When it comes to having children, the statistics regarding marital satisfaction are daunting. Several studies show that the transition to parenthood can be quite difficult on marriages including increased stress levels, increased number of differences between the two partners, decreased sexual activity, and lower overall marital satisfaction. If parents-to-be know their vulnerabilities, they can be intentional to not become a statistic. Here is a few ideas about how:
- Make Time– Parenthood means that couples will have less time for each other. Focus naturally shifts to focus on nurturing the baby and one of the challenges of a new baby is that “free” time is much more limited. If you know this before you have your baby, you and your spouse can discuss windows of time each week that can be intentionally scheduled in so that you and your spouse still have meaningful couple conversations and interactions.
- Share Tasks- One of the reasons marital satisfaction goes down is that there can be more pressure on one spouse to provide and more pressure on the other spouse to solely take care of household tasks. Prior to the baby, these responsibilities felt more equally contributed to by both partners. Being aware of this change partners can decide together what is reasonable and ways that they can lighten each other’s added pressures.
- Use Humor– Taking on new challenge of parenting can be hard and make couples feel more laden with responsibilities. They may have a tendency to become more serious and less playful and spontaneous. One technique that can help is to see the humor in many of the challenges and laugh at the absurdity of getting peed on, toothpaste all over the bathroom, or a child who wants to eat dirt. Couples can take turns sharing stories and even writing down some of the humorous things that their child came up with that day to take things less seriously and relieve some of the burden.
- Show Affection– Another reason marital satisfaction can go down is that the couple’s sexual relationship is negatively affected by the demands of raising a child. Adapting to body changes of pregnancy or birth process can impact the couple’s sexuality as well as feeling exhausted from caretaking or work. Knowing this statistic, couples can catch when their relationship is becoming a lower priority through lack of effort and resulting emotional distance. The couple can counteract emotional distance by reaching for each other and giving and receiving various levels of affection including handholding, opening doors, hugs, kisses, as well as sensual and sexual touch.
- Feel Wonder and Joy– When you look into your new baby’s eyes, consider the miracle of life that you and your spouse have received. Breathe in the wonder of that moment and then share your feelings with your spouse. Express gratitude for the ways your spouse has grown since taking on the new challenge of raising a child and the new role of fatherhood or motherhood.