Baby's First MonthsMarriageParenting

Heart to Heart

 

Heart to Heart

Heart to Heart

Keep your marriage strong after having kids by coping with problems effectively.

If you try to recall the last time you had a leisurely heart to heart talk with your husband, or a nice vacation together, or a fun gathering with good friends, chances are it was farther back than you’d like to admit. Let’s face it – a marriage changes after you have children, withstanding different stresses, responsibilities, challenges and shifts. According to Dr. Tamer Goueli, lecturer of psychiatry at Cairo University, the higher the level of satisfaction in a marriage before having children, the higher the chances of keeping the marriage strong afterwards. It’s best to think about the changes that a child could bring to the relationship and think about how to deal with those changes before the baby arrives. “Prevention is always better than waiting until the problem arises and then trying to solve it,” says Dr. Goueli. However, if you didn’t anticipate the challenges before, you can still do something about them now. Here are some of the usual roadblocks and the strategies for how to keep your marriage strong and healthy after having children.

SHIFTED PRIORITIES AND ROLES

The arrival of a baby, especially the first child, causes parents to shift their focus from themselves as a couple to coping with the demands of their child. Priorities change – the wife assumes her new role as mom and no longer has as much time or energy to put into her marriage, while the husband may become preoccupied with the role of financial provider for the family and may feel jealous as his wife devotes herself to the baby. “Feelings of insecurity may set in for both parents”, states Dr. Goueli. “The woman may wonder if she’s doing a good job caring for the baby, and the man may feel provoked as he sees himself a bit ‘out of the picture.’”

Coping Strategies

• Try to organize your day so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities. That’s even more important when a child arrives, to be able to have time for all your duties, without having to feel stressed, short on time and unable to enjoy anything throughout your day.

• Make your marriage a top priority, and redirect some of your time towards your spouse. Instead of only spending time together caring for the children, do everyday things that help you bond as husband and wife, like listening to music or watching TV. A baby shouldn’t be more important than a couple’s relationship. If the marriage is weak, the whole family will suffer. Be courteous and supportive of each other, both of which enhance a marriage and de-stress any situation. Be polite, listen to each other, and try not to lash out at your spouse when you are stressed. It is important to avoid conflicts, direct criticism and pointing fingers at each other. Both the wife and husband have to feel responsible for making their home happy and secure.

 

EXHAUSTION

With a new baby (and sometimes older kids), sleeping hours and time to relax are limited, leaving both parents edgy and longing for more rest. However, changing your sleeping arrangement – for example when dad moves out of the parents’ bedroom or mom sleeps in the baby’s room– can cause trouble in the marriage.

Coping strategies

• Act like a team. “Mom naturally has to sleep close to the baby, especially in the beginning,” says Dr. Goueli, “and the husband has to understand this, and be supportive of his wife, primarily by not moving out of their bedroom. If he does move out, it sends the message to the wife that getting up and caring for the baby is solely her responsibility, and that he wants no part of it. It would be better for the relationship if the husband were to stay than to move out.” It would be better for mom not to sleep in the baby’s room as well.

• Be patient. The sleepless nights will end.

 

FEELING DISCONNECTED

With the arrival of children, even though a husband and wife’s feelings for each other may not have changed, their lifestyle has changed dramatically. As they struggle to meet the constant demands of caring for a child, much of the couple’s previously established routine fades, and their communication can diminish. The sense of intimacy and security may no longer prevail, and a gap can develop between them, which affects marriage negatively. Tempers run short, walls are put up, and problems seem like catastrophes. If the situation is prolonged, communication can come to a complete halt.

Coping strategies

• Discuss changes as they come up, rather than allowing them to cause a rift in the marriage. Dr. Goueli says, “New parents must fine tune their communication skills by listening, talking and discussing their problems tactfully and specifically.” Parents can agree, in detail, on certain responsibilities for each one, with each of them choosing tasks he or she is most comfortable doing. They must agree that if this division of tasks does not work, they will discuss it again, and give a different plan a try. It is also important that each of them expresses appreciation for what the other is contributing and how it benefits the family. After parenthood, love still thrives, but it may change from romantic love to a loving partnership.

• Get dad involved. The father’s support of the mother is essential for a couple to stay connected after parenthood. After having a child, problems may occur between the husband and wife because of the extra stresses caused, and it would be great for the father to share in the child’s care willingly.

 

CONFLICTS ABOUT COUPLE TIME

Dr. Goueli says, “In many marriages, the husband may not see why he has to postpone his needs, whether emotional or sexual. At times, he may act as if the child were not there and not be willing to rearrange any of his priorities. On the other hand, the wife will try to use any available time to relax, sleep or do needed things, and not worry about couple time.” A conflict of interests arises: the husband wants the marriage to be the same as it was before children; the wife does not view the marriage as a top priority next to her duties as a mom. Couple time gets lost in the middle.

Coping strategies

• Keep a realistic perspective, whether you are a mom or dad. You will need to re-adjust your lifestyle after having children, but the marriage is still important. “After the arrival of a new baby, both partners must continue to look at their life as a couple, not just as new parents,” says Dr. Goueli.

• Spend quality time together after the kids have gone to bed, and find someone you trust to watch the kids so you can go out alone every once in a while, if only for an hour. It’s very important for you to have time off alone as a couple, without your children, in order to catch up with each other. You will be refreshed and energized and ready to face your responsibilities again.

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Our extensive collection of articles spans the efforts of over 20 years of work and covers a wide range of topics having to do with family and child care. Our articles are all developed and updated with the assistance and support of leaders in the fields of medicine, nutrition and parenting, among others.

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