The importance of marital satisfaction and the role of the father
Having children is well known to make a marriage suffer. Around the world mothers and fathers complain about their spouses and have arguments driven by sleep deprivation, fussy toddlers and difficult teenagers. Certainly, the evidence showing a dip in marital satisfaction during the child raising years has been established for many years (Glenn 1998). Despite all the very good reasons to become unhappy with your marriage during these years this is actually the most important time to keep your marriage happy and satisfying.
A happy marriage has been shown to be important for overall family functioning. It is crucial for the mother's well being and has been shown to affect how parents interact with their children and siblings interact with each other. The amount of satisfaction parents have in their marriage even affects the child's ongoing well being with some research suggesting that marital conflict and dissolution can cause long term health consequences for the children (Troxel & Matthews 2004).
There are several reasons why a dissatisfied marriage can cause such wide reaching effects. How the spouses interact can directly affect how they then interact with the children with stress between the spouses 'spilling over' into negative interactions with the children. Under other circumstances, the spouses can draw the children into the conflict by expressing dissatisfaction with the other spouse to the child or using the child as a messenger for the other parent.
So how to increase marital satisfaction?
Look up increasing marital satisfaction on the internet and you will find lots of tips on what the mother/wife can do to make the father/husband happy.
In fact the father/husband may be the one who needs to take the action to improve the marital relationship. A recent study has found that the most important predictors of marital satisfaction was the strength of the co-parenting alliance and the amount of the mother's satisfaction with the father involvement(Kwok et al 2013).
This study is supported by previous findings linking father involvement to marital satisfaction (De Luccie 1995, Lee & Doherty 2007). Interestingly, one of the leading causes given for divorce is a feeling of 'drifting apart' to do with a lack of common goals and interests (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 1999). If both parents are involved and interested in the raising of their children by being a co-parenting partnership, this can help provide the common goals and interests that are protective against divorce.
Australian Institute of Family Studies. 1999. Working Paper: Towards Understanding the Reasons for Divorce.
De Luccie, M. F. (1995). Mothers as gatekeepers: A model of maternal mediators of father involvement. The Journal of Genetic Psychology,156(1), 115–131
Glen, N. (1998), 'The course of marital success and failure in five American 10 year marriage cohorts', Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 60, pp. 569-576
Kwok S. Cheng L. Chow B. & Ling C. (2013). The Spillover effect of Parenting on Marital Satisfaction Among Chinese Mothers. Journal of Child and Family Studies
Lee C. & Doherty, W. 2007. Marital Satisfaction and Father Involvement during the Transition to Parenthood. Fathering a Journal of Theory, Research and Practice about Men as Fathers. 5 (2), 75-96.
Troxel, W. M., & Matthews, K. A. (2004). What are the costs of marital conflict and dissolution to children’s physical health? Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7(1), 29–57