Good News For Your Marriage and Baby #2

When I was pregnant with my second baby, everyone warned me that going from 1 child to 2 would be the toughest transition ever

"It was the hardest time in my life!" a mother would cheerfully declare, then walk away from me and my pregnant belly, leaving me completely and totally horrified

Everyone likes to be the bearer of bad news apparently (why??), but no one could really put their finger on why the transition was so difficult or offer any solutions for me to maybe ease the burden a bit.

I heard things like how much more tired moms were with two, how it was hard to juggle doing everything at once, or just how doubling your workload was overwhelming.

How a Second Baby Affects Your Marriage

But what I didn't hear a lot about what was how adding a second baby into the family would affect my marriage. And as it turns out, maybe no news is good news, because a new study out of the University of Michigan says that marriage after a second baby? Is nothing to worry about. 

The study, which appeared in the September 2015 issue of Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice found, surprisingly, that adding a second baby to the family was an overall positive experience for couples. 

The researchers tracked over 200 couples and their experiences relating to each other before, during, and after pregnancy and found several different categories that emerged after the birth of baby #2:

  1. Wife decreasing positivity–husband honeymoon. The majority of couples (44%) reported that their wives experienced decreased positive emotions about her marriage after the birth of the baby while the husband experienced a "honeymoon" period of less marital strife. But, the negative feelings were temporary, lasting only an average of four months for couples who reported them before returning back to their "normal" marital satisfaction levels. 
  1. Wife increasing negativity–husband adjustment and adaptation. A second large number of couples--34.5%--reported the wife reacting negatively while the husband went through a period of adjustment. Um, that sounds pretty normal to me!
  2. Various. The rest of the categories varied from couples reporting no change to very drastic differences in how they perceived their marriage. In some cases, the wives reported less satisfaction while the husbands did not, or vice a versa. 

What's most interesting about this marriage study is how it proved that it's not necessarily the work of having a baby and the age-old argument of who does what (it's YOUR turn to change the diaper, honey!) that affects couple's marriages, but how they talk about those differences. 

"What we're finding is that it is not who is doing what with respect to childcare, but how couples communicate around child care" said Brenda Volling, the Director U-M Center for Human Growth and Development and lead author of the study. Volling also reported that the couples who reported negative changes were more likely to use damaging communication styles, such as yelling or blaming.

In contrast, couples who used positive communication strategies, such as problem solving, and also received support from family and friends, coped better with the adjustment and ended up having happier marriages. 

The news is good news, says one press release, because other studies have shown that marital satisfaction only tends to decrease with each baby, but this study shows that's simply not true. This study found that adjusting to the second baby takes approximately four months, after which time your marriage level of satisfaction should return to what it was prior to the baby's birth. 

The morale of the story is that if your marriage survived your first baby, adding a second baby to your family will more than likely, not be as stressful of an experience. Maybe it has something to do with experience, trust in each other or just good old-fashioned sleep deprivation messing with your mind, but when it comes to adding baby #2, you've got this. 

But you may want to avoid yelling at each other in the middle of the night, just in case. 

Sources

Volling, Brenda L.; Oh, Wonjung; Gonzalez, Richard; Kuo, Patty X.; Yu, Tianyi Patterns of marital relationship change across the transition from one child to two. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 4(3), Sep 2015, 177-197. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cfp/4/3/177/. 

Marriages still resilient after the second child. University of Michigan Press Release: Michigan News. (August 27, 2015). http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/23083-marriages-still-resilient-after-the-second-child. 

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