During the previous four seasons of TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus Eight, the couple has bickered, eye-rolled, and jabbed its way through adventures in rearing now 9-year-old twins and now 5-year-old sextuplets. In this past Monday’s record-breaking fifth-season premiere (9.8 million viewers), Jon and Kate finally addressed the very topic that has kept them on tabloid covers for weeks: Their marriage is on the rocks.
(Update: Kate Gosselin filed for divorce on June 22.)
Even without the stress of eight children, rolling cameras, and public scrutiny, all couples encounter tension in their relationships. Below, five trigger points that have tested Jon and Kate in their reality-TV runand how to make sure the same stressors don’t take a toll on your relationship.
Stress trigger No. 1: A growing family
Whether you’re bringing home one new baby or six, expanding your brood requires adjustment.
Sleep deprivation can trigger depression and anxiety, says Ken Robbins, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. New moms are also at risk for postpartum depression, and both parents will likely feel stretched for time.
Then there’s the issue of intimacy, which will undoubtedly be affected with children in the house. “Sex lives of people who have children are worsethere’s data to prove it,” says Andrew Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the author of Reclaiming Desire. “But a relationship is not like a job where you just have to accomplish what is necessary; you can’t just put it on autopilot.”
Smart solutions: Couples need to work together to find creative ways to support and appreciate each other through this transition.
- Adjust sleep schedules so that one partner sleeps while the other is awake with the baby.
- When possible, get a friend or relative to occasionally help out at night so mom and dad have some time to cultivate their relationship one-on-one. Especially as kids get older, make sure they understand that mom and dad need time to themselves.
- Be aware of the signs of postpartum depression like appetite changes, trouble concentrating, loss of energy, and hopelessness.
- Make activities that promote mental healthsuch as exercise and social timea top priority.