No money, no sex, and no time. And, why don’t we get along anymore?! If this isn’t how you pictured parenthood with the one you love, you’re not alone. In fact, research from The Gottman Institute shows that two thirds of marriages can take a downturn after a couples’ first baby is born, but the good news is, it’s totally normal and you can get you relationship back on track.
“So many couples look forward to the day they become parents, they envisage an abundance of love, joy and cuteness to enter their world, and it does! Unfortunately what they often don’t see coming is the exhaustion, the tension and the conflict that puts an enormous amount of stress on their love for each other – the very thing that made them want to start a family in the first place.” said Kerrie Lumbewe, Principal Psychologist at Motivating Marriages and practitioner of Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
“New parents expect when they welcome their child into the world, that their emotional bond with each other will deepen and grow stronger. However, for many couples, the exact opposite occurs. So many couples lose their bearing, they experience loss of connection and a feeling of being unknown and unsupported, and then emotional disconnection sets in. This is toxic for relationships. Many couples I see ask: “Why didn’t anyone tell us this would happen?”
- Two thirds of couples experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction within the first three years of their baby’s birth
- Relationship hostility and irritability can increase
- Mothers and fathers are at greater risk of experiencing depression and anxiety
- Sleep deprivation is strongly linked to the depression which occurs
- Couples stop talking to each other
- Sex reduces or ceases
- Emotional disconnection occurs
EVOLUTION INTO PARENTHOOD – LIFE TAKES ON A WHOLE NEW MEANING
When people become parents not only is there the obvious loss of personal time for themselves as individuals, and as a couple, there is also a fundamental change in each person’s personality when they become parents. Everything that we once knew has now changed. People’s values and beliefs can drastically change. Time takes on new meaning, even life’s purpose takes on a whole new meaning; no longer are we in it just for ourselves. One of the reasons why couples struggle so much after a baby is born is that these fundamental changes are automatic, often occurring without self-awareness, let alone any discussion with our spouse. This failure in us continuing to check-in and understand how our partner is evolving as a parent is where this disconnection begins.
LOSS OF CONNECTION
As the emotional connection between spouses deteriorates, the risk of marital unhappiness and extramarital affairs increases.
What a couple might not be aware of is that the breakdown in their relationship is shown to have a significant impact on baby’s temperament, neurological, language and cognitive development and their sense of emotional safety and security. One of Dr. John Gottman’s most famous quotes is; “The greatest gift you can give your child is a strong relationship between the two of you”.
Make time to learn about who your partner is right now; who have they’ve become since your baby was born:
- Make time just for the two of you – prioritise date night for two hours per week. Keep topics like kid’s toilet training, sleep routine or feeding schedules off limits, together with complaints about your partner or your dismal sex life.
- Set the goal of deepening your understanding of your partner’s current inner world by asking open ended questions such as:
- how has life changed for you in the last 12 months?
- What plans do you have for the next 12 months?
- Where would you like to go on our next holiday? How has becoming a parent changed you?
- If you could change your life in any way right now, what would you change and why?
There’s a great Gottman Card Deck in your app store where you can find more open-ended questions together with “Love Map” questions to us on date night.
- Lastly but most importantly, listen with curiosity, not with the expectation that you already know the answer, and not with judgment based on what you think the answer should be.
The Bringing Baby Home workshop has been specifically designed by the Gottman Institute and is based on 40 years of research into what makes marriages work. This workshop is for expecting parents and new parents with children up to three years old. The goal of this workshop is to teach couples how to navigate the changes and challenges that will inevitably come as you welcome your new little ones into your family. It aims to provide couples with the tools they need to be the best parents they can be while at the same time strengthening and maintaining the quality of their relationship.
For more information visit www.motivatingmarriages.com.au.
About the Author: Kerrie Lumbewe helps couples love their relationships and love each other. Through her work at Motivating Marriages in Engadine, she aims to get couples working together towards the goals and promises they made to each other when they first committed to one another. As well as teaching couples to navigate inevitable conflict without damaging each, she facilitates couple growing together so they can effectively and emotionally nurture their children.