The Sleep-Deprived Marriage

Nothing brings out the fault lines in a relationship like the joy of having a new baby. You’re so exhausted you find yourself shrieking at your beloved for putting the cream cheese on the wrong shelf in the fridge. Meanwhile, your mate is on the verge of a tantrum because the instructions for the “EZ assemble” crib are all in Italian, which is, of course, your fault. You read the baby-book advice on not neglecting your marriage and the supreme importance of Date Night. So there you both are at the Organic Sushi Bistro, equipped with two smart phones, and two smart phone chargers (having asked for a table near an outlet, just in case) so you can team-tag checking on the babysitter. One of you is doing just that, while the others head begins to bob gently over the edamame.

Some 70 percent of couples experience a drop in marital happiness on the arrival of parenthood. The reasons are understandable, mostly to do with very real differences of opinion concerning how the baby should be cared for and by whom. Typically, women complain that their partners aren’t doing enough, while men feel they should be applauded for how much they are doing, especially compared with their own fathers whose only childcare role (if he was even around) was baby’s emcee as in, “Honey, his diaper needs changing!” Guys feel cheated as their alone-time with the new mother gets crowded out by the baby’s endless, desperate needs. And then, of course, there are always the bottomless expenses a baby requires to unnerve both parents more. Meanwhile, your entire value structure–what you think is Important and what you feel “meh” about–shifts dramatically once you have offspring. A lot of these new-parent worries are rooted in serious issues. But they loom extra large when you’re exhausted.. What your marriage needs more than anything right now is probably sleep. A new study out of the University of California at Berkeley underlines this, finding that sleep deficits make couples feel unappreciated by their partner. So yes, get some responsible adult to come over and babysit. But skip Date Night in favor of Sleep Night. Go to bed early. Do this often enough and your partner’s flaws, which now seem so severe and entrenched that they threaten the core of your marriage, can once again become tolerable, adorable foibles. Until PMS returns.

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