You have heard the unfortunate statistic that approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. Yet what about the other half? Are they happy? This might not be the most uplifting topic yet it warrants discussion.
In a Psychology Today article Child-ol’-a-try John Gartner, PhD defines child-ol’-a-try as “the worship of one’s children at the expense of one’s marriage,” as research has repeatedly shown that marital satisfaction falls significantly after the birth of the first child and often does not change until the last child leaves for college. In this article, psychology professor Dr. Eli Finkel (Who I happened to go to college with and who was also my roommate one summer. He has come a long way!) refers to this population as “depressively married.” That seems bleak to me. So what is going on?
One thought is that this may just be related to changes in cultural values. In the article, Dr. Gartner takes a look at the evolution of marriage. Marriage began as a means for reproduction, family alliance, and financial security. Then, as society shifted, marriage became more about love. And then, came feminism and the sexual revolution, which changed the role of women in society and within marriage. Currently sexual satisfaction is one of the highest predictors of marital satisfaction, according to leading marital researchers John and Julie Gottman. Yet, when a child is born, the women’s focus shifts to the baby. The article quotes Julie Gottman as stating, “what’s good for reproductive success is bad for 21st century marital success.” Ouch! But there is good news!
Research shows that couples who successfully transition to parenthood, are less child-focused than those who struggle within their marriages. These happier couples spend more time together alone, they spend more time with friends without their children, and they focus less on being child-centered. This directly conflicts with recent parenting trends that focus on being present for children 24/7, entertaining them and providing an audience for every move they make. That seems like a good reason to avoid getting on the parenting helicopter.
And another reason is that the happiness of your marriage has a direct impact on your children. Research has also shown that children of happy marriages are more socially competent, with higher self-esteem, and have less emotional or behavioral difficulties.
It might just be that the prescription for yourself, your children, and your marriage is to stop the over-parenting and rather find a balance of parenting, self-care, and nurturing your marriage. What more reasons do you need to go have that date night?!