The anticipation of a new baby is one filled with excitement, hope and joy. However, for many couples the reality of having a baby is often quite different from what they imagined it to be. Gottmans (2006) research found that after the first baby is born, relationship satisfaction dropped significantly for two-thirds of the couples studied. Some studies put marital decline as high as sixty-three percent drop in marital satisfaction after the child is born.

The best gift for our children

The research also found that conflict within the relationship and hostility towards husband and wife dramatically increased. Couples found themselves arguing more and their emotional intimacy deteriorated. In turn, they become bewildered and exhausted and their passion, sex and romance plummets.

When parents are distressed, they have the tendency to want their babies to be quiet and not want them so much, like a doll in a crib. This creates a withdrawn parent-child emotional relationship. Unhappily married parents may also be intrusive to force their babies into preferable behavior like shutting up or sleeping more.

Babies raised by unhappy parents also suffer developmentally. They lag behind in terms of intellectual and emotional development, as compared to babies of contented parents. Speech occurs later, potty training is delayed and the child’s ability to self-regulate emotions was also slower. With parents suffering from depression, some of these delays in children were also permanent.

From the above research, it is clear that the greatest gift parents can give their child is a loving, stable and happy relationship. This type of relationship nurtures a baby’s development and promotes stronger attachment to parents. This loving environment allows the baby to grow both emotionally and intellectually. Children cannot survive and flourish in a war zone between warring parents.

What Can I Do?

No parents want to create a hostile environment and not get along with their spouse. It’s important to keep the focus on your relationship and connection with your partner and value each other’s views on parenting. Working towards a win-win compromise and realizing that in every disagreement there are two valid viewpoints. For this, both parties need to learn effective relationship skills.

By developing strong relationships skills prior to the arrival of your new baby, you can positively influence your child’s intellectual and emotional development. In addition, relationship skills can help you prevent future relationship meltdowns and infidelity. Effective skills will allow you to prevent escalating hostilities and learn how to negotiate effectively while understanding that each partner’s viewpoints are valid. Good relationship skills have been shown to reduce incidents of postpartum depression significantly, thus improving a child’s developmental outcome.

Often people are reluctant to seek help from a professional trained counsellor because of misunderstandings of what these professionals do or the negative social stigma stuck to it. However, just as you seek experts in other areas of your life such a doctor, accountant, dry cleaner etc, seeking a professional trained in relationship can help you have that wonderful family life you envisioned.

By Tammy M. Fontana from All in the Family Counselling.

Ms. Fontana is a relationship counselling expert. She has a Master of Science Degree in Mental Health Counselling. Ms.Fontana is also a Certified Choice Theory Reality Therapy (CTRT) Therapist through the William Glasser Institute of Singapore and has over 3000 hours of supervised therapy with children, adolescent and teens with traumatic backgrounds.

This article was first published in The New Age Parents online magazine.

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