The anticipation of a new baby is supposed to be filled with excitement, hope and joy. However, for many married couples the reality of marriage after that new baby is quite different from the imagined ideal they pictured. Gottman’s (2006) research found that after the first baby is born relationship satisfaction in the marriage dropped significantly for two-thirds of the married couples studied. Some studies put marriage satisfaction declining as high as sixty-three percent after the child is born.
In Gottman’s research on new parents, marriage conflict within the relationship and hostility towards each other dramatically increase following the birth of a child. Married couples found themselves fighting much more with their emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy having deteriorated. The married couple after baby became bewildered and exhausted and not surprisingly their passion, sex and romance plummeted.
Couples not prepared for Change to Relationship
Couples are grossly underprepared for the arrival of a new baby to the marriage. Many couples do antenatal classes about the baby but they do nothing to prepare the marriage. Couple will need to truly come together as a team to figure out joint goals and how to manage individual freedom. Babies change the freedom of the individual and the couple. A baby forces interdependence between the husband and the wife. If couples have not discussed their ideal pictures of parenting, time together, time apart and how they prefer to parent, fights are likely to ensue. Many married couples under estimate how much their fighting affects their child. Many studies have come out showing the negative impact that fighting married couples have on their baby. This why the push to have marriage counselling to prepare for a baby is considered a protective factor for both the marriage and the parent-child relationship.
In Gottman’s research on babies raised by unhappy parents the children’s development suffered. They lagged behind the babies of contented parents both intellectually and emotionally. Speech occurred later, potty training was delayed and the ability to self-sooth was slow in coming. With parents suffering from depression some of these lacks in children were permanent. This study and other studies emphasize how important it for couples to not wait to do something about problems in their marriage. A good expat marriage counsellor can help married couples over come differences and ensure a smooth transition to parenthood.
From this research it is clear that the greatest gift parents can give their child is a loving, stable and happy marriage. This type of relationship nurtures a baby’s development and promotes stronger attachment to parents. This loving environment allows the baby to grow both emotionally and intellectually. Children cannot survive and flourish in a war zone with parents at loggerheads. If parents are not sure how to resolve long standing problems a good expat couple counsellor can help married couples learn how to do this. Starting sooner than later results in shorter therapy and less effort from the couple.
So what can you do?
It is often best to do preventative counselling to start the discussion on key issues that couples will face. But starting early, therapy is shorter, couples avoid the disconnect that often follows a baby and can transition to parenthood smoother. No parent wants to create a hostile environment and not get along with their spouse. The reality is that for most of us nowhere do we learn effective marriage communication skills. The only models of marriage we have are our own parents and if that wasn't a good marriage model we may struggle. There is no shame in seeking professional marriage counselling to make things better. In fact it is something we do every day in other aspects of life from seeing a doctor to visiting an accountant to using a realtor. Getting professional couple counselling is a sign of strength and courage because it’s only when we recognize that we may not have the answers to our marriage can we actually seek more effective ways to fix things in our marriage. A good expat marriage counsellor has the skills and knowledge to teach married couples this effectively.
In giving your baby everything he or she needs it’s important to keep the focus on your relationship and connection with your partner and value each other’s views on parenting. In discussing conflict, set aside the desire to persuade your partner about your viewpoint and instead seek to gain understanding of their perspective. To manage conflict successfully you must first understand each other’s perspective and realize that each of you have valid viewpoints. Then with that in mind, focus on working towards a win-win compromise that is good for the relationship you are in now, not what is good for each other or the baby.
By developing strong marriage skills for communication and conflict management prior to the arrival of the baby you can positively influence your child’s intellectual and emotional development. In addition relationship skills can help you prevent relationship meltdown and infidelity. Effective skills will allow you to prevent escalating hostilities and learn how to negotiate effectively while understanding that each partner’s viewpoints are valid. Good relationship skills have been shown to reduce incidents of postpartum depression significantly, thereby improving a child’s developmental outcome.
Often people are reluctant to seek help from a professional trained counsellor because of misunderstandings of what these professionals can do or due to the negative social stigma. However, just as you seek experts’ help in other areas of your life such as doctor, accountant, dry cleaner etc, seeking a professional trained married counsellor for your relationship can help you have that wonderful family life you had envisioned.
For more information or help with your relationship please contact us at 9030 7239.