By Theresa Herring, LMFT
For some couples, parenthood brings marital satisfaction, connection, and joy. However, after having kids, many couples find that their spouse feels more like a roommate than a partner. Conversations become about household tasks, logistics, and the kids. Which means intimacy, friendship, and romance often fall by the wayside. In fact, research shows that relationship satisfaction typically plummets for the first three years after baby.
Now parenthood is by no means a marital death wish. You can successfully navigate the transition to parenthood without losing your relationship with your partner. In fact, if you follow the four tips below, you’ll be off to a great start!
- Build and Maintain Friendship
The foundation of a strong marriage is a solid friendship. We build this foundation early on in a relationship during our long talks on the phone and in person. We get to know each other’s interests, passions, hobbies, and dreams. Unfortunately, as our relationship continues, we can get lazy, think we know our partner, and make assumptions. When we do this, we start to lose that connection and friendship. So how do you build and maintain it? Ask open ended questions:
- “What are your dreams for your/our future?”
- “What excites/scares you most about parenthood?”
- “How has being pregnant/having our baby changed our relationship?”
- “What changes would you like to make in our life now that baby is here/coming?”
- “What are your hopes and dreams for your career? For our family? For our relationship?”Continuing to keep tabs on who your partner is helps the two of you grow together rather than apart.
- Have daily stress-reducing conversations
Parenthood (during and after maternity/paternity leave) is stressful. Usually neither of you is sleeping well, which makes stressors more significant. So setting aside 20 minutes a day to take turns sharing about your day can relieve stress and foster connection. During this time, tune into your partner and really listen. There is nothing more soothing than being cared for and heard.
- Balance family time with couple time
It is incredibly important for your new family to bond. Moms generally get quite a bit of time with baby, but it’s just as important for dads to be involved. Your kid needs both of you. The biggest predictor of paternal involvement is a strong relationship with mom. Dads are more likely to play with baby and be involved in parenting when they feel connected to mom. So please don’t skimp on couple time during this pivotal time in your life. You’re going to need each other through this parenting process. Your kid is depending on you.
- Express admiration, affection, and appreciation
We all need a little extra love and support when we are sleep deprived and cranky. Don’t save it all for baby. Show your partner affection (they also need snuggles for bonding!). Tell your partner what you admire and appreciate about them. Keep investing in the emotional bank account so sleepless nights don’t deplete it.
Interested in learning more on this topic? Check out my workshop “Redefining Relationships After Parenthood: Baby Proof your Marriage and Bond with your Child” at Bubbles Academy on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. You can get tickets on Eventbrite.
Theresa Herring, LMFT, specializes in helping parents reconnect with themselves and their partner post-baby. She offers couples therapy for new parents in her office in Evanston and online counseling for moms who need sessions during baby’s naptime. Learn more at http://centeredconnections.com