Till Death, Not Childbirth, Do Us Part…How to combat the strain parenting places on your marriage

It is well known that positive and negative life events can produce a stress response.  Life experiences that we consider momentous can cause a steep rise in emotions, and are often recognized by the body as stressful.  One occasion in particular, the birth of a child, is particularly exciting.  There you are in your early years of marriage learning each other’s nuances and improving your communication when the day comes.  The day you find out your family is expanding.  You are overjoyed and instantly envision your new life as a family unit.

But whether planned or unplanned, the period surrounding childbirth can be anxiety provoking.  Beginning with pregnancy, the process of bringing a life into the world comes with its ups and downs.  And I am not just referring to hormones.  From morning sickness to finding out the sex of your baby, there are a number of moments that cause a wide range of emotions during the transition to parenthood.  And the entire experience can lead to changes in indicators of relationship quality for new and expecting parents.  

Research shows that couples generally conceive in the first five years of marriage, which happen to be the same five years that hold the highest risk of divorce.  The exact impact that parenthood during this time period has on the divorce rate is unclear, but decreases in relationship satisfaction for spouses after the birth of children has been shown in many studies. Some couples do see stability or even an increase in relationship satisfaction after the birth of a child, however lower levels of satisfaction can be seen in many partners.

So how can you prevent one of the happiest moments of your life turning your marriage into a statistic? Here are some tips on maintaining relationship satisfaction after becoming parents:

  1.  Utilize Supports- Immediately after the birth of your child you will see an increase in the number of family and friends offering assistance. As time goes on, you may need to solicit support from your loved ones for them to lend their support.  Do not be too proud to reach out to your trusted family and friends that are willing to help out.  They may no longer be beating down your door, but are willing to relieve you at times.
  2. Check In on the Relationship- When becoming parents, couples often put the needs of their children over that of the relationship. There is seemingly an endless supply of diapers to change or spills to be wiped up. However your marriage also has needs and requires your attention.  Make sure to assess the current status of your relationship and identify any needs that are not being met.  Then plan a moment to sit down with your partner to discuss these desires and request that your partner express their wishes as well.
  3. Take Time Away- Your little ones are your precious bundles of joy, but cannot always take priority over your marriage.  Whenever possible, carve out some alone time for mommy and daddy to reconnect and have some fun together.  These moments restore intimacy and make the connection stronger.
  4. Allow Personal Time- With the marriage and children vying for attention, there is usually limited time for alone time.  It is important that each partner have moments to tend to themselves and provide self-care.  These instances are unaccompanied so away from your spouse, children, and loved ones.  Take this time to participate in activities that you enjoy or pamper yourself.  You deserve some relaxation!
  5. Discuss Co-parenting Expectations- There are many duties that come with raising a child, some fun and others not so fun!  These tasks are often taken on as they come and are not defined as any person’s responsibility. This can lead to an uneven distribution of tasks as time goes on which can lead to frustration and resentment in the marital relationship.  A way to alleviate this situation is to take an assessment of the duties surrounding parenting and assign a partner who is primarily responsible for that task.  The division may not be exactly equal, but it gives more insight to the work that is being done by each party so that realistic discussions can take place regarding expectations and the toll it may be taking on the relationship.

 

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