Caring for a baby can cause conflict between even the closest couples. Read on for tips on reducing the stress and staying connected.

If tension between you and your spouse is up and satisfaction with your marriage is down, you are not alone. Many studies show that the stress involved in becoming parents can throw even the most solid marriages for a loop. As overjoyed as you may be about the birth of your baby, you or your spouse may also feel isolated, exhausted, incompetent, angry, and resentful about the way the event has changed your lives, and these emotions can chip away at marital happiness.

It's also highly likely that even though the doctor gave you the green light to resume intercourse a few months ago, you may still feel far from sexy. That can leave Dad feeling rejected and Mom feeling like a failure. But the fact is, very few women have fully recovered their sex drive six months after giving birth. Besides the fact that the baby is sapping all a mother's extra energy, her hormones are not quite back to normal levels.

No matter how you feel, it's very important that you communicate with your partner, so resentment and feelings of inadequacy don't build up. Here's how to stay close amid the chaos. It's one of the nicest things you can do for baby-and yourselves!

  • Make sure you set aside at least 15 minutes a day to speak to each other, uninterrupted, when the baby's asleep. Try to discuss some things besides the baby-outside interests, current events, or family.
  • At least once a month, and preferably more often, hire a babysitter and go out with your spouse. You can do anything you both enjoy-a play, dinner with friends, Chinese food, or a movie. But the activity, whatever it is, has to be for adults only!
  • To reduce feelings of resentment, both you and your spouse need to spend some time each day alone, free of all responsibilities, doing something nice for yourselves-taking a hot bath, reading, exercising.
  • If you're feeling anxious, discuss your feelings with your spouse, who not only may welcome the opportunity but may reveal some of his or her own emotions at being a new parent. Your own parents and friends with kids may also be able to offer some advice or support.

If your attempts to improve your relationship with your spouse don't seem to be helping, don't hesitate to see a therapist. Counseling has a much better chance of improving a marriage under stress than saving one that has fallen to pieces.