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Love Lost?

Returning to Romance

The Satisfaction Study continued...

Among the new moms, 67% reported declines in satisfaction. But when the researchers looked at the 33% who maintained the same level of satisfaction or increased it, they identified specific strategies that seemed to help. These included:

  • Building fondness and affection for your partner.
  • Being aware of what is going on in your partner's life and responding to it.
  • Approaching problems as something you and your partner can control and solve as a couple.

In addition, the researchers found that if the couple believed their lives to be chaotic, they were more likely to experience decreased satisfaction with the marriage, Shapiro tells WebMD. While avoiding chaos with a newborn in the house seems impossible, Shapiro further explains the finding: "When couples in our study described their lives as chaotic, they were really telling us they were going through a lot of change in their lives that they felt they had no control over." It wasn't the chaos that was the problem, it was the feeling of helplessness about the change, says Shapiro.

The solution? View the changes and the resulting chaos as things they can resolve together. While parents can't control whether their baby will sleep through the night, for instance, they can offer each other emotional support and work out a plan so each gets at least some sleep.

A Therapist's View

Many new parents think they should tend to the baby first and the marriage later, says Mark Goulston, MD, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and author of a new book, The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship.

Instead, he suggests new parents try to understand what's behind the marital dissatisfaction. Often, a woman's anxiety level increases, he finds, with the responsibility of new motherhood. She worries that she's not doing everything correctly. And the man tends to concentrate on being a good provider, no matter how untraditional the marriage, often avoiding the daily tasks of parenthood. "A woman often feels like her husband is not as active as she would like," Goulston says. And from the husband, he hears: "I would participate more, but I always have to do things her way." If a husband diapers differently than his wife, he is likely to hear about it.

Talk through these feelings before it's too late, Goulston tells new parents. Once fears are verbalized, couples can begin to work together to overcome the pressure, Goulston says, and strengthen the marriage.

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