A new arrival can cause problems.
A new arrival can cause problems.

Bundles of drama for relationships

THE arrival of a baby generally is seen as enriching a relationship, but sometimes it strains the bonds between the mother and father, leaving the couple wondering whether the baby actually killed their closeness.

Some experts say children do put the happiness that exists between couples in peril.

There are other therapists who don't feel as strongly about the problem, but they still warn difficulties can arise and say knowing about them can help parents avoid the problems.

The experts recommend that new parents create time for themselves to nurture their relationship. In some cases hobbies must be sacrificed.

Married couples often complain that after carrying out their household duties they have too little time and energy left to pursue anything else.

They find it difficult to do things together which before the children arrived were easy to organise.

For many couples the result of these problems is a break-up, but this is not inevitable.

"Two-thirds of couples experience major difficulties, however, they don't necessarily have to lead to a break-up," said Andrea Kuhnert, a doctor in Germany who specialises in psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy.

"What's important for couples to understand is that people must go through and master certain developmental stages in their lives.

"I think it is almost a modern view that couples say, 'Oh, everything will be able to go on the same if we are flexible enough'."

But in her therapy sessions she often hears complaints about the lack of sexuality and intimacy.

"Under these circumstances both partners feel increasingly lonely.

"The mother can make up for the lack of intimacy with her husband through physical closeness with the child.

"But some fathers feel they are shut out of this, particularly when the child enjoys a lot of attention from its mother."

When a son or daughter arrives, couples should make room for themselves as a couple, even if it's only symbolically.

This can include dining together or a cosy chat on the couch without the children present.

The financial impact of a baby also causes major problems for some couples, counsellor Silvia Koenig-John said.

Childcare problems might mean that one parent cannot continue working or might work only part-time.

Koenig-John said some couples hardly fought, but they withdrew from one another.

She said others fought a lot more than they did before the child was born, and often about little things.

While it might seem less fighting is more desirable, in reality couples who fight have a better chance of rescuing their relationship because communication helps foster closeness, Koenig-John said.

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