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Girl Talk: Marriage Breakdown

Q. I've been married for three years, and things were always great. But ever since our son was born, it seems like all my husband and I do is argue -- about money, our mothers, who gets more sleep. Am I alone? If not, when does this fighting end?

I wish I could give you an end date on these baby-induced hostilities  -- "as soon as your child turns 1, you'll be going on a second honeymoon"  -- but it doesn't work that way. Tensions ease in their own time, depending on many factors, from your child's sleeping habits to finances to your work schedules.

No, you and your husband are not alone. No one escapes new-parent stress. But some of us just have to swallow a bitter pill now and then, while others feel like they're enduring a never-ending enema.

Why is the tension so unavoidable? Because, to state the obvious, a baby changes everything. And he or she does so by magnifying everything, whether it's love or anxiety, joy or exhaustion. So, for example, if you were always a tad annoyed when your husband left his sneakers in front of the door, you might go berserk when you find yourself tripping over them and almost dropping your newborn. It's easy for bigger issues, like living on a tighter budget or family fights, to take on truly gargantuan proportions.

You can shrink problems down to a more manageable size by asking yourself what the most stressful issues are (your lack of sleep, the bills, his sneakers) and simply talking to your partner about them. But be prepared to listen to his laundry list as well, because he will have one. Just acknowledging that both of you are sleep deprived can prevent resentment from cropping up later. (If your attempts at discussion always seem to turn ugly, however, you may want to think about getting professional guidance from a licensed family therapist.)

After clearing the air about what's pulling you apart, be sure to bring up what binds you together: your beautiful son. Talk about the ways that he inspires you and how much love you feel for him when you see him in your husband's arms. These pep talks may sound superficial, but they are essential reminders to both of you that though your bickering matches are temporary, the love you have for your baby is everlasting. Believe me, you'll get no argument there.