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|Posted on December 5, 2013 at 5:44 AM|
Did you know that 2 thirds of couples experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first baby? While for some couples, relationship satisfaction will eventually recover, for most couples the low will persist. It does not take a rocket scientist to identify the causes of such a drop: lack of sleep, constant demands of a new baby, being stuck at home a lot of the time, lack of freedom or spontaneity. But also, becoming a parent is a huge adjustment for both partners, not only in terms of lifestyle and what they might want to achieve in life, but crucially it sends one back to their own childhood i.e. what kind of child they were, how was the parenting they received, what do they want for their own child, what do they want to replicate and what do they want to avoid. Furthermore, research tells us that it is the changes that men make to their behaviour during that adjustment period that can significantly improve relationship satisfaction. This appears surprising at first and definitely at odds with what happens the rest of the time when trying to address relationship issues where efforts from both partners are much more balanced. So why is that? In the majority of cases, it is still the woman who is the partner staying at home to look after the baby and therefore the most impacted by his/her arrival. As she struggles through adjusting to her new life, to feelings of guilt that often come with motherhood and to find her new identity as a woman and a mother, could it be that increased understanding and support from her loving partner make all the difference? It is fascinating to observe what that one third of couples who successfully transition from childless couple to parents do differently. The overwhelming difference is that these couples work as a team. They are aware that they are in it together and must work together to get through the bad nights etc. They acknowledge each other’s contributions and support each other through thick and thin. And when, inevitably at times, tempers run short, they try to repair the situation quickly and don’t let anything fester. There are many ways any couple can learn to do this and, obviously, relationship counselling can help. If you like books, a good starting point is “And Baby makes three” by John and Julie Gottman (2007). The Gottmans are a real life couple of American relationship therapists who have developed over the years a keen interest on how couples handle the transition to parenthood. The book can be a bit cheesy at times but offers lots of tools and tips parents can use or reflect upon.