of marriage and the good news for couples who make it to the other side of the U.

For those of you who are parents, was that first year after your children were born stressful or joyful? Was it worthwhile? For couples who do not yet have children, do you fear what they might do to your relationship? Do you fear not having time for yourself, your hobbies or job? Do you hear parents talking negatively about their parental responsibilities?

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Lasting Marriage Linked to Better Health

Last week Reuters reported that people who get married and stay married reported higher health ratings than other groups. This research, which surveyed more than 9,000 Americans aged 50 and older, was the first study to examine both marital transitions and marital status on a wide range of health dimensions.

While the study, like others before it, linked marriage to better health, it also found that individuals who lost a spouse through divorce or widowhood suffered a huge health toll, likely brought on by that high-stress period. The report adds that remarriage seems to lessen some of the health effects of divorce or widowhood, but that those in a lasting marriage still had better health.

“Think of your health as money in the bank,” said researcher and University of Chicago sociology professor Linda J. Waite. “Think of marriage as a mechanism for ‘saving’ or adding to health. Think of divorce as a period of very high expenditures.”

• Those who divorced or were widowed fared worse in terms of chronic health conditions than those who never wed. They experienced 20% more chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, and had 23% more problems climbing stairs or walking a block than their married counterparts.

• People who never married were found to have 12% more mobility limitations and 13% more depressive symptoms, but no difference in chronic conditions from the group who remained married.

• Those who remarried had 12% more chronic conditions and 19% more mobility limitations, but no more depressive symptoms than those who remained married.

A 2005 John Hopkins University Study found that extremely stressful events, including losing a spouse, can cause heart attack-like symptoms called stress cardiomyopathy or “broken heart” syndrome.

“Some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions,” explains researcher Waite. “In contrast, conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries.”

If you or someone you love has lost a spouse through divorce or death, it is imperative to see a physician regularly and prioritize your health.

Researchers factored in participants’ age, race, sex and education level. They added that marital quality—which was not a part of the study—may also affect health (happy marriages positively and unhappy marriages negatively). The full study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.