Marriage After Baby: The Myth of Perfect Harmony
October 5, 2010 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting · Permalink

The following is an excerpt from our book, A Mother’s Circle.

“I feel more in love with my husband than ever. At times I am overwhelmed with passion for him. It is a wonderful time for us.”

“I’m furious at my husband for not caring more, not participating more, not helping more. Sometimes the most insignificant things make all my anger well up inside of me and I just hate him.”

These statements were both made by the same woman about her husband during the third and fourth months of new motherhood. Husbands and wives are often surprised at the intensity and range of feelings they have for one another during the first year of parenthood. Thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to coexist do.

The transition to parenthood happens in fits and starts, with ups and downs and continual adjustments in your marriage along the way. It can be a time of deepening love and renewed commitment. It can be a time of extreme marital stress and even of crisis. It may well be the biggest challenge you have faced as a couple so far. Even the steadiest of husband-wife relationships will feel turbulence. Your successful navigation through this period does not necessarily depend on how long you have been married, whether or not your baby was planned, how you fared during pregnancy and childbirth, or on your financial situation. Instead, much depends on mutual respect, flexibility, and communication. Ultimately, a lot comes down to hard work, shared vision, and blind faith.

Many couples become especially close during the last months before their baby is due. Both man and woman project and dream about their baby-to-be and what parenthood will hold for them. If they attend childbirth classes, the man may develop a heightened appreciation for his wife. He may also feel grateful to have, at last, a role to play in the upcoming delivery. As she gets bigger and bigger, the woman may become increasingly dependent on her partner. The progression of the pregnancy, her growing belly and nervous excitement, the teamwork between husband and wife during childbirth, all climax with the arrival of the new baby.

The early weeks and months of new parenthood can seem like a blur, a wild run of emotions. Life is in upheaval, your marriage is stressed, but often little is said or done about it. Consumed with the care and growing love for their babies, new mothers often feel sequestered from the rest of the world, lonely and overwhelmed by all the changes in their lives. Often, new fathers say they don’t know how to act at home anymore. At day’s end, both husband and wife crash with exhaustion, knowing something feels wrong, but too tired or confused to talk about it. When asked to describe their marriages in these initial months of new parenthood, comments from the mothers in our groups range from “We’re sailing” to “We’re drowning.” Most agree that the waters are choppy.

Perhaps the greatest pressure on new parents is trying to live up to the romantic image of happiness and harmony that a new baby is supposed to bring. It is a myth that, as parents, you and your husband will automatically feel more in love, more deeply bonded to one another, fulfilled and happy. Because everyone around you seems to expect you to be basking in new love, it becomes especially difficult to handle the bad feelings you may be having
A baby can bring a husband and wife together, swelling their love with new pride and affirming their bond. But a lot of these good feelings can be dampened by anger and resentment as the stresses of new parenthood play themselves out. These mixed feelings are all very common, but they can feel especially threatening to new parents who expected parenthood to be conflict free.  The reality is that having a baby brings joy and challenges to every marriage. It can be liberating to let go of the myth of the new, happy family, and work toward realistic expectations for family life.

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