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    Will Baby Strengthen or Strain Your Marriage?

    How relationships change with the arrival of a new baby.

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    Psychologist Arthur Kovacs, PhD, recommends setting aside at least a few hours of couple time every week, "even if you have to schedule it."

    This time does not have to involve anything fancy -- taking a walk, eating dinner together, or meeting up with friends can help you and your partner reconnect throughout the week. Make plans that are easy, so you'll be more likely to keep them.

    "My husband and I are making an effort to get out more with friends or have people over to socialize," Kenny says. "Having people over to our house is best for us, as the babies have all the stuff they need."

    Talk to Each Other

    Once you carve out couple time, Kovacs suggests using some of it for honest conversation about the changes you're experiencing. He points out that parenthood is a major adjustment for both partners.

    "The woman has to deal with all the physiological changes," he tells WebMD. "The man has to adjust to feeling a loss of companionship. He now has to share the woman who has been by his side. ... His emotional and practical needs come in second or third, so he gets demoted."

    Lori Freed, a pharmaceutical sales representative with a 2-month-old son, says she has noticed the strain on her marriage. "It's like my son has become the new man in my life," she tells WebMD. "I'm always either holding him or feeding him or changing him."

    Kovacs says many first-time dads are caught off guard by this change in family dynamics.

    "There's an emotional or psychological transition that men have to go through that is particularly hard. Until their wives are pregnant, they have a friend, companion, and young lover by their side. Then this person becomes a mother. Now they have to make love to and cherish a mother instead of a young lover."

    If couples feel a sense of loss during this transition, how should they cope?

    "Laugh about it and talk about it instead of hiding it," Kovacs says. "The most important thing is to talk. The quality of a relationship can only be sustained if the couple shares fears and worries as well as positive feelings."

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