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"Notes" #18

And Baby Makes Three

A book recommended to me by one of my clients who had just had a baby was, "And Baby Makes Three" by John and Julie Gottman. Here are some of the highlights of my review of the book:

67% of the couples who had a baby had become very unhappy with each other during the first three years of the baby's life.

Conflict within the relationship and hostility toward each other dramatically increased. They found themselves fighting much more. Their emotional intimacy deteriorated. They became bewildered and exhausted. Not surprisingly, their passion, sex, and romance plummeted.

After a baby's arrival, parents often became fatigued, sleepless, and irritable. In many cases, exhaustion deepened into depression. In addition, parents failed to realize the mountain of work they'd face once their baby arrived. Afterward, they battled repeatedly in the house about who should do what. Finally, both parents ended up feeling unappreciated, neglected, and lonely.

From sixteen studies that followed parents before and after babies arrived, we learned:

• Even though both parents are working much harder, they both feel unappreciated.

• During the first year after babies arrive, the frequency and intensity of relationship conflicts increase.

• It is normal for a mom's sexual desire to drop precipitously after birth and even stay low for the first year, especially if she is nursing. Consequently, sex declines dramatically.

• Moms usually become very involved with their babies. But due to their fatigue, they have less to offer their partners emotionally.

• Both moms and dads undergo major changes in their own identities-for example, how they think of themselves not only as parents and partners, but also as friends, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Their values may change, and their goals in life, too.

• Moms and dads often want to be better at parenting than their own parents were with them.

• Many couples change their relationship with time. They start to date events as "Before Baby" and "After Baby". Most important is when Baby did something for the first time.

• Right after the baby is born, many women close to new moms arrive to help out. But this society of women can crowd out the new dads. Dads often respond by withdrawing from their babies and working more, especially if there's more conflict at home.

• Babies withdraw emotionally from fathers who are unhappy with their relationship with their partners. But babies don't withdraw from unhappy moms. This withdrawal from dads can be tragic for babies.

Most couples fight, especially when they're stressed and tired. It's natural. The secret to managing conflicts for new parents is to make the fights constructive, not destructive. Constructive means respectful, not disrespectful; gentle, not critical; and taking responsibility for our part, not being defensive. It means listening, not just broadcasting, and acknowledging our partner's point of view, not just repeating our own. Conflict can help us understand our partner better, but we have to be open to accepting our partner's influence and not insisting on getting our way.

The increasing emotional demands that hamper intimacy are matched by the often different expectations that couples have about physical contact after the baby is born. Men may want and need physical intimacy to help feel close to their partners, while all women can think about is that they feel about as attractive as a potato. 

 I especially appreciated the chapters, "Cool Down in Your Conflict" and "Soften How You Bring Out a Problem". They state that what doesn't work is criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling- all are explained and examples given- good to know! So if you have just had a baby, both mom and dad might choose to read this book.

The Gottman's information/advice found in parts of this book is good for all couples, not just post-baby.

See you all in two weeks, our bubble is going to the lake.


Retread is a previously shared article--sometime over the last 12 years--that I feel is worth repeating. I put it at the end so it can be easily ignored if you have read it.


What if one of the pharmaceutical giants began marketing, a daily single dosage pill that promised to lower the incidence of breast cancer, diabetes, heart attack, colon cancer, impotence, osteoporosis, arthritis, lower back pain, hypertension, and would alleviate stress and improve our immune systems? Wouldn't we all be lining up to get it?

A single dosage of walking will do all these things for us. And it's:

free and easy...
                       requires no special skills... 
                                                                readily available for all ages.

Because walking is so easy and so available to most of us, we tended to discard it as a serious form of exercise. And yet it is proving to be the best exercise for most of us. There is more and more evidence that walking as an every day activity is as beneficial as a gym membership and there are far fewer injuries associated with walking.