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    Women in Love

    How to keep your relationship strong through the decades.


    In addition to laying the roots for her professional life, our heroine has the added the stresses of dividing household labor, coping with in-laws, paying bills, and, possibly, pregnancy and children.

    "Children in infancy in particular can be stressful for new parents, primarily due to a couple of things," Gottman says. "One, of course is the physical demands of having a new baby. Another is the changes in the family system itself." To recap: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Alice with a baby carriage and the costs of day care, a mortgage, and gasoline for the suburban assault vehicle sitting in the driveway.

    Women in the "deuce" decade need partners who will be able and willing, even if only grudgingly, to share the burden of housekeeping, doctors visits for the kids, bill paying, and all of life's other major and minor annoyances (paying attention, guys?). It's equally important for partners to stay flexible, Gottman says. "Particularly in this day and age of recession there can be job instability -- that's throughout the ages -- and couples need ways of handling the stress of changes in jobs, etc."

    Friendship, with its implicit values of patience, understanding, compassion, and cooperation, is the key to weathering both the peaks and the troughs of a relationship in the early years.

    And when it comes to keeping the romance alive, that may be as simple as setting aside time for a "date" for a least a few nights every month. Alice and Bob should get a babysitter and go out to dinner, if that's possible, or make a nice, intimate dinner at home and share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams with one another, just as they did when they first met.

    "One of the most important things we've discovered is turning toward your partner in very small moments, where your partner is making a bid for attention," Gottman says. "If your partner is looking out the window and says 'Wow, look at that beautiful boat that just went by,' you respond with 'Oh, wow it is beautiful' -- that's all it is, it's a little tiny response as opposed to continuing to read your newspaper and not look up. That makes a huge difference."

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