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How a new baby tests a marriage

Trouble in paradise?

by Divine Caroline  |  25392 views  |  0 comments  |      Rate this now! 

By: Laura Roe Stevens for Divine Caroline

I vividly remember how stressed my husband was when I was pregnant in 2001. As my belly expanded, so did his stress level, mainly concerning finances. He helped found a technology start-up two years earlier that rode the roller coaster ride of the boom and crash and my pregnancy came at the tail end—when he was forced to lay off lots of his friends and colleagues and eventually sell the business. It was a stressful time in general; many of our talented friends in California were suddenly faced with pink slips as companies and magazines were closing down everywhere we turned. It certainly was the closest I’ve experienced to a real depression. So, I chocked up all our stress that first year of my son’s life to the times we were facing—until I read something extraordinary. Sixty-seven percent of couples come close to divorce during the first three years of a new baby’s life.

In the first few months after baby’s arrival, between 40 to 70 percent of couples experience “stress, profound conflict, and drops in marital satisfaction,” according to a series of studies conducted over the past thirteen years by The Gottman Institute, a Seattle-based organization co-founded by best-selling authors and psychologists Drs. John and Julie Schwartz Gottman. The Gottman Institute provides couple workshops and individual therapy; they also train mental health professionals. It is most famous, however, for its research-based studies conducted in its “love lab” that came to fame in the Gottman’s best-selling book The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work

Their latest research effort is focused on couple dissatisfaction in the years immediately after having a baby and is outlined in their current book: And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives.  

“Two-thirds of all parents are significantly dissatisfied in the first year of a new child’s life. How can you be in the other one-third?” asks Carolyn Pirak, director of The Bringing Baby Home project, affiliated with Gottman’s Relationship Institute.

Their research finds that most new moms are unhappy in the first four months of a baby’s life. Dads, however, are unhappy typically when a baby turns nine months old and “dads stay unhappy well into their child’s second year. By the time their child is three, half of the two-thirds [of couples found dissatisfied in the first year of parenthood] are miserable and well on their way to divorce,” Pirak explains.

Some reasons for this include sleep deprivation, irritability, and lack of intimacy and desire—women’s sex drives slow way down through the first three years of a child’s life.

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