At Peace With Your Spouse
By Julia Tolliver Marana
Every couple has disagreements, but having kids presents new challenges. Couples therapist John W. Jacobs, M.D., author of All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriage (HarperCollins) offers insight into the most common sources of conflict for new parents and explains the best way to resolve them and regain happiness in your marriage.
Time and Energy
Both you and your husband may feel like you're not getting enough help from each other when it comes to caring for your kids. Unmet expectations often lead to tremendous disappointment and resentment. To defuse this tension, talk openly about the division of labor and look for solutions that work for both of you. "You're solving a problem of limited resources. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices you never wanted to make," says Jacobs. That may mean giving up some social activities or working fewer hours. Recognize the limits of what you can do comfortably and ask for help -- from each other or others -- with the rest.
Lack of sleep and energy can wreak havoc on your libido. Men often feel displaced, unimportant and desexualized by their wives' focus on the children. Talk it through openly and try to identify the underlying issues. Stress saps desire, so look for ways to lighten your loads. If your husband feels neglected, set aside time each day for the two of you, whether you play a game while the baby naps or set Junior in the bassinet and cook dinner together.
Money issues can get particularly dicey if your financial situation changed when you had kids (e.g., going from two incomes to one). Add to that the pressure to save for the future, and you've got a potential landmine. Jacobs suggests re-evaluating your financial priorities. If stress in general is taking a toll on the happiness of your relationship, hiring help may be worth the expense, even when things are tight. "It's a mistake to jeopardize your marriage to worry about your retirement fund," says Jacobs. Get creative with your resources. For example, buy a less expensive TV and use the savings to hire a housekeeper.
Time for Each Other
Your relationship with your spouse is the glue that holds your family together, and sleeping in the same bed doesn't count as quality time. Jacobs suggests having a weekly date night out of the house and weekends together without your kids once or twice a year to nurture and celebrate what makes you special and strong as a couple.
Difficult Family Members
"Once you have children, family members who didn't pay a lot of attention to you before will want to move in with you. Or family members who said they'd be a lot of help are disappointing," says Jacobs. To prevent misunderstandings, you and your husband should discuss your expectations with family members before things get out of hand. But if you're already in a sticky situation, coordinate what you are going to say with your husband before talking to family so you can present a unified front. With communication, help and understanding, you can find as much happiness in your marriage as you do in raising your kids.