Q: So when couples fight, what is it that they're usually fighting about?
CPC: New parents say it's the division of labor, the who-does-what in the family.
PC: When children become school-age, the issues of money and spending time together become more important.
Q: Don't couples' sex lives play a big role in their marital satisfaction?
CPC: Sex is a reflection of how the rest of the relationship is going. If you feel hurt or misunderstood, or you and your husband are struggling over but not resolving issues, that affects how attracted, nurturing, and ready to have sex you'll be.
The frequency of lovemaking declines during the early months of parenthood when mothers especially are exhausted, but we find that most couples' sex lives rebound within two years. During that time, though, some partners may not initiate even snuggling or touching for fear that it will give the message that they're ready to have sex when they aren't. We advise couples to be perfectly clear: "I'm not sure how much energy I have tonight, but I'd love to hold you for a few minutes." That enables them to have more intimate time together and show caring for each other.
Many new mothers talk about feeling unattractive postpartum. But while a few men find it hard to see their wives as sexual after having children, most husbands are supportive about their wives' appearance.
Q: What role does the relationship spouses had with their parents have in a marriage?
CPC: It helps if partners understand how each other's family history is being played out in the marriage, which is another reason why couples' groups are so effective. For instance, a common struggle among new parents is whether to let their baby cry it out at night. If you pick up a baby all the time, she'll come to expect that, the father might say. But, the mother argues, a baby needs to be held to feel secure and know we are here for her.