Thought life was blissful after marriage? Well, here's a shocker for you, according to a new research, nearly one-third of newlyweds are physically aggressive.
What's more, in newlyweds' rookie year as parents, many face a significant drop in marital satisfaction, the research found.
In one study, Erika Lawrence, assistant professor of psychology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the lead author discovered that 29 percent of newlywed couples are physically aggressive.
More wives than husbands are aggressive -- 24 percent versus 16 percent. Pushing, grabbing and shoving are the most common tactics.
"One potential explanation is that severe aggression is easier for couples to recognize as a problem than moderate aggression. Once they identify the pattern of behavior as problematic, they may be more motivated to change it," Lawrence said.
"It's also possible that severe aggression causes couples to withdraw from each other, leading to less interaction and opportunity for conflict," she said.
The study included 164 couples who completed annual questionnaires during their first three years of marriage.
In the second study, Lawrence found that while the birth of a child may be one of life's greatest delights, couples experience a notable drop in marital satisfaction in that first year of parenthood.
The decline in satisfaction is much more severe in couples with a new baby than in newlyweds without kids, according to the study.
"It's a stressor people have to adjust to. When couples add an infant to the equation, everything changes. As thrilled as they probably are about the addition to their family, they're getting less sleep, and they have less time alone together and more expenses. It's going to impact any couple, no matter how wonderful their marriage is," she said.
The study also showed that highly satisfied newlyweds are more likely to plan a pregnancy, but pregnancy planning does not protect couples from declines in marital satisfaction. And people who are happiest as newlyweds experience the greatest drop in marital satisfaction after the bundle of joy arrives.
Using marriage license records, researchers recruited 156 newlyweds (104 who became parents; 52 who remained childless). All were in their first marriage and were childless when the study began. Parent couples took marital satisfaction surveys at 6 months of marriage, a month before the baby's birth, and six and 12 months postpartum. Childless couples were surveyed at comparable times.
Couples completed the Quality of Marriage Index to measure marital satisfaction, generating scores from 6 (least satisfied) to 45 (most satisfied). Surveys were taken, on average, across a three-year time span. In that time, satisfaction scores for both moms and dads dropped 5.07 points on average, compared to only 2.73 points for husbands without kids and 2.34 points for wives without kids.
The good news, Lawrence said, is that research by her and others in the field indicates that marital satisfaction levels rebound by the time the baby is 18 months old -- especially in couples who had a strong relationship to begin with.
The study is published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.