Tag Archives: new parents

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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Marriage/Babies Won’t Fix Relationship Problems

These might fall under the category of “duh” but I consider them reminders worth repeating, so I’ll pass along:

If you’re engaged, and you think marriage will resolve problems in your relationship, sorry Charlie. Marriage generally magnifies–rather than diminishes–conflict or disputes. Do yourself a favor and hash out your differences in premarital counseling, allowing your marriage to flourish rather than crash and burn. Don’t be shy about it. Every couple has conflict; the ones who last merely learned how to move past them.

Secondly, despite the hopes of the young and naive, having a baby isn’t the solution to a rocky relationship. Quite the contrary, in fact. The year after the first child is born is generally one of the most stressful times for a couple. Take the time to work out your issues before taking the parenting plunge–or before having another child. (While you’re at it, be sure you’ve agreed on how you’ll handle childcare, work and home responsibilities.) For stable couples, parenting can be a complete joy, but for couples in conflict, the lack of time and sleep only exacerbate marital woes and may worsen feelings of anger and ambivalence.

Do you have experiences to share about these or other lessons learned prior to taking the next “big step” in your relationship? What do you wish you had known before you married or as a newlywed?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Want a Happier Marriage? Have More Sex.

There appears to be a strong correlation between happiness and frequency of intimacy in a marriage. In fact, some of you already know this, by the looks of a large-scale national study, which showed married people have more and better sex than do their unmarried counterparts. (And singles think they’re having all the fun.)

Sociologist Denise A. Donnelly explains, “While sex isn’t the only important thing in a marriage, it matters more than many believe. Couples who don’t have satisfying sex lives are more likely to get divorced. Plus, regular, intimate sex can help increase general happiness.” Donnelly adds, “Happy couples have more sex, and the more sex a couple has, the happier they report being.”

Certain transition periods for couples are likely to reduce the frequency of intimacy, such as when dealing with significant health problems or becoming new parents. A BBC study detailed 500 women’s experiences with pregnancy and how their sex lives were affected. On average, they had sex half as frequently during pregnancy as they did before pregnancy, and that dropped further after the baby was born. The biggest obstacles they cited were feeling too tired, stressed, suffering from depression, or having post-baby body image issues. However, three-fourths of them reported being tired but very happy.

Researchers of the study (conducted for Prima Baby magazine) said there is a perfectly normal period of adjustment for couples as they become new parents, when their focus on naturally on their new child. Also, it may take months for the woman’s hormones to come back into balance after birth. Women who experience pain, discomfort or complete lack of libido should see their physician.

The responsibilities of parenthood notwithstanding, couples who focus for years on their little ones and neglect their own relationships will likely see a significant decline in marital happiness. Experts warn of treating one another like roommates, which can happen when household and work responsibilities consistently take higher priority than the marriage.

The good news is that most married couples are doing something right. Not only do married couples have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally. 1

1 Linda J. Waite and Kara Joyner, “Emotional and Physical Satisfaction with Sex in Married, Cohabitating, and Dating Sexual Unions: Do Men and Women Differ?” Pp. 239-269 in E. O. Laumann and R.T. Michael, eds., Sex, Love and Health in America (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Edward O. Laumann, J.H. Gagnon, R.T. Michael and S. Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the Unites States (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994).