Most couples, when planning for a future with children, spend a great deal of time preparing for sleepless nights, dirty diapers, and toys underfoot. They read up on the safest car seats, the latest crib designs, and investigate pediatricians with more thoroughness than an online data-miner. But the one aspect of their future family that so many couples forget to plan ahead for is themselves.
According to research presented at the 2011 American Psychological Association by John Gottman, PhD, 67% of couples experience a distinct decrease in their marital satisfaction after having a baby. In fact, this phenomenon is so common that people have actually come to expect it, Gottman says. But what people often don’t realize is that this drop in marital satisfaction is most commonly manifested as increased fighting and negativity, which has a direct effect on the mental health of a child.
Gottman theorizes that babies raised in environments where the parents argue and fight regularly, grow up with greater chances of developing depression, poor social skills and behavioral disorders. In an effort to address this problem, Gottman and his wife, Julie Gottman, PhD, have spent twenty years studying the less than one third of couples who maintain their marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby.
The results of their studies have shown that there are three main areas of relationship satisfaction, namely: friendship and intimacy, constructive conflict, and shared meaning. By focusing on strengthening these three areas, couples can work to maintain their relationship satisfaction, and in turn, raise happier, healthier children.
Friendship and Intimacy:
A friendship is based on getting to know each other as people, as individuals and enjoying each other’s company. By spending time talking to each other about simple likes and dislikes, asking each other questions about opinions and experiences, a couple can focus on maintaining a foundation of friendship.
Increasing your understanding of your partner increases your appreciation of them. Spend time together. Talk about your lives. Ask each other questions and actually listen to the answers. This will help you to strengthen your friendship.
Conflict is normal and can actually be healthy. But learning to argue a subject, or have a fight with your spouse in a way that doesn’t do irreparable damage to your relationship or to each other is critical for developing constructive techniques for conflict management.
Learning to approach difficult subjects in a way that doesn’t sound like a verbal attack, and working to focus on the subject at hand and not just your feelings about what is being discussed, will go a long way towards helping you and your spouse work through problems in a more positive way.
Developing what the Gottmans call “connection rituals” that help a couple develop a sense of mutual purpose in the life they share, makes a big difference in how happy they are in their relationship.
Simple routines like eating dinner together on a regular basis, a fixed weekend morning cuddle, or even family game nights once a week can provide a couple with a regular sense of significance to the passage of time in their daily life.
While everyone wants their marriage to be stronger and last for life, the reality is that it simply doesn’t happen that way for everyone. So, if you or a loved one are in a situation where you need the help of a family law attorney to help you work through a divorce, alimony issues or even issues with your visitation schedule, please call us at 517 886 1000. Our skilled family law attorneys are here 24/7 to provide advice and assistance.