Being a parent is tough. Whether it’s your first child or your seventh, it’s stressful. Believe me, I know—I have twins. With all of the diaper changing, holding, feeding, burping, rocking, shhhh-ing, and worrying that takes place in those first few months, your relationship with the person who created this tiny human being with you may begin to suffer. It is vital that you do not let this happen. I know, you now have this overwhelming desire to spend every waking moment staring at, talking to, talking about, playing with, and caring for your new bundle of joy. And you should—to an extent. You still need to work on your relationship with your partner in crime, you know, the guy who got you into this mess in the first place.
Unfortunately, the ugly truth is that having kids can end relationships and ruin marriages. The stress from all of the new responsibilities and the hours and hours taken away from the alone time you once had with your partner can put a serious strain on even the healthiest of relationships. The best way to avoid the many issues that will most definitely arise is to not put your relationship with your significant other on the back burner. You’re going to have to figure out how to use both proverbial front burners; one for your baby and one for your partner.
Try out some of the suggestions below to maintain and maybe even intensify your relationship after a baby.
Take a Time-Out
I know it will be difficult, but try not to let your new little angel take up all of your time. Not only do you need time alone with yourself (which should be more than just your weekly shower), but you also need to continue to spend quality alone time with your partner. Whether this means that you put the baby in the other room and cuddle on the couch for an hour or recruit a family member to watch your offspring so you can have a romantic dinner for two, try to take a time out for you and your partner at least one or two times a week. Even a simple walk around the block without your child will help you continue to develop your bond. Your relationship will thank you down the road.
Gatekeeping is when one parent (usually mom) takes control of the caregiving and household chores. She then (either consciously or unconsciously) limits dad’s involvement by preventing him from caring for their child (“It’s okay, I’ll do it”), criticizing how he cares for their child (“That’s not how you change a diaper”), or failing to encourage him. Try not to tell your partner how he should or should not care for his child; bite your tongue. He may not have the same knowledge about newborns as you, but he’s perfectly capable of figuring it out. Make sure that he knows how much you appreciate him and compliment him when he does something well. Studies have found that this will not only enable him to be more involved, but it will also decrease conflict in your relationship.
Humor has been shown to be a significant predictor of satisfaction in relationships (Bazzini et al., 2007; Ziv, 1988; Ziv and Gadish, 1989). Try not to take this new adventure so seriously; laugh about the mishaps you experience instead of worrying about them. Believe me, there will be a lot to laugh about in the coming weeks. From getting peed on by your little boy to spilling three ounces of pumped breast milk on the floor, there will be moments that will make you want to scream and cry; try laughing instead. In addition, laughter can easily break any tension that you and your partner may be experiencing. In fact, research has shown that jokes that facilitate your relationship or reduce tension are extremely effective in conflict situations (Campbell et al., 2008). Teasing and sarcasm, on the other hand, should be avoided during disagreements.
Mess with the Routine
Researchers have found evidence to support the idea that ngaging in new, interesting, and exciting activities with your partner are very beneficial to your relationship (Aron et al., 2000). Routines are great (especially with a new baby), but always knowing what’s going to happen next can become monotonous and boring. To help avoid this problem, try to spice up your life every once in a while. To do this, you could go for a walk in the afternoon instead of the middle of the day or surprise your partner at work with lunch. You could also get a babysitter and go out on a unique date or cook a special meal together. Big or small, messing with your daily routine from time to time will help keep things interesting in your relationship.
*This article was originally published on JensLoveLessons.com in August 2009.
**Jen is the creator of JensLoveLessons.com, a website dedicated to helping you effectively initiate, maintain, and sometimes end relationships by providing you with real relationship advice based on real relationship research and real life experiences.
References for this article:
Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C. and Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couple’s shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273–284.
Bazzini, D. G., Stack, E. R., Martincin, P. D., and Davis, C. P. (2007). The effects of reminiscing about laughter on relationship satisfaction. Motivation and Emotion, 31, 25–34.
Campbell, L., Martin, R. A., & Ward, J. R. (2008). An observational study of humor while resolving conflict in dating couples. Personal Relationships, 15, 41–55.
Ziv, A. (1988). Humor’s role in married life. Humor, 1, 223–229.
Ziv, A., and Gadish, O. (1989). Humor in marital satisfaction. The Journal of Social Psychology, 129, 759–768.