Tuesday, March 23, 2010


When Two Become Three: Nurturing Your Marriage After Baby Arrives is a 2007 book on marriage and parenting by clinical psychologist Mark E. Crawford. The book’s primary stated purpose is to show parents how to keep their marriage a high priority, and to strengthen it, after the birth of the first child.

This is more of a marriage book than a parenting book, although it is inextricably both. Crawford begins by discussing communication and conflict resolution, then moves on to cover the pressure of the tremendous responsibility of parenting, and the new division of household labor. Much of this, however, is written in such a way (inadvertently, of course) as to create agitation and anxiety in new parents rather than immediately ease concerns.

Crawford also offers specific advice to mothers and fathers. But he only considers the traditional working-man, stay-at-home mom and two-income structures. Given Crawford’s emphasis on gender-specific parental attributes, I was profoundly disappointed to see that he has nothing to say on the subject of stay-at-home dads – come on, man, join the twenty-first century.

The final third of When Two Become Three covers sex after the baby comes, establishing a parenting philosophy, and dealing with the complex issues of step-families.

Crawford’s writing style is chatty and readable. The back of the book calls him witty, but that’s being generous. Crawford himself is pretty obviously a Christian, although this is by no means a Christian book, and his references to Christianity tend to be oblique.

When Two Become Three is not a long book (192 pages), but the reader may frequently find himself skimming. Crawford simply goes into a great deal more detail than many readers will care to get into – these will be, by and large, the readers who have largely non-dysfunctional marriages. This is not to say any of this information isn’t good – it’s just problem-solving tips for problems many of us don’t have.

But the fundamental truths here are solid: being a married couple first and parents second, parenting and administering the household as a team, maintaining mutual respect and intimacy, and so forth.

Maintaining a marriage after children is important (and, given the statistics on divorce in the United States, often neglected), and the basics covered in When Two Become Three are certainly worthwhile. For parents-to-be, this book is worth a perusal.