The woman needs to apportion her attention between husband and child, recognizing the importance of her role as wife and sexual partner. She can be more aware that her sexual interest may diminish, especially if she is breastfeeding. As one woman said, "I felt that my body belonged to my baby."
But she can discuss her husband's sexual needs with him and both recognize the issues before them. At those times, the wife may feel that the husband's sexual needs as one more demand on her fatigued condition. And then, he cannot stand to be rejected by her.
Both husband and wife are at their most vulnerable to feeling rejected, hurt, and unappreciated for their heroic efforts. Ultimately both parents need to appreciate that restoring their life as a couple vital to the child as well as to the marriage. Needless to say the same issues come up at the birth of each child and become acute if the children are close in age.
How people resolve these conflicts depends very much on whether they have built a marriage structure that can hold against the onslaught of the baby and be enlarged to include the child.
The woman who before pregnancy had empathy for her husband will usually find it again, recognizing his feelings and the justness of his claims on her. She will want to be responsive to him. Similarly, a man who was sensitive and responsive to his wife will realize that the deprivations are temporary. He will identify with her in a flowering of mutual love for her and pride in the baby.
It is all too easy for the marital relationship to erode when children take center state. The couple's sex life may decline for several years after the birth of a child.
Parents who become entirely absorbed in child rearing have emotionally abandoned each other and the marriage, leaving two hungry people whose adult needs are not being met.
At the other end of the spectrum is the couple who are so absorbed in each other or their individual interests that they emotionally abandon their children.
A good marriage enhances the connection between each parent and the child. Children feel more secure when they are aware of the love between their parents. A marriage involves not only sharing in conception and parenting but also helping each other and the marriage to recover from these transforming events.
The Good Marriage - Wallerstein & Blakeslee