Before baby, it is easy to have time and energy to invest in your relationship. However, your relationship will often take a backseat to the demands of parenthood. It is easy for months to go by and find you and your partner have less fun together, annoy each other more and are more disconnected than you used to be.
If this is you and your partner, you are not alone.
Studies confirm that for most couples having a child is hard on their relationship.
What these studies also show is that not all couples experience their relationship taking a negative hit after becoming parents. And the relationships that fared the best had one thing in common – they chose to prioritize their relationship and find time together as a couple. Of course, that is easier said than done with a cute but needy baby who is completely dependent upon you. But there are some simple steps you can take to help maintain your sanity and your relationship through these demanding early years of parenting.
5 Strategies to Maintain your Relationship after Baby
Prioritize Sleep – when you are low on sleep, it is natural to feel irritable and more reactive to small triggers. Couples will often fight more and have a diminished ability to work through the conflict if either has had poor sleep – and let us be honest, poor sleep is a reality with a baby. For many, it can be difficult to prioritize sleep – when there is so much to be done, or you just want some time at the end of the day. But there is a big payoff with prioritizing sleep, on your individual well-being and the connection in your relationship. Consider setting a time to step away from all screens (yes that includes your phone), develop a good sleep hygiene routine and get to bed early. Also, consider whether there are ways to take “shifts” at night so you both get a longer stretch of sleep.
Give Each Other The Benefit of The Doubt – although having a baby brings many joyful moments, there is also an incredible amount of stress. Stress makes it difficult to be a patient, loving and present partner. So, when your partner snaps at you, forgets to do something you asked them to do, or does not seem like themselves, give them the benefit of the doubt. Like you, they are probably sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the new demands of life. Remind yourself that you are both doing the best you can right now on limited sleep. And remind your partner that you need them to give you the benefit of the doubt as well.
Commiserate With Each Other – when things are really tough, don’t suffer in silence. Remember you are in this together. This is a really hard stage in your lives as a couple and if you can talk about how hard it is together, it is a place for you to unite – even in your sleep-deprived state. This also requires not seeing your partner as the enemy who is not doing enough or should be coping better. Maintaining the mindset that your partner is your ally allows you to focus on “we.” This focus helps you to see “we” are in this together enhancing your bond as a couple.
Be Appreciative – it is easy to take your partner for granted when you have no time or energy to even think about yourself. But a little gratitude goes a long way. Research shows that more grateful people are more satisfied in their relationships, and this is especially important during times of big change such as having a baby. Small moments of appreciation feel good, usually for both the recipient and the giver. When we are seen, acknowledged, and appreciated it creates a positive feedback loop in our relationship. And how good does it feel to receive a heartfelt thanks for all those dinners or diaper changes you thought went unnoticed?
Make Time – date night will look quite different, however, making time to prioritize your relationship together is important. It is easy for partners to feel more like roommates as they become consumed with the demands of parenting. Establishing a time to connect as a couple demonstrates your intention to take care of your relationship. It may be as simple as watching a half hour episode together once a week, but honouring that time sends an important message that your relationship matters.
Becoming parents will impact your relationship. Many couples have felt close and deeply bonded through this shared experience. However, if you are having a hard time finding your way as a couple and parents, consider reaching out to one of our therapists to help you reconnect in your relationship.
One of the best gifts you can give your children is a strong relationship together as a couple.
by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW
A Book We Recommend
When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples by Phillip A. Cowen is a must-read. It gives a look at the changes a relationship undergoes when a baby arrives. This book draws on the candid stories of a wide variety of men and women in this new phase of their relationship.