The anticipation of a new baby is supposed to be filled with excitement, hope and joy. However, for many couples the reality of that new baby is quite different from the reality. Gottman’s (2006) research found that after the first baby is born relationship satisfaction dropped significantly for two-thirds of the couples studied. Some studies put marital decline as high as sixty-three percent drop in marital satisfaction after the child is born.
In Gottman’s research on new parents, conflict within the relationship and hostility towards each other dramatically increase. Couples found themselves fighting much more with their emotional intimacy having deteriorated. They became bewildered and exhausted and not surprisingly their passion, sex and romance plummeted.
Distressed parents often want their babies to be quite and not need them so much, like a doll in a crib. This creates a withdrawn parent-child emotional relationship. Unhappily married parents may also be intrusive to force their babies into preferable behavior-like shutting up or sleeping more.
In Gottman’s research on babies raised by unhappy parents the children’s development suffered. They lagged behind the babies of contented parents both intellectually and emotionally. Speech occurred later, potty training was delayed and the ability to self-sooth was slow in coming. With parents suffering from depression some of these lacks in children were permanent.
From this research it is clear that the greatest gift parents can give their child is a loving, stable and happy relationship. This type of relationship nurtures a baby’s development and promotes stronger attachment to parents. This loving environment allows the baby to grow both emotionally and intellectually. Children cannot survive and flourish in a war zone with parents at loggerheads.
So what can you do?
No parent wants to create a hostile environment and not get along with their spouse. The reality is that for most of us nowhere do we learn effective relationship skills. The only models we have are our own parents and if that wasn't a good model we may struggle. There is no shame in seeking help to make things better when in fact it is something we do every day in other aspects of life from seeing a doctor to visiting an accountant to using a realtor. Getting help is a strength and courage because it’s only when we recognize that we may not have the answers can we actually seek more effective ways to fix things.
In giving your baby everything he or she needs it’s important to keep the focus on your relationship and connection with your partner and value each other’s views on parenting. In discussing conflict, set aside the desire to persuade your partner about your viewpoint and instead seek to gain understanding of their perspective. To manage conflict successfully you must first understand each other’s perspective and realize that each of you have valid viewpoints. Then with that in mind, focus on working towards a win-win compromise that is good for the relationship you are in now, not what is good for each other or the baby.
By developing strong relationships skill prior to the arrival of the baby you can positively influence your child’s intellectual and emotional development. In addition relationship skills can help you prevent relationship meltdown and infidelity. Effective skills will allow you to prevent escalating hostilities and learn how to negotiate effectively while understanding that each partner’s viewpoints are valid. Good relationship skills have been shown to reduce incidents of postpartum depression significantly, thereby improving a child’s developmental outcome.
Often people are reluctant to seek help from a professional trained counsellor because of misunderstandings of what these professionals can do or due to the negative social stigma. However, just as you seek experts’ help in other areas of your life such as doctor, accountant, dry cleaner etc, seeking a professional trained in relationship can help you have that wonderful family life you had envisioned.
For more information or help with your relationship please contact us at 9030 7239.