Did you know that marital satisfaction plunges after couples experience the birth of their first child? Having children is the most significant change in the lifetime of a marriage; it dramatically impacts our relationships.
If you think about all the changes that occur after children, it’s no wonder that marital satisfaction suffers. The challenge of being a new parent is stressful. Nursing or bottle-feeding every three or four hours and the subsequent lack of sleep takes a toll.
Women may experience volatile moods or postpartum depression as a result of hormonal changes. Women’s shape, size, and weight also may change, which may affect self-esteem and desire to have sex. From the end of pregnancy until women recover from birth, sex is nonexistent—and even then, many women feel so tired that they don’t want to be touched.
A man may feel that his wife’s attention is focused on the child and that there is less emotional energy for him. If he doesn’t become involved in the care of the child, he may feel left out, like the third wheel.
Practically speaking for couples, there are major financial changes, lifestyle changes, role changes, and career changes.
Given all of these challenges, it’s common for couples to unconsciously put their marriage on the back burner. Slowly but surely, the intimate relationship drifts away. The business of the family may function, but there is a lack of attention on the couple’s emotional and physical connection. The relationship can end up in what we refer to as the “relationship rut.”
So what is a couple to do? Being aware of this is the first step. Here are five keys to relationship survival after children:
- Parent as a team: Don’t allow one parent to take on the majority of child-care tasks. Work together in all aspects of parenting—feeding, bathing, changing diapers, etc.
- Communicate: Take 15 to 20 minutes each day to check in with each other. Practice healthy communication skills—listening, speaking directly, and managing conflict.
- Carve out time for the marriage: Make time to be together without the child/children to nurture your bond. Talk about the relationship and what makes you feel loved.
- Express appreciation: Don’t take each other for granted. Tell each other what you are grateful for.
- Stay engaged as a loving, caring, and sensual couple: Nurture the emotional and erotic parts of the relationship.
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