Monday, December 21, 2009

Marriage, Parenting & Stress - Jan. Mtg

This recent article inspired January's mtg topic. While I consider myself fortunate to have a steadfast partner in my life, I personally know that child can cause even a good marriage to be a stressful one at moments. I'm trying to get someone from Providence to facilitate, but if not, I'm sure we can learn from each other.

Let's talk,

Thursday, January 14th at noon
Portland Building, 3rd Floor - Blazed Alder Room

If a new baby has caused some marital stress, here's some help
By Paige Parker, The Oregonian
December 16, 2009, 4:15AM

Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian

Sometimes with a newborn, it's not only the baby who winds up crying.
Take a happy marriage. Now add a tiny baby. You'll get a blissful marriage, yes?

Not always. About two-thirds of all new parents say they're unsatisfied with their marriage in the first year of their baby's life.

Roles change. Time tightens. Sex, dear? Dear? Are you asleep?

Given the stress, it's a wonder anyone stays married. In fact, one out of four married couples get divorced within five years of a baby's birth.

Seattle relationship researcher and clinical psychologist John Gottman found decreased marital satisfaction could be predicted by a husband's negativity toward his wife; his expression of disappointment in the marriage; and either partner describing their life as chaotic.

Gottman and his wife, fellow clinical psychologist Julie Gottman, wrote, "And Baby Makes Three" (Three Rivers Press, $13.95 paperback, 272 pages), a guide to marriage preservation for new parents. They also developed a class, Bringing Home Baby, offered locally by Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Providence will offer the three-week course to parents of children under age 1 beginning Jan. 24, and again beginning May 2. Classes last two hours. For more: Providence Resource Line at 503-574-6595.

There are ways to overcome problems, even when the baby is cranky. We talked to instructor Amy Wesson about some of the marital pitfalls of parenthood and advice to ease the transition.

Why does having a baby strain a marriage?
People are shocked at how much their life shifts from "what we want to do" to "what we need to do." In particular, the lack of sleep complicates things. If a body lacks food and sleep, it is not capable of performing on its best level. You pretty much fall back on whatever gets you through the moment, and that's going to be different for two humans.

About month four, mothers have a drop in their overall marital satisfaction. For fathers, it's between nine and 12 months. The difference in when that dip happens causes problems and makes it difficult to support each other.
So, if we know marriages tend to falter in the first months after a baby's birth, why not offer classes to strengthen the marriage before the baby is born? Why wait until after?
We do a lot of prep before pregnancy. Parents see a medical doctor, they're reading books. Then it kind of drops off.

Good childbirth prep classes usually end with some information on how you'll feel those first few months and give a realistic picture.

But there's only so much a couple can take in before the baby comes.
What do the problems look like?
Communication is what you need, and that is one of the first things to go when you're running on bare bones. Things are snappier and quicker. In times of stress, we take each other apart.

Gottman says there are four warning signs. Things tend to be more negative than positive. Then, there are the four horsemen: either or both partners engage in criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling. One or both partners feels "flooded" or overwhelmed by the way their partner raises complaints, and your body kicks into a fight-or-flight response. The fourth sign is that repair attempts fail.
How can couples ward off trouble?
Build the base and the foundation of your house through learning about each other. Continue to look for what's good in your partner, and consciously choose to turn toward your partner when he or she makes a bid or a request for attention. Each time, you have the option to be rude, ignore it, or to come at the bid from a positive place and see what your partner is really trying to tell you. You need to fill your house with positive things, and say them, not just think them. Bring up difficult topics with a softened start-up -- gently. Accept your partner's influence.

We know conflict arises. It's about recognizing it and working through it. People don't really fix that, but you get better at it.

De-escalating a conflict

Here's a sample of what John and Julie Gottman recommend couples say to de-escalate a conflict, to recover from one or just to apologize.

"That hurt my feelings."

"My reactions were too extreme."

"How can I make things better?"

"Let's compromise here."

"I think your point of view makes sense."

"Can I have a kiss?"

"Can we take a break?"

"This is important to me. Please listen."

"I might be wrong here."

"Let's agree to disagree here."

"That's a good point."

"I understand."

"My part of this problem is ..."

"Tell me what you hear me saying."

And here's the Providence Resource Line: 503-574-6595

I've copied the whole article here, because sometimes the links disappear in a few weeks time. 2009/12/if_a_new_baby_has_caused_some.html

New Pediatric Practice

This new office was supported by the Portland Development Commission, and passed along from our friends there. An email was forwarded to the group last week, but the link was bad somehow, my apologies.

If your kids become patients at the Littles practice, please feel free to write a comment her to share your experience with other Moms.