No time, no sex, no connection – these aspects of life after having a baby are a sure-fire recipe for strained relationships and marriages. This really isn’t how many couples picture parenthood, but that’s what it’s really like. Making the leap from coupledom to parenthood is exciting, wonderful and totally exhilarating. But the fact of the matter is that the experience is also very exhausting, worrisome and exasperating.
This combination can prove to be rather toxic to the romantic relationship you’ve long shared with your partner – the same relationship that made you parents.
In the long run, there’s both good and bad news for you. To give you the bad news first, maintaining a marriage after having a baby takes a whole lot of time and energy – the things that you have the least of at the moment. On the other hand, working on saving your relationship is going to pay off in spades. With all your energy out the door, you just wouldn’t have it in you to resent each other and well, you’ll have just enough to spend enjoying one another.
Having said that, if your baby is putting a strain on your marriage, here are a few things that you can do to help your marriage survive:
1. Have Realistic Expectations
With all that lack of sleep, raging hormones, no sex for at least six weeks, a messy house, and your preoccupation with your baby’s pooping and eating schedule, it’s natural for that little monster’s arrival to place a bit of strain on your relationship even if it is the strongest in the world. To make things better, have an honest conversation with your spouse and discuss what to expect from each other during the first few months after delivering your baby.
With that, the two of you also need to realize that life with a newborn can be extremely stressful, chaotic and messy, but with time, things will definitely become better. Also, the two of you need to remember that things are going to change and it will take time for the two of you to adjust and find your way through this maze of new roles and responsibilities.
For this reason, it’s necessary for you to be flexible, both with yourself and your spouse in order to reduce tension. Parenting can never be done ‘right’ so stop stressing out over the smallest of things – you’ll do your marriage a serious favor this way.
You need to balance things
You’re running a three-ring circus called a marriage at the moment, but when it comes crunch time, your baby’s demands and needs are going to take center stage. However, there are two other rings for you to care for as well – you and your spouse. Take the initiative to take care of your spouse – even the smallest of things that you do are going to make all the difference in the world!
6 Talk to Each Other
To keep things steady, it’s highly recommended for the two of you to take time every day and check in with each other. Talk about things like changing needs and expectations, disappointments, parenting fears or just whatever you want as long as the two of you spend some time talking to each other every day. While you’re at it, you need to bear in mind the fact that communication is not just about talking – it involves listening too.
If you truly want your spouse to keep on sharing his or her deepest thoughts, fears, feelings and needs with you, it’s necessary for you to be an amazing listener. To get things started, you should learn to build a friendship with your spouse. If you don’t have a strong friendship with your spouse, there’s a good chance that the two of you will see a steep decline in your respective satisfactions.
With time, your relationship is also going to have difficulty weathering the storms that time may bring along. Although there may be temporary conflict and chaos in your relationship, you can always use your friendship to build a strong foundation. This way, your relationship is going to become stronger with the passage of time as you make the transition from two to three.
Point to ponder
Studies have shown that couples who are most likely to remain happy after becoming parents are those in which the husband totally admires his wife, understands his wife and her new responsibilities and keeps romance alive. Although it helps if the woman reciprocates these actions, research shows that it’s actually the husband’s behaviors that make the biggest difference.
5 Express Appreciation, Admiration and Affection
To keep things smooth in your relationship, it’s necessary for you to express lots of affection towards your spouse even in the most ordinary of moments. While you’re at it, it’s also vital for the two of you to recognize the positive aspects of each other’s personalities. Instead of wasting time looking for and pointing out mistakes, strengthen your relationship by expressing the admiration and fondness you both have for each other.
Also, to strengthen your bond, you should both turn towards one another instead of moving away. With that, each of you should also have an ‘accepting’ attitude when the other turns toward you. Those moments when our partner reaches out for our attention are very important for building friendship. In each interaction, we have a choice in how to respond.
Accepting the opportunity for connection is exactly what’s needed for the two of you to increase the friendship you share. Ignoring or rejecting our partner will decrease the positives in the relationship and will only trigger negative feelings, thereby making things harder to keep up with.
Appreciate even the smallest of things your spouse does for you
No matter how small the gesture, make sure that you appreciate your spouse for it. Whether your husband just boiled the bottles or put cream on your infant’s bum, at least he did something to help and he needs to be appreciated for it. This way, he will know that his gestures are not going unnoticed and believe it or not, just the notion that you appreciate his efforts can go a long way in helping your marriage survive.
4 Connect Physically with Your Spouse
Even something like sleep deprivation caused by a newborn can take a serious toll on your marriage. On top of that, you have your doctor telling you to refrain from having sex with your spouse for the next six weeks – the perfect recipe for disaster or a grumpy husband at least. So how do you connect with him physically? Make out!
That’s right. Take it as a personal bit of advice. Make out like teenagers, but if you don’t feel up to that too, just connect with your spouse physically by holding hands, hugging each other or by even giving each other a back rub. Life can become rather stressful with a newborn on board, but remaining physically in touch with each other will remind the two of you that you’re a team.
It’s natural for both of you to wonder whether you’d ever be able to spend some time alone with each other ever again and the dissolving passion and romance in your relationship can make things worse. However, you can keep the magic going by making out, or at least hugging each other every now and then. As long as the two of you can make intimacy matter, there is a good chance that the passion will keep growing in your relationship.
Make sex a priority later on
When you are cleared to ‘do the deed,’ and you feel up to it, make it a priority. Scheduling sex might seem unromantic, but making it a part of your usual routine will help keep you connected and ensure you’re making time for each other. It’s important to note that many women take much longer to have a sex drive after giving birth, so make sure to keep the lines of communication open and let your spouse know how you are feeling.
3 Don’t Criticize – and Don’t Make Everything About the Baby
Yes babies are adorable – we all know it. But the fact of the matter is that they’re also very demanding and taking care of one is a full-time job that each mother handles in her own special way. For this reason, you need to go easy on your husband as he learns how to look after the little one with you. As he continues to try, be patient with him.
Remember that a new baby brings along the utilization of a whole new set of skills and vocabulary, so while your husband is trying to keep up with you and the baby, don’t criticize him if he goes wrong. Bite your tongue if you find out that he hasn’t put the diaper on right – just be grateful that at least he is willing to help out.
While you’re at it, you also need to bear in mind the fact that not everyone around you is as interested in your baby as you are. They may not want to discuss your baby’s bowel movements and spit-ups, so refrain from talking about the tiniest details of your baby’s day.
Don’t take out your frustrations on each other
This obviously applies to your husband as well. Try not to blurt out every small detail of your day to him the moment he sets foot inside the house. Ask him about his day and only tell him things that you believe he must know. Not everything you talk about has to be associated with your baby.
Becoming and new parent can add up to a lot of stress, but it’s best for the two of you to refrain from taking it out on each other. The two of you will go through an intense learning curve when your baby arrives, so instead of criticizing, try to encourage each other.
2 Don’t Hesitate in Asking for Help
There’s no need for you to take on the ‘Super Mum’ role because taking up way too much responsibility is only going to make you resentful. To keep things light around the house, come up with a plan to balance baby tasks and household chores. Discuss with your spouse the things you believe you need help with and formulate a plan so that the two of you can focus on your baby without feeling like you have a mountain of other tasks to get done.
Also, if you’re offered help from outside sources, make sure that you don’t turn it down. If your friends and family members are willing to help, call them over right away!
While you’re at it, give dad a few baby duties as well. Although you might be the only one who can feed the baby if you are breastfeeding, your husband can help out with diaper duty, naptime, and bottle feedings. It’s nice to have a little break, plus it’s the perfect opportunity for him to bond with your family’s new addition.
An outside support network is much-needed
You need to establish an outside support network so that you can reach out for them in times of need. People like your friends and family members can easily be called on for help during stressful days. If anything, your support network can at least listen to your concerns and offer advice. Also, if you can afford to hire someone to help out with things like meal preparation, laundry, lawn mowing and house cleaning, go ahead with it!
1 Stop Expecting Perfection – Be Flexible
Things are going to change rather drastically when your baby arrives and it’s going to take a bit of time for the two of you to adjust to them. Stay flexible in terms of your expectations so that the two of you don’t feel as stressed out. Remember, there’s no perfect way to parent a baby, so just focus on developing a routine that works not just for your baby, but the two of you as well.
When you do so, try not to worry if your routine is not the same as that of your friends who are doing it. Setting unrealistic expectations is only going to make things worse. If you find unrealistic expectations setting in, have an honest conversation with your spouse and discuss it openly.
With the arrival of your baby, the focus is going to move from you and your spouse to your baby. Instead of making everything about your little one, focus on yourself and your spouse too. Take time out every day to be with each other and just do little things that the both of you like. When your baby takes a nap, do something for both of you instead of just catching up on household chores.
Get out of the house for a bit
Fresh air, fresh faces, and fresh conversation can help you avoid feeling that the world is passing you by. Get out there and be a part of the activities that you and your spouse choose together, irrespective of whether you take your baby along or not. This will help contain feelings of loneliness and isolation that many parents of young children experience.