Marriage and Life after a Child


It’s been six months since the long-awaited and much-anticipated birth of our first child.  We love the Lord, we love each other and we love our precious son, however, we’ve never had a harder time in our marriage.  Is this normal and what can we do to make things better?


There are few things that produce greater joy than the birth of the first child.  I still remember the indescribable and unspeakable joy I felt when I held my first child in my arms.

Unfortunately the “good news” of the new baby can become “bad news” for the marriage.  Numerous research studies demonstrate that a couples' marital satisfaction can take a nose dive after the first child is born.  This is due in part to the fact that most couples spend more time and money preparing the nursery than they do preparing their relationship for the arrival of a baby.

In an eight-year study of 218 couples, Dr. Scott Stanley found that 90% experienced a decrease in their marital satisfaction after the birth of the first child.  Dr. Stanley notes that, while couples who don’t have children also show diminished marital satisfaction over time, “having a baby accelerates the deterioration, especially seen during periods of adjustment right after the birth of a child.”

There are a number of reasons for this decrease.  Sleepless nights, changing roles and expectations, tighter finances, increasing conflicts including fights over whose turn it is to get up and change the diapers and less time for meaningful conversation can all take the fun out of the marriage and turn delight into discouragement

We also know that the decrease happens more quickly for women than for men.  Renay Bradley, director of research at the Relationship Research Institute, notes this is probably due to hormonal changes, the physical demands of childbirth and nursing, and an abrupt shift from the working world to being at home with an infant.

The good news is that what you’re experiencing is normal and that there are a number of simple things you can do to make things better:

  • Make a list of “what’s working” and give thanks.
  • Make a list of “what’s not working”, what tasks need to be renegotiated and prioritize which ones need to be dealt with first.
  • Exercise individually and, when possible, together at least three times a week.
  • Have a date at least once a month and maybe get a little crazy and hold hands.
  • Find a few other “first-time” parents you can talk and pray with.
  • Attend a baby-friendly marriage enrichment program.
  • Read Norm Wright’s Communication Key To Your Marriage.
  • Grow your friendship—laugh, play, tease, touch and find new ways to express love.

Remember that what you are experiencing is normal.  In God’s hands it’s an opportunity for you to redefine who you are as individuals, as a couple and to find new ways to enjoy each other, your precious son, and to experience His faithfulness in new ways.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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