Leena and Akash had been married for about 4 years when Soham, their first child was born. They had been looking forward to having a baby and believed that the birth of the child will further strengthen their marriage. However, during pregnancy, Leena became irritable and depressed. She was aware of hormonal changes and mood swings during pregnancy and discussed it with her gynecologist as well as with Akash. Akash initially was very supportive but after the first trimester he started working longer hours and avoiding spending time at home. He found Leena’s constant complains and irritable nature difficult to bear. To add to this, he, without realizing, in his want to provide the baby with financially secure environment started feeling justified of his absences and expected Leena to understand. Especially now, that the financial burden was completely on him for a period of 3 years when Leena would be focusing on being a full time mother and would soon quit her work. Akash’s absences however made Leena feel more uncertain and insecure about their marriage, as now she was not only dealing with the physiological discomfort of the pregnancy but also the loss of work life. She desperately tried to regain their marital bliss and in her attempts to communicate this loss, fluctuated between getting angry / demanding with Akash to crying and feeling hopeless and hurt. Both started feeling justified and thought that their spouse was insensitive and uncaring. In the last trimester when the doctor advised that they should refrain from sexual intercourse, her anxiety heightened. Post natal depressive symptoms and the hectic schedule of keeping up with the baby’s demands did not help either. The emotional distance and anger intensified and eventually blew into a full fledged argument on the day Akash attended the child naming ceremony held in Leenas maternal house and forgot to get the return gifts. Leena was to return to her matrimonial house after the customary maternity break at her mother’s house right after the ceremony. Akash’s lack of involvement in the child raising because of the distance and also because of his own anxieties fueled Leenas own anxieties of managing the infant without her mothers help and dealing with their marital discord. Leena very reluctantly returned to her matrimonial house. After her return, she felt all the more lonely and abandoned. Akash’s focus was Soham after he returned from work partially because he missed the first three months of his son’s development and partially because he didn’t know what to communicate with Leena. He felt rejected by Leena whenever he initiated sexual intimacy between the two of them, often as Leena would be tired after a long day and would struggle to catch up with her own sleep while Soham rested. Leena, on the other hand, seemed to have nothing much to share with Akash apart from Soham’s daily activities. She felt worth less, unloved and unappreciated. Motherhood seemed to be her only identity now. She had also stopped taking care of her physical appearance. Without realizing they had made Soham the center of their relationship in their individual attempts to reconnect with each other and deal with their marital crisis. But this only lead to further spiraling down of their relationship as they both felt ignored by their spouses and jealous of whom soham preferred. Their concerns for a helpless infants needs to take priority seemed justified.
When they finally approached the psychotherapist they had a long list of hurts and anger against each other and both wanted to be acknowledged that they were justified in their feelings.
How could couples like Akshay & Leena regain their love and intimacy for each other?
1. “Parenthood As Crisis” typically includes a decrease in positive marital interchange, an increase in marital conflict, and a decline in marital satisfaction. This is because parenthood brings new identities and responsibilities for mothers and fathers.
3. There are often changes in a couple’s sex life and experience a slow down in their sex life. Women often feel differently about their bodies after childbirth, and they become insecure and less comfortable being intimate. Often, women gain a substantial amount of weight during pregnancy, and they have a hard time dropping the excess pounds after they give birth because they are so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a new mommy. This occurs because of the strains, stresses, and sources of conflict as parents adjust to their new care giving roles, responsibilities, and routines—and the gender differentiation therein—amidst depleted resources of time and energy.
4. Many women are known to undergo post natal depression and require more help in the form of attention and care.
5. At times child birth is used as a ruse to get back to your spouse / avoid troubling topics between the two. Often these problems have existed for a long time in their relationship, child birth just give a valid reason to exit mentally and physically from a less satisfying relationship. It is emotionally less straining for a couple to accept that they are unable to spend time with each other because of the child than to say that they have lost interest in each other.
6. Couples have to consciously choose to bring these up with each other and deal with the hurts and anger rather than pushing it under the carpet.
7. Sometimes men feel rejected and unloved by their wives because of the amount of time she is devoting to caring for their baby or children.
8. Some women feel resentment towards their husbands because they don’t feel like their husband is involved enough in taking care of the children and household.
9. Husbands and wives need to understand that they have to work together as a parent team and they also cannot forget to foster and nourish their relationship as a couple.
10. Husbands need to compliment the wife and help her out in the house management as this is a crisis phase.
11. Wives on the other hand need to nurture and care for their husbands as well as their baby.
12. Both need to remove time to make things special between them. Romanticizing each other again by initiating loving acts for each other.
13. Arrange for time off work. Ideally, get at least a week off following the baby’s birth. Your wife will need your help and this will be a wonderful time to bond as a family. Plan nothing else during your time off but helping your wife and child.
14. Ask relatives / friends to look after the baby for a while, while the two of you can catch a candle light dinner or cuddle up with popcorn to watch a movie.
15. Remember the heart of happy family lies a happy couple relationship.