• Does a Couple's Relationship Go Downhill After the Second Baby?

    Recent study says it doesn't as long as the couple communicate with each other and have lots of social support
  • Couple

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    There’s a lot to think about when deciding to have a second baby. One child is already challenging enough. Two children would double the stress. And here stems the common belief that the second baby signals the start of a married couple’s downfall. New research, however, says otherwise.

    A study published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology has found that couples bounce back faster after their second baby compared to their first. Additionally, after going through the challenging first month of their second baby, the couples reported that they felt as happy as they were before they had children.


    Even when there was significant change, it was often short-lived, attesting to family resilience rather than crisis after the birth of a couple's second child, said Brenda Volling, a psychology professor from the University of Michigan and the study's lead author.

    The researchers analyzed data from more than 200 married couples. The couples were asked to answer questionnaires about their relationship at regular intervals between the wife’s last trimester until the second child’s first birthday. It included questions pertaining to their marital satisfaction, their communication practices, the level of support they received from others, etc.


    Results showed that the couples experienced the most stress in their relationship during the first month after the birth of the second baby. “This makes sense, since parents now have an infant and usually a toddler to care for,” study co-author Patty Kuo, a student in developmental psychology, told Yahoo Parenting.


    Surprisingly, however, at four months in, the couples generally reported that they were as happy and close as they were before their kids were born.


    The couples who were less happy at four months had difficulty transitioning from one child to two, said the researchers. Generally for these couples, one was less content about the relationship than the other. “They also took part in more destructive communication patterns, such as blaming or yelling,” said Kuo.


    Couples with good communication skills and support from family and friends were better at coping with the stress of a second baby which was the key to restoring the couple’s pre-baby happiness, said Volling.


    It could be difficult to focus on a marriage once children come into the picture. With multiple children, it could be even more challenging. Smart Parenting contributing writer Aggie Aviso shared these tips on how to focus on marriage even with young children in the family:


    1. Make use of those golden pockets of time.

    Can’t go out on a date night just yet? No problem. Make use of the golden pockets of time you have after the children are asleep or just before they wake up to show each other affection – an unexpected hug or a shared cup of coffee “just because” would be nice.

    This also entails going offline when you’re with your partner, so that you’re not only physically present; you’re also emotionally-invested in your time together.


    2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

    It’s always easier to notice the bad things than the good ones, thus it is more common for us to keep a running list of grievances against our husbands instead of the good he has done. While this can easily be aggravated by who has been taking care of the children more – who changed the diaper last or who woke up to pacify the baby in the middle of the night – reminding ourselves that we are not perfect helps put things in perspective.


    Sources:
    Aug. 27, 2015. "Marriages still resilient after the second child". ns.umich.edu.
    Sept. 10, 2015. "How a Second Baby Affects a Marriage Differently Than the First". yahoo.com


    Related: Don’t Forget your Spouse: 6 Tips for Focusing on Your Marriage When You Have Kids

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