A Word about Your Relationship

If you are a single parent, you face your own joys and challenges. If you are parenting with a partner, however, you need to take a moment to consider the impact of parenthood on your relationship. You might think that having a child would bring a couple closer together. After all, there is the joy of birth and the delight parents share in watching their youngster grow, learn, and explore his world. It isn't always easy, however.

John Gottman, PhD, of the University of Washington has spent years studying marriage. He has found that 40 to 70 percent of all couples experience stress, conflict, and a drop in satisfaction with their relationship when a baby comes home.

Why? Well, moms often provide most of the hands-on care for infants, nursing the baby, walking the floor when he cries, and getting up several times during the night. A new mother may experience postpartum depression and may have little energy for fun with dad. Fathers, on the other hand, often report feeling excluded by the mother-and-baby duo and may find other ways of occupying themselves while their child is young. Sometimes the patterns that form during a child's early years are difficult to change as that child grows. When their son leaves home for good, what will remain of his parents' relationship?

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Researchers at Ohio State University have found that couples who had a good relationship with each other when their child was an infant, but who disagreed about parenting, were more likely to have a poor relationship by the time their child was three years old. How you and your partner decide to coparent your son influences your relationship with each other.

Remember, children watch the people around them and make decisions about what it all means. What will your son decide as he watches your relationship with his other parent? Numerous studies have shown that the way parents resolve conflict, express affection, support each other, communicate, and handle their sexual relationship has a strong influence on their children.

It's a fact: All parents disagree, at least occasionally, about parenting. Most of the time, one parent tends to be strict while the other is more lenient. Then parents argue about who is right rather than working together to solve problems effectively. Unfortunately, parenting styles and beliefs rarely become obvious until after children arrive, making the challenges seem even more daunting.

Be sure to take time for your own relationship, to have fun, and to connect with your partner. If you disagree about parenting, take a parenting class or read a good parenting book together, and then talk together about what you want to do for your son. Be sure there is time in every day for affection, laughter, and conversation. Your son will be watching and learning from what he sees.

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