I guess this image is representative of what happens when a baby arrives; he or she takes the center stage while the parents and their needs fade into the background. Babies, they are oh so cute and who knew they can be so consuming and demanding?
The title of this article - So cute, So Hard on Marriage - says it all. While we can't ignore the fact that baby creates a disequilibrium in the marriage, the pure joy she brings to the family is unparalled and beyond words.
There are two primary factors (according to a book) that determine whether a marriage will improve or
worsen after a baby has arrived.
a) Husband's ability to put his own needs aside and support his wife in her new all-encompassing role
b) Wife's ability to forget about baby now and again and pay attention to the man.
Going back to research, Gottman expounds that emotional communication and emotional connection are the keys to success during the transition to parenthood. It is more critical than ever for couples to remember to connect with each other (whenever possible) as they adjust and embrace the new world of parenting.
Failure to do so will lead to emotional disengagement between the couple eventually. This is a very lonely and miserable place to be that all should strive to avoid.
Remember the one-third couples who successfully negotiated through the transition in the study? Let's call them the flourishing couples and look at the three key things that separate them from the rest:
1. Stay best friends with each other.
They find time to reconnect with each other and remember what brings them together in the first place. They share the challenges that each has to face as they journey through the uncharted territory - the anxiety, fear, concerns, joy, contentment, bliss. They discuss how their priorities and perspectives have shifted as a consequence of the new role. They remain engaged and interested in each other as a person. They are best friends to each other.
2. Learn how to regulate (not resolve) conflicts.
Spouses may fight more frequently once children enter their lives due to various reasons. One of the biggest issues seem to be the differences in parenting style. It is natural to disagree. In fact expect yourself to do so. Successful parents are not immune to disagreement, however they do so gently with great respect and understanding of each other's point of view. Also, they avoid harsh and hurtful words.
3. Create shared meaning and rituals.
Each partner in the relationship enters into marriage and parenthood from different experiences and/or background. Couples who are successful recognize the importance of blending and creating new shared dreams and meaning in their life as a family. In short, they develop "we-ness" either through formal or informal rituals of connection and these further strengthen their bonds.
Without a doubt, parenting is full of challenges and the learning curve is steep. Hence it is understandable why some couples lose their focus and connection with each other in a bid to shoulder the massive responsibilities that come with the role.
Work with each other as partners and best friends and the journey may just become slightly less daunting and a lot more fulfilling and sweet.
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Come, let's flourish together!