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Health & Sex

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Will Baby Strengthen or Strain Your Marriage?

How relationships change with the arrival of a new baby.
By Sherry Rauh
WebMD Feature

Maureen Kenny and Charles Winick knew they wanted a baby but never imagined they would have three at once. "Each has special qualities and quirks that are endearing, yet, together, they form a threesome that is so adorable," Kenny says. "I can't imagine life without them."

But doesn't having 10-month-old triplets wreak havoc on a marriage? Not according to Kenny. "It has brought us closer together," she tells WebMD. "We love to talk about the babies and what is happening with them. We plan for their future and look forward to spending time together with them."

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By Laurie Puhn Almost every couple has one: that seemingly trivial fight that just keeps cropping up, day after day, month after month, making you feel as if you're stuck in your very own version of Groundhog Day. Perhaps it's about your husband's leaving his cereal bowl by the sink rather than in the dishwasher, or your forgetting — oops! — to tell him that his mother called. The issues that trigger bickering can seem insignificant, but when fights keep on resurfacing, your otherwise happy marriage...

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"It has given us a common task," Winick says. "My wife and I have similar views about raising children, so we have formed a nice partnership. We help each other to stay consistent with the decisions that we have made about raising children."

Whether a new baby brings spouses closer together or drives them apart has a lot to do with the pre-baby relationship, says Jerrold Lee Shapiro, PhD, a clinical psychologist and chairman of the department of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California.

"Having a child intensifies everything in a relationship," he tells WebMD.

"With the arrival of a first child, everything good in a marriage gets better, everything bad gets worse. A couple that has good intimacy will find a lot more to share, more experiences to get excited about together. A couple that has a lot of distance will find that a child becomes a wedge."

Stay Connected

Spending quality time with your partner before the baby arrives can put you on the right track.

To stay there, Shapiro says it's crucial to recognize that your role as a spouse doesn't disappear when you become a parent -- rather, it becomes even more important.

"The very best thing you can give your child is a good relationship with your partner. It provides security, an example of how people get along and how to deal with conflict ... things that are good for a child to see."

But a good relationship requires time and intimacy -- elusive commodities for new parents. "There is much less time for us as a couple," Kenny says. "We have only been out without [the triplets] about three times since their birth."

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