Before my husband and I got married, I was all over him. I was exactly the girlfriend that I used to be repulsed by. I was clinging to my man with a tarsier’s resolute grip. I enjoyed every single minute of our togetherness. When we got married, the passion was even more enkindled by our independence. We could do whatever, whenever.
And then came our baby boy.
When I found out I was pregnant, we were ecstatic. I mean, it was what we had always wanted. A little family of our own. We knew it was going to change our lives. We just didn’t know how much and in exactly what ways.
So there we were, 9 months later. We were basking in the bliss of new parenthood. But the excitement was not to endure.I’ve read many a testimony stating what a great blessing parenthood is, despite the difficulty. And we couldn’t agree more but I must have overlooked the part where new moms find themselves feeling detached from their husbands because I did not prepare for the toll this wonderful blessing, this gift from heaven, took on our relationship.
Let me clarify that I am only speaking from my perspective. Far be it from me to assume my husband felt the same way but I’m fairly confident he noticed the stark difference in our relationship subsequent to the birth of our first child. The stress of moving back in with my parents, the obligatory sleepless nights, a bout of horrible eczema, breastfeeding challenges and hormonal surges was all too much. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand him. Our kisses felt perfunctory and our conversations were stale and sparse. Intimacy was out of the question, especially for me. I was not attracted to this man any more. When I looked at him, all I could see were his flaws and how sub par he is as a dad. I had neither the interest nor the energy to attend to his needs. And when I construed his requests as selfish demands for my attention, I resented him more.From my vantage point,there was a cloud of dissatisfaction looming over our marriage. Meanwhile, I was crazy about my son. Caring for him was my life now and I simply could not describe the love I had for him. But it was that same love for my son that depleted the love I had for his father.
Essentially, I was a good mom, but a bad wife. Parenthood has taken over our lives and while neither of us would ever want a childless marriage, I was secretly pining for the old us.
In a research published in a WebMD article entitled, ” Kids can Make a Beautiful Marriage Ugly”, it was found that the “birth of children has an immediate negative impact on even blissfully happy couples, raising stress and reducing satisfaction levels”. The researchers of said study, Brian Doss, PhD.of Texas A&M University, Galena Rhodes, PhD., Scott Stanley,PhD and Howard Markman, PhD. of the University of Denver,
“studied 218 young couples , 132 of which had their first child in the first eight years of marriage and 86 who had no children. Marital satisfaction declined in both groups, but more suddenly among those who had children. There was a significant decrease in marital satisfaction for both men and women after the birth of a child. Sudden increases in problem intensity and poor conflict management, and decreases in relationship confidence, were seen in mothers after birth; a sudden decrease in relationship dedication was seen in fathers. In the couples without children, declines in marital satisfaction occurred gradually over time.”
Another article, featured in psychcentral.com, cite the 3 relationship pitfalls that married couples face upon the arrival of their child. Among the three pitfalls that include sleep deprivation and lack of intimacy, the most prevalent problem among couples appear to be the division of labor. “Resentments inevitably peak when one partner feels like they’re tackling more tasks and working harder.” Psychotherapist Joyce Marter, LCPC, was quoted in the article saying that couples ” ‘may compare and become competitive or defensive about their responsibilities, schedules or the pros and cons of their work or role.’ ” Marter also says, “‘They may glorify each others’ positions.’ A stay-at-home dad might think his wife’s day at work is filled with swanky business lunches, interesting projects and a quiet commute, while he’s dealing with temper tantrums and dirty diapers. His wife might imagine him playing, cuddling and connecting with their child while she deals with a difficult boss, endless deadlines and concerns over job security.’ She adds that ” ‘ when an issue like who is going to do the laundry comes up, the misunderstandings have created an environment ripe for conflict.’ ”
So much for children enhancing a relationship, huh? Kidding! I mean, children are not to blame, of course, but the inherent changes in having them can precipitate discord and dissatisfaction in marriages, as I have so experienced. I can totally relate to feeling that my husband is shirking his fatherly duties every time he tells me he needs to do something else or he can’t go straight home from work even for legitimate reasons. Naturally, sleep deprivation and crazy hormones only exacerbate my outrage at my husband’s illogically perceived infractions. And if I may speak for my husband, he probably also resents that he is made to feel guilty about the most innocuous things and that his love for our son and dedication to his new role are constantly questioned.
And to think roughly 2 years ago, we were professing our undying love for each other. Yikes.
Nonetheless, it’s a relief to know that this is common place and that my husband and I are not alone in our struggles. But if we are determined to raise a well-adjusted son who functions well in relationships as well as on his own, then the hubby and I need to shape up. After all, the best gift we can provide our child is a strong, loving marriage that will serve as his yardstick for future relationships. I shudder to think what kind of man my boy will be if all he sees growing up are mommy and daddy stewing in a festering pot of disdain and exasperation.
In a 2003 article entitled, “Staying Lovers While Raising Kids”, Philip Cowan, PhD.,and his wife Carolyn Cowan, PhD., both professors of Psychology, were interviewed about how couples can sustain happiness in their relationship and, in effect, their children. In response to the question about how some parents remain happily married, Dr. Philip Cowan said that “‘ 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. But 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 a marriage.’ ” Dr. Cowan also posits that ” ‘It’s also important for partners to hear each other’s outbursts without immediately firing back or engaging in blame ‘.” Dr. Philip Cowan also shares the following astute tidbits in effectively hashing out conflicts:
- “‘ Work on issues when you’re calm–not at 2:00 am 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 everyday. 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.’
Essentially, it’s all about staying a team amidst all the challenges. It’s not the absence of problems but the ability to overcome them that will fortify the marriage and, in the process, make spouses better parents. Perfect individuals don’t constitute a great marriage but individuals who are both willing to stick it out, even when that proverbial spark has died out for the time being.
Now, my husband and I still have a long way to go. There are still days when I’m too exhausted to care about his needs or to even ask him about his day. Days when we both feel frustrated and tuckered out still abound. But then , while we’re in the middle of a particularly bad spot, I remember that day when he rushed home to me after, in a state of utter desperation, I told him I was at my wit’s end because our baby won’t stop crying and my eczema was at it’s worst. I remember the efforts he continues to make to please my parents and prove that he is as good a father to their grandson as he is a husband to their daughter. I remember him dancing, jumping around and engaging in all sorts of tomfoolery just to get a laugh out of his little boy. I remember those days and I realize what a great man I married. And though life overwhelms us sometimes, it does not diminish our commitment to our marriage and our child. There will always be bumps in the road, but we’re just gonna have to hurdle them together. And if either one of us stumbles to the ground, we’ll pick each other up and proceed.
And though we feel like strangling each other sometimes, there’s really no one else in the world we’d rather strangle. Now, isn’t that sweet? :-p
Doss, B., Rhoades,G., Stanley,S. & Markman, H. Study: marital satisfaction takes a dive when baby arrives”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com-relationships/news/20090414/kids-can-make-a-beautiful-marriage-ugly
Kruger,P.[Interviewer], Cowan,P. [Interviewee] Cowan,CP.[Interviewee]. (2003).Staying Lovers While Raising Kids [Interview Transcript]. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/parenting/relationships//staying-close/staying-lovers-while-rasining-kids1/
Tartakovsky,M. 3 relationship pitfall when entering parenthood and pointers to help. PsychCentral. Retrieved from psychcentral.com/lib/3-relationship-pitfalls-when-entering-parenthood-pointers-to-help/