When baby makes three...
Updated: Jan 25
Do you know how your marriage will survive when that new bundle of joy comes home?
Bringing a new life into the world is not only exciting but can also be scary. When you become parents, there are many normal changes you will experience during your new parenting experience. The changes you may undergo upon becoming parents may include increased stresses and strains, altered values and goals, shifts in roles, and diminished communication; all of these are perfectly normal. Parenting may also bring physical changes that may be hard--fatigue, decreased sexual desire, and perhaps some depression. With the right communication tools, these changes can also bring couples closer together.
Transition into Parenthood
Research shows that within three years after the birth of a baby, approximately 2/3 of couples will experience a significant drop in relationship quality and have a dramatic increase in conflict and hostility. John Gottman, PhD
Couples become more of a team and less like two individuals. They now call themselves a family. Neither parent has any idea how much additional work it is going to be when a new baby arrives. There are new demands on both. Stress and relationship conflict increases. Finances decrease. Both partners are irritable at times.
New moms #newmoms need a great deal of emotional support, but so do dads. Women often find emotional support from other women. Fathers #fathers are often gently pushed out of this circle of female social support. Mothers may become more involved with the baby. Many dads feel like they can't do anything right. Dads may be willing to leave the increased housework and care of the newborn to the mom. However, moms can often feel overworked, under appreciated and lonely. This many times may divide them and lead to increased conflict. This leads to more fighting, more emotionality, more miscommunication and often, hurt feelings. Conversation between the couple declines and often so does the sex.
What About New Fathers
With all of the above, fathers can often withdraw from the baby and mom. Dads also feel unappreciated and lonely. Dads go to work more. They begin to worry. They may want to earn more money. They begin to be gone more. This is very unfortunate, because fathers are absolutely essential during the transition to parenthood #transitiontoparenthood for the sake of the relationship, and for the development of the infant. When fathers withdraw, their babies don't look to them at times when they would usually turn to a caregiver for guidance. The health of the relationship plays a role in father withdrawal as well, because father withdrawal often goes hand with a declining relationship.
The greatest gift you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the two of you.
This storm of new emotional experiences can overwhelm a relationship and lead to a cascade of events that can drive Mom and Dad apart. Education and realistic expectations can help. Parents need to know what to expect when they bring their new baby home...
What Else Does Research Say About Relationships
Carolyn and Philip Cowan at UC Berkeley (1992) looked into relationships during the transition to parenthood #parenthood and they found out that half of all relationships break up in the first seven years. John Gottman's research showed that 67% of couples are less satisfied after the baby arrives than they were before. He also found out that the results are different for man and women. For women, a negative spiral
began six months after the first baby was born which led to a rapid drop in relationship satisfaction. Fathers in contrast experienced the same decrease in satisfaction in the relationship but it usually began around nine months or closer to the end of the infant's first year. So what can you do to stop this downward spiral? Stay tuned for my next episode when I discuss the 4 common trends among couples when they become parents and how to maintain their relationship satisfaction.