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Within the first year of our relationship, at a time when most couples are basking in the glow of a new romance, my wife and I had the unusual experience of falling in love while navigating a major challenge.
To J’s everlasting credit, she didn’t bat an eye when I told her, just a few dates into our courtship, that I wanted a family…now! What we had no way of knowing was that my immediate efforts to get pregnant would lead us on a 2-year infertility journey (at which point I passed my baby baton to J).
I was recently on a jury for a personal injury case related to a car accident. Although the trial had nothing to do with parenting or relationships, once we got into the jury-room something fascinating (to me at least) happened: two striking communication (or anti-communication) patterns surfaced, with a vengeance.
Before introducing those patterns, I want to underscore two of the judge’s instructions: (1) Only consider evidence approved by the court, e.g., testimony*; and (2) Suspend expertise or experience in favor of evidence.
Pattern #1: Filtered Fables
I’m having one of those days—okay, weeks—where the same topic keeps popping up in emails, tweets, newsletters, articles.
What’s the theme? The things we can’t stand in our spouses.
I’m especially curious about this topic because, when we become parents, it’s as if those very traits we’re least fond of in our mates—the same ones that, perhaps, we hadn’t really noticed before, or hoped would disappear over time, or thought were cute when we met, but not-so-much anymore—get amplified.
As challenging as we might find some of our spouses’ behaviors, I wonder:
When it comes to money, opposites attract. Yep, according to a 2009 study of couples in committed relationships, contrasts often prevail around finances, despite the fact that our similarities—e.g., shared interests—are usually the biggest romantic draw. In other words…
Tightwads & spendthrifts have the hots for each other…initially.
That helps explain why money is a source of stress in so many relationships. Add the cost of children to the mix and it’s no wonder persistent financial disagreements, especially around debt, dampen marital happiness.
Whether we argue consistently with our spouses, or only lock horns on rare occasions, when we’re in the thick of a conflict it’s natural for us to ask: Why are we fighting?*
While finding the answer might seem important, and prompt us to solicit advice from friends or delve into the topic with spouses, when our time and energy are at a premium—meaning, pretty much all of the time for parents with young kids—I think it’s wise for us to shift our emphasis from “why” to:
How do we fight?
If there’s one postpartum relationship topic that’s addressed in the media with some regularity, it’s sex: Are you getting any? Do you both want it?
There’s no doubt about it: Whatever our sexual orientation, sex is important to relationship satisfaction.
But the more I talk to new parents, and the more I learn about the impact of newborns on relationships, the more convinced I become that, in focusing on sex, we’ve downplayed a far more important postpartum priority: Sleep.
A couple of years ago, the research firm, Harris Interactive, reported that money, sleep issues, and over-scheduling are major hassles for Americans, parents in particular.