About a month ago, we reported on a study that showed young, childless couples are happier than older one with kids. Not surprisingly, sleepless nights, diaper duty and the drain on finances takes a toll on young couples whose greatest stressor, up until that point, was often what movie to rent on a Saturday night. In fact, the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle reports that two-thirds of couples experience a decline in their relationship after the birth of their first child. Women start feeling dissatisfied right away, while men experience these feelings gradually.
As if that's not bad enough, MSNBC recently reported on new research that shows infants as young as 9 months old can sense parents' unhappy marriages and develop sleep problems as a result. In other words, an unhappy marriage can beget a restless baby which no doubts add more stress to the already stressed parents. Talk about a vicious cycle.
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The good news is that while most new parents feel overwhelmed by the work it takes to raise a child, you can take preemptive measures to stave off the fights and strengthen your marriage. Here's what counselors and new parents recently suggested to the Wall Street Journal:
1. Assign tasks. Dividing and conquering will buffer misunderstandings about the balance of work in your household. Before having your baby, make a list of every possible duty—from paying the bills, to waking up at odd hours, to doing the laundry—and split the tasks with your spouse. Having A Baby Improved My Sex Life
2. Take long walks together. One couple with a 2-1/2 year-old daughter pointed out that sitting face-to-face made it easy to misinterpret body language and facial expressions. Instead, they would discuss serious topics (like whether to buy a car) while taking their baby out in her stroller.
3. Sync up your calendars. Go ahead and treat your marriage like a business partnership. Get together once a week to make sure that your schedules match, especially if both of you work. Doing this will prevent misunderstandings about who's on baby duty and the dates of doctor's appointments.
4. Work on your friendship. Sex and romance are important, of course, but remember that boosting a marriage goes beyond going on a date night once a month. The Bringing Baby Home program, where couples take 12-hour parenting sessions, suggests that couples spend 20 minutes a day talking to each other about things besides the baby. Talk with each other about politics, TV shows, or current events so that you'll continue to have common interests aside from your child.
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5. Consider counseling. Counseling's not just for couples who are on the brink of divorce. Pre-delivery courses and post-baby counseling programs can teach your constructive problem solving, while group meetings can remind you that you're not alone in struggling. Looking for a counselor in your area? Check out the YourTango Experts database, which lets you search for relationship professionals by type, location and experience.
Did having children help or hurt your marriage? What tips do you have to offer to expecting couples?