When couples decide to go from being a ‘we’ to becoming a ‘three’, they begin the veritable checklist to get everything ready for the baby’s arrival with anything from prams to pacifiers, monitors to mobiles & baths to bottles. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Then they go about diligently ticking off each item as they acquire it, ensuring the list is down to zero by the expected due date. By then, baby comes home to a fully decked out nursery with every gadget needed for a stupendous upbringing. Happy days!!!
Or are they?
With every relationship going through changes when bringing a baby home, many couples fail to realise that there is something very important that needs to be on this list that many simply neglect through innocent ignorance. TOOLS TO KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP STRONG!
No matter how strong you are as a couple before the baby comes, changes will come thick and fast after the anticipated arrival. Some of these changes are wonderful, and will bring you even closer together. Yet other changes are challenging and may be the beginning of a precipitous decline in your overall relationship happiness – if you let the negativity creep in on a permanent basis. In fact, research tells us that a massive 7 out of 10 couples become & stay unhappy within the first 3 years of becoming a family. And these were once happy and strong unions, not just the troubled ones to begin with.
So enough of the doom and gloom – what is the solution? Well we have one – and it works. Happy days again!
The Gottman Institute has studied relationships for over 40 years and are the GOLD STANDARD of evidence based approaches to couples’ therapy. They not only heal troubled relationships, but are focussed on making strong relationships even stronger. And in their years of research, they discovered there were 2 types of relationships. The first being the MASTERS who created and maintained a strong union throughout the years – and the disasters who started off relatively happy, but became unsatisfied (usually within 3 years after having their first baby), and never fully recovering from this in the subsequent years. They usually either stayed together in increasing unhappiness, or separated and divorced usually at the 6-year mark of marriage.
With this information, they could quantify all the traits that BOTH of these groups displayed, therefore creating a formula to follow for relationship satisfaction and happiness – and also a set of behaviours that were to be avoided at all costs. Once this data was collated, it was discovered that many of the problems began within the first 3 years of starting a family, so the Gottman Institute developed the ‘Bringing Baby Home’ program designed specifically for expecting and new parents. This relationship based program not only focusses on the couple and their commitment to grow, but also introduces the skills to know more about babies, their language, their needs & their signals so you can read baby’s messages more clearly.
The program deals with topics including:
- Fighting & arguing
- Intimacy & sex
- Fondness & admiration
- Affection & appreciation
- Conflict resolution
- Baby facial cues
- Baby play & interaction
- Baby blues & post-partum depression
- Creating family values
- And so much more
As mentioned earlier, this research is evidence based and with that there are many quantifiable results that we have listed below directly from the Gottman Institute website regarding previous participants of the ‘Bringing Baby Home’ program.
- Both fathers and mothers who took the BBH program (compared to those that did not) showed greater sensitivity and responsiveness to their infant’s signals. This was particularly true for fathers.
- Parents who took the BBH program demonstrated better co-parenting abilities in that they were able to work together more positively during family play with their 3-month-old baby.
- Babies expressed more smiling and laughter during family play if their parents had participated in the BBH program. This was true for both 3 and 12-month-old infants.
- Several indicators of father-infant attachment security were rated more positively in families who had taken the BBH program.
Infant Development & Temperament
- There were less language delays in one-year-old infants of parents who took the BBH program.
- Mothers who took the BBH program rated their babies as showing less distress in response to limitations (such as having a toy out of reach).
- 1-year-old babies in the workshop group were rated as responding more positively to their fathers’ soothing (this is likely to reflect something about father-baby interaction quality as well as infant temperament).
- Fathers who took the BBH program reported being more involved in parenting and feeling more satisfied and appreciated for their parental contributions.
- The quality of father-baby interactions was more positive if fathers had taken the BBH program.
Couple Relationship Quality
- Couples who took the BBH program reported high stable relationship quality. Those who did not take the BBH program showed a decline in relationship quality over the first year after the baby’s birth.
- There was less hostility expressed by both husbands and wives during conflict discussions if they had taken the BBH program.
- Fewer mothers who took the BBH program showed symptoms of postpartum depression, the baby blues, and other indicators of psychopathology such as anxiety.
- Fewer fathers who took the BBH program showed signs of depression, anxiety and other psychopathology after the baby was born.
With results like these, it is easy to see why all new and existing parents alike need to add a ‘Bringing Baby Home’ program to their ultimate ‘before baby’ checklist. But often it is not viable for young couples to commit to a 2-day weekend workshop no matter how good the content or the potential outcomes. Kylie-Jo is a certified Gottman BBH Educator, and has developed the exact 2-day Bringing Baby Home course, into a downloadable video program that can be done in your own home, at your own pace and in your own time. Complete with all resources and materials from the face to face workshop, this format has now enabled every couple, no matter where they live or what time restrictions they have, to benefit from the learnings and skills.
And always remember, the greatest gift you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the 2 of you!
Kylie-Jo Elliott – www.relationshipafterbaby.com