Focus on the Family

Is Our Marriage Ready for a Baby?

Before, you were a couple. Now you're "Mom" and "Dad." How can you and your spouse prepare your relationship for some of parenthood's unique challenges?

by Carol Heffernan

Jay and Nancy Gueldner couldn't have been happier when they discovered their first baby was on the way. Both in their 30s, with solid careers and a happy marriage, the Gueldners were confident they could handle their new roles as parents.

"We knew an infant was an enormous responsibility, and we knew it would be a huge life change," Nancy says. "But we had no idea that one little baby could be so all-consuming."

When Robby arrived, it didn't take long for the Gueldners to notice the effect on their marriage.

"I'm sure we neglected each other," Nancy remembers. "We used to have all the time in the world to spend together and nurture our relationship, and then suddenly, the baby was the first priority."

It's no secret that most moms and dads are blindsided by the magnitude of this transition. Indeed, even the most unflappable person can become unhinged following the baby's birth. But what many couples fail to realize is that stress, sleep depravation and emotional exhaustion can seriously damage a marriage.

Studies show that more than half of all married couples experience a decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of a baby. 1Furthermore, most couples report having eight times more conflict in their marriages after the baby joins the family. 2Trouble is, finding time to cultivate your relationship with your spouse – without your little one wailing in the background – isn't always easy.

"So many people told us to leave our son with someone so we could connect as a couple," Nancy says. "But we didn't have family nearby at the time, and we didn't feel comfortable hiring a babysitter we hardly knew."

If a weekend getaway or even a romantic dinner for two isn't realistic, there are other do-able ways keep your marriage on solid footing.

Remember: Parenting your infant won't last forever. Surely most moms and dads with little ones have heard the well-intentioned advice, "They'll be grown and out of the house before you know it!"

While this may be true, it may not feel like it during those first few years. Nevertheless, you and your spouse will be with one another long after the kids are grown. So in the midst of 2 a.m. feedings and emergency visits to the pediatrician, keep in mind that this is only one stage in your long life together.

1Well-known psychologist Dr. John Gottman conducted a study with results revealing that more than half of all married couples experience a sharp decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of a baby.
2Studies performed by Dr. Jay Belsky and John Kelly show that martial conflict increases dramatically after a baby joins the family.