First Pitfall: New Responsibilities

In Joyce Marter’s practice, the most prevalent problem for couples is division of labor. The new baby demands 24 hour attention and quarrels can set in when one partner feels like he/she is doing more work than the other. “They may compare and become competitive or defensive about their responsibilities, schedules or the pros and cons of their work or role,” she said. “They also might glorify each other’s positions” Marter said. A stay-at-home dad might think his wife’s day at work is filled with swanky business lunches, interesting projects and a quiet commute, while he’s dealing with temper tantrums and dirty diapers. His wife might imagine him playing, cuddling and connecting with their child, while she deals with a difficult boss, endless deadlines and concerns over job security. “Then, when an issue like who is going to do the laundry comes up, the misunderstandings have created an environment ripe for conflict,” she said.

One of the problems is that couples usually don’t have a plan for how they’re going to divvy up responsibilities. Marter finds that many couples make assumptions about who’ll do what — often based on how their parents did things — which typically leads to confusion and conflict.