Written by Emily Graham
Many people fear what will happen to their relationship after a baby. There’s no point in sugarcoating it: it is hard. Studies have shown that relationship satisfaction tends to decline twice as fast for couples with children, which is a scary statistic, to say the least. However, it is important to realize that this often happens because new parents don’t make an effort to remain connected after the baby. Here are the basics of doing just that.
Open, honest, and regular communication is the most important part of any marriage, but this becomes absolutely crucial when you have a baby. A few keys of good communication between spouses include speaking softly, listening actively without interruptions, and honoring each other’s opinions — even when you disagree.
It’s a stressful time for both of you, so empathy is key. Remain a positive source of support for each other, but make sure you are never trying to fix your partner’s feelings. If one of you needs to vent, the other should allow this to happen without judgment or taking responsibility for it.
Communication is harder when you have a baby thanks to the crazy schedule and the constant exhaustion. You may not always have time for long, in-depth chats; however, a daily check-in can do wonders. Marriage Laboratory has a guide to the 10-minute check-in: Go over the good and the bad of the day, express your gratitude for each other, and wrap it up with a kiss.
Making time for non-baby things is one of the things that are going to keep you sane in the coming years. According to Kindred Bravely, you should definitely institute a date night, whether that’s simply watching a movie together, hosting a board game night, having a nice dinner (in or out), or just hanging out together like you used to before the baby. This quality couple time will strengthen your relationship, encourage communication, and ensure you both still feel connected to each other as people, not just parents.
Make Time for Friends
When you become a parent, a sort of rift can form itself between you and your friends. It is important you fight against this, both for your sake and for your marriage. After all, your friends act as a sort of emotional buffer between you and your spouse — if you don’t have anyone else to talk to, it is easy to become codependent and resentful of each other.
Real Simple recommends you find a balance between your new lifestyle and that of your friends, keep regular contact, and focus on being a positive influence in your friends’ lives. Some friends may be harder to connect within the early baby stages, and that’s okay — it doesn’t necessarily mean your friendship is over.
Take Care of Yourself
It feels counter-intuitive for some, but when you take care of your own mental and physical well-being, you are better prepared to take care of both your baby and your marriage. A lot of parents feel guilty about taking time for themselves, or they feel like it’s impossible — but it isn’t! For example, you may think you don’t have time to exercise, but there are plenty of ways to fit it in. Going for walks with your baby, joining exercise groups for mothers, or just investing in some kit to work out at home while your baby is napping can help you stay in shape.
Another great way to fit in self-care is meditating. It’s easy to fit into any schedule (there are meditations as short as three minutes long), can be done anywhere, and a sustained practice does wonders for mental health. You can even apply mindfulness concepts to be a calmer parent and spouse; when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stop, take deep breaths, and focus on your sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
Having a child is the best and most terrifying thing you will do together — but never forget that you are doing it together. This fact alone bonds you in a way nothing else can, but it’s not enough. Remember that you may be parents now, but you were people, partners, and friends first. Learn to tap into who you both used to be before the baby and to make your relationship a priority. You will both be so much happier for it.
About the author: Emily Graham is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.