Marriage is under pressure

I remember being at my weekly mom’s group when my daughter was an infant and having an important realization: I recognized that the only thing we actually talked about was sleep! How to get our babies to sleep through the night, how to get more sleep for ourselves, and how to get our partners to take on more tasks so that we could get more sleep.

Lack of sleep is one of the biggest stressors when you have a new baby, and combined with other challenges of caring for an infant, can put extreme pressure on a marriage.

The first few years of being new parents can add more strain to a marriage than almost any other event. Two thirds of couples find that they have a decrease in satisfaction in their relationship and an increase in conflict and hostility after the arrival of a new baby. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute,, found that 67% of couples come close to divorce during the first three years of a baby’s life.

Why is that? One factor is those stressors, but as things start to calm down for moms, sleep increases and the baby starts to become a bit more independent, dissatisfaction can start to rise for dads. The structure of the family has changed, including the roles for each member. Partners become parents first, and the focus on the primary relationship can take a back seat. Moms can feel that they are doing far more than their fair share, and wonder if this is how it will always be. Sexual intimacy can decline and dads can feel that they are less important. Sound familiar?

Now that my daughter is older, I look back at that time and can’t imagine how we survived! Having my moms’ group was a big help. When you are going through a difficult time, finding a sympathetic ear can really take the edge off. Don’t be afraid to express your needs and feelings, ask for help, and get some support.

Marriage can be difficult, and trust me, you are not the only one struggling!  What can you do if you or your spouse are becoming unglued?

If it’s within the first three years of having a new baby, know that at least two-thirds of couples have these same feelings, and knowing that this is normal for families in similar circumstances can help you feel more sane and hopeful. In fact, many survive the adjustments and go on to have healthy and happy long-term marriages.  Slow down and take a deep breath. Once separation and lawyers are mentioned, couples often find themselves on a fast moving track towards divorce and can’t figure out how to get off.

I am a relationship counselor who has found great success with Discernment Counseling (DC). DC isn’t couples therapy or mediation, but rather a proven method of helping you decide if you should work on your marriage or move towards divorce: “The counselor helps both partners see their individual contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. Understanding one’s own contributions to the problems can be important to the success of future relationships even if this one ends.” 

Know that you are not alone in your struggles; reach out to friends or professionals, and know that there is help when you need it.

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