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How to secure your relationship during the parenting years

How to secure your relationship during the parenting yearsHave you thought about your transition from Partner to Parent? Everybody will win if you get it right – YOU, your partner and the children. Lets not forget it costs way less to live together as a family than to live separately.

It’s so important to secure your relationship during the parenting years and be aware that relationships can decline once the children arrive. Its not only the parents that suffer but the children can be effected emotionally and academically too. Don’t worry, it’s not inevitable for all couples but you must enter parenthood with your eyes open, understand and accept that your life will never again be how you knew it.

There has been studies conducted on this topic to find out what couples are doing right and what couples are they doing wrong?

Couples were monitored from prepregnacy to when the children were in preschool, the findings were very interesting…

92% of the couples in the study described a gradual increase in conflict after having their baby. By the time their babies were 18 months old, almost one in four couples indicated that their marriage was in distress. This does not include the 13% who already had announced separations and divorces.

One stage is not harder on relationships than another. There is a cumulative erosion of satisfaction over time. Parents of school-age children experience less depression and personal stress than they did when their kids were babies, marital satisfaction continues its steady decline for most couples.

So how does a couple remain happy?

The key to marital satisfaction lies in how couples manage the decision-making process. It’s not whether the couples have problems, because every couple does. When babies come along, there are a lot more issues and differences of opinion to negotiate, and a couple’s ability to do so with cooperation and respect can make or break the marriage.

It’s also important for partners to hear each others outbursts without immediately firing back or engaging in blame. The person who said or did something thoughtless needs to make amends later. Saying, “I made that comment out of anger. I really didn’t mean it,” goes a long way toward repairing a relationship.

They also put some expectant couples in groups with trained leaders and found years later that their satisfaction did not decline.

Many people take prenatal classes, learning how to breathe during childbirth, but few give much thought to what the next 20 years are going to be like. Couples in our study joined the groups when the wives were seven months pregnant and met weekly until the babies were 3 months old.

The group helped them start thinking concretely about what life with the baby would be like and enabled them to talk about their ideas, worries, and confusion before and after the birth. Six years later, the couples who remained married and had been in these groups were far more satisfied with their relationships.

So what do couples fight about?

New parents say it’s the division of labor, the who-does-what in the family.

When children become school-age, the issues of money and spending time together then become the things they fight about.

And what about sex?

Sex is a good temperature check of how the rest of the relationship is going. If you feel hurt or misunderstood, or you and your wife are struggling over but not resolving issues, that affects how attracted, nurturing, and ready to have sex you’ll be.

The frequency of lovemaking declines during the early months of parenthood when mothers especially are exhausted, but we find that most couples’ sex lives rebound within two years. During that time, though, some partners may not initiate even snuggling or touching for fear that it will give the message that they’re ready to have sex when they aren’t. We advise couples to be perfectly clear: “I’m not sure how much energy I have tonight, but I’d love to hold you for a few minutes.” That enables them to have more intimate time together and show caring for each other.

Many new mothers talk about feeling unattractive after the birth. But while a few men find it hard to see their wives as sexual after having children, most husbands are supportive about their wives’ appearance.

What can couples do on their own to help their relationship?

Work on issues with your partner when you’re calm — not at 2 a.m., when the baby won’t sleep. Often after couples have had a fight, they’re reluctant to bring up the issue again. But if you don’t, it can linger and resentment can build.

If you argue in front of your kids, tell them later that you worked out your disagreement or show them that you did by calming yourselves down in front of them.

Make time for the relationship. You may not be able to afford a sitter or be ready to leave your baby, but you can check in with each other for at least 10 minutes every day. That can be done after you put the kids to bed or even on the phone while you’re both at work, as long as you’re sharing what happened to you that day and how it’s affecting you emotionally. The pace of life today is so frenetic that few couples do this. But marriages are capable of change, and small changes can make big differences.

Being aware of what can go wrong when changing from partner to parent and how it can be a mine field for new dads will hopefully make you acknowledge that the first few years will take patience, understanding and commitment from both partners to make it successful – don’t go in blind!

I heard when we get it right it can create happiness equate to the feeling of quadrupling your salary…says Harvard psychologist Robert Putnam. He goes on to explain…

Making a good friend is equal to tripling a salary. Belonging to a club can cause an increase in happiness equivalent to doubling a salary. And going on picnics three times a year is the same as receiving a 10 per cent raise. Lets quadruple our happiness!

Please share this post with anyone you know going into parenthood  🙂

Credit for this research study goes to Philip Cowan, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California and his wife Carolyn Pape Cowan, Ph.D. Professor of psychology.