Building a successful, loving marriage is something that can take a fair bit of work, and when parenthood is thrown into the mix, the partnership can become even more strained. But a new report from the National Marriage Project indicates that the secret to maintaining a successful marriage when raising kids comes from mixing the old with the new.

In the report, which is called “When Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable,” the researchers found that maintaining some old values while still adapting to modern ideals can lead to success. According to lead author Bradford Wilcox, “A hybrid model of married life appears to be the best path to successfully combine marriage and parenthood for today’s parents.”

Some of the contemporary factors found to keep marriages on the right track included having date nights, a college degree, shared housework, marital generosity and sexual satisfaction. Some of the “traditional marriage” components were having a strong economic foundation, a mutual religious belief, commitment, support from friends and family, and quality family time.

“One of the striking findings of this report is that equality in shared housework has emerged as a predictor of marital success for today’s young married parents,” said co-author Elizabeth Marquardt, “even as most married mothers would prefer to work part-time and most married fathers would prefer to work full-time.”

According to PsychCentral, other findings in the report include:

  • Parenting is easier for partners. Married parents report more global happiness and less depression than single parents, in contrast to a recent spate of films, books and magazine stories about the joys of conceiving and rearing a baby alone. Cohabiting couples fall in between.
  • Married parents experience more meaning in their lives than their childless peers, and a substantial minority of married parents are “very happy” in their marriages. Married men and women are markedly more likely to report that they find life meaningful compared with their childless peers. A substantial minority of husbands (35 percent) and wives (37 percent) do not experience parenthood as an obstacle to marital happiness.
  • Surprisingly, the happiest married parents have four or more kids: they are about as happy as married couples with no children, and at least 40 percent more likely to be happily married than the parents with one, two or three kids. It appears that this is a case of selection: Particular types of couples end up having large numbers of children, remain married to one another, and also enjoy cultural, social, and relational strengths that more than offset the challenges of parenting a large family.

Source: University of Virginia, PsychCentral

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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