In 1989 Bob and I had been married for one year and launched our private practice. One of the ways we became known in the community was through doing presentations about relationships and marriage. We especially loved speaking to “child study” groups; that is, groups of moms with same aged kids who met monthly to socialize and have professionals present about child-related topics.
Bob and I designed our first presentation on “What Happens to Marriage After Kids?” Of course, at the time, we had no personal experience with the topic. I was pregnant with our first child, who was born in mid-1990. We did our research at the University of Maryland Library – since it was right before everyone had PCs and the internet. We must sound ancient.
To our shock, there were many studies that had asked just this question: How is marital satisfaction affected by the birth of children? When couples at different life stages were surveyed and asked, “How satisfied are you with the quality of your marriage?” they consistently got the same results: After the birth of the first child, marital satisfaction plunged by 40%. Then the graph showed marital satisfaction slowly climbed back up. By the time children launched, marital satisfaction was back to the same level as before children.
Wow, that was surprising news to us. We presented our findings to the young parents in the group, and then discussed why they weren’t surprised. They brainstormed all the reasons marriage changes after children are born.
You go from a couple to a triad. Your focus is no longer just on each other. Three is a difficult number. Often the partner who is not the primary caretaker feels left out.
Then there is the issue of extended family. Often parents and in-laws become involved with you and your new family. If you get along and they respect the way you want to parent, you are fortunate. If not, all kinds of issues may arise.
There is a tremendous increase in day-to-day physical demands. You don’t get enough sleep and the sleep you do get is chronically interrupted. Just when you need more energy to care for an infant, you are not able to do enough self-care to prepare for these new demands.
Some women experience post-partum depression. If you are going back to work, you worry about child care arrangements, your child’s safety and security. You may experience guilt and/or separation anxiety.
If you are not going back to work, you will experience a tremendous shift in your daily activities, your identity, and your interaction, or lack of, with other adults.
Being close to a baby is very physical. For some women they become disinterested in sex after the birth of a baby. I’ve heard countless women say, “I’ve been touched all day. The last I want is to have sex.”
If you breastfeed, your breasts become more than a part of your sexual intimacy. A new type of intimacy is created with your child. For some women that is not a conflict and for others, it may feel awkward.
In addition, some women experience difficulties adjusting to their new body. Unless you have a trainer, a nutritionist, a cook and a babysitter — there’s little time or energy to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. A newborn is consuming. Baby weight is hard to lose, and the shape of our bodies change.
Next week, I will continue with this topic and provide suggestions and tips to address these issues. There is no magic solution, but there are a lot of little things that you can do to ease some of the stress in your marriage after kids.
Tune in next week to read, We Had Kids – 7 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong.
If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email email@example.com.
Image Copyright: Andrew Branch