Marital Satisfaction Declines with Kids – But Don’t Worry: It’s Normal

Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up by Harriet Lerner PhDWhen your baby doesn’t sleep well, it can be extremely stressful for the whole household, particularly, of course, the parents. But in truth, many studies have now concluded that marital satisfaction goes down with the addition of kids to the equation, whether they sleep or not! In fact, one eight year long study found that 90% of couples experienced a decline in satisfaction.

That may seem like a depressing statistic, but if you have children, I hope you won’t take it that way.Co-author of that study, Brian Doss points out

The fact that we’ve been largely unsuccessful [in stopping declines in satisfaction] may suggest it’s a really difficult and tough experience and it’s not necessarily a deficit in these couples’ relationships or how they’re approaching it.

Harriet Lerner, clinical psychologist and author of a new book Marriage Rules, suggests waiting it out. “Relationships that appear to be falling apart … may look entirely different down the road,” she says.

One of Lerner’s rules is “Don’t obsess about getting it right”. This fits in well with new research out of Ohio State University by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, which found that parents show poorer adjustment if they think society expects them to be perfect.

So don’t obsess about getting it all right, remember to nurture your relationship as well as your kids, and wait it out. Anecdotal evidence is that, although martial satisfaction may decline, most parents still feel their kids bring more over-all joy and satisfaction to their life, than they cause stress and dissatisfaction. When your baby is screaming at three in the morning though, it may seem like a fine line!

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Note: If your baby doesn‘t sleep well, you might like to read our articles Your Baby’s Sleep: Swaddling Newborns, Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child, from Elizabeth Pantley, and Your Baby’s Sleep: from Birth to Six Months