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Love Lost?

Returning to Romance

The Satisfaction Study continued...

 

  • 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.

In Real Life

The McGills weren't part of the University of Washington study, but they instinctively used some of the successful strategies identified by the researchers and Goulston. Once the initial shock of having another human being to care for wore off, they decided they needed couple time. It helps, Heather says, that her mom volunteers often to baby-sit, allowing them to go out together frequently.

 

Bob and Jill Engel (not their real names) are working on becoming a couple again. They were older -- 45 and 46 -- when they had their child, who's now 2. But the wisdom of middle age didn't make the transition any easier, says Jill, a therapist in Southern California. After her son was born, her satisfaction with the marriage definitely declined, she found. Before the baby, they had sex often in their efforts to conceive. After the baby was born, she was less interested in sex, partly because of discomfort during intercourse that she developed after having a cesarean section.

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