There’s no doubt about it, having children is probably the biggest change to your life as you once knew it, so it’s natural your relationship will go through changes after having a baby. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare for it, most parents feel out of their depth at one time or another.
Kids are wonderful, they’re cute and smell scrummy (there’s nothing better than that new-born baby smell), but they can also be a tremendous handful: demanding, unpredictable and downright hard work.
As a relationship coach I always get a bit nervous and sweaty when a couple who may be having problems suddenly decide that a baby will be the saving grace of their partnership.
A ‘band-aid’ baby is never in my opinion a great idea; cracks that were there at the beginning of a relationship are very unlikely to go away the minute a little sleep thief enters the marital home. However, on the flip side, children are a precious symbol of your love and growth as a couple – and they can bring a lot of joy and purpose.
Some parents liken bringing your baby home from hospital for the first time as akin to dropping a grenade into your front room, taking the pin out, and bracing yourself….waiting for it to go off at any time. I find that to be a pretty good description, and it’s safe to say life revolves around that little bundle of joy from that moment on.
This is when relationships can suffer and fall by the wayside. It’s perfectly understandable why the spotlight might shift from being a couple, to being parents as the role of a parent is all consuming. However, it’s important that priority and TLC is given to your relationship too. After all, if you can’t be the best to yourselves, you’ll struggle to be the best to anybody else.
Five Ways to Cope with Relationship Changes After a Baby
Here’s how you can future proof your relationship through those challenging child rearing years:
1. Accept the Change
Everyone reacts differently to parenthood, it’s such an individual thing with bespoke feelings to boot.
Some people love it instantly, others struggle with their new role of responsibility and need some time to adapt. Be kind to each other, be open about your feelings, accept how each other might be feeling, and support each other unconditionally and without judgement.
2. Communicate Honestly to Avoid Resentment
Be wary of resentment and ‘grass is greener’ mentality. You’ve been rubbing along just fine as a duo, now there’s another human in the mix which is a big shift in your couple dynamic.
Perhaps you’re resenting your partner going to work ‘leaving you home with the baby’, perhaps you’re feeling a bit jealous that your other half gets to ‘chill at home with the baby’, or you might even feel naffed off that your partner seems able to sleep through the night feeds while you’re up all hours.
Talk to each other, say how you’re feeling, and get some perspective on each other’s viewpoint to help dissolve any feelings of resentment brewing.
READ MORE: What Are the Four Attachment Styles?
3. Find Other Ways to Be Intimate
The sex drought! It’s fair to say that most couples aren’t swinging from the chandeliers moments after giving birth.
It’s also realistic to suggest that a lot of couples aren’t feeling particularly amorous for some time after becoming parents. Having a baby is a physically challenging experience, it’s also a mentally frazzling one for many.
Body hang-ups, sleep deprivation, identity changes and stress can all affect your libido, so be kind to each other, don’t rush to jump into bed, and instead work on your intimacy in other ways such as cuddling, kissing and massaging. Take the pressure of ‘doing it’ away and you’ll end up enjoying each other more.
4. Make Time to Put Each Other First
Prioritise each other. Yes the kiddies need you, yes you love the little bundles of gorgeousness, but in the love you feel for your little people, don’t neglect the one person who helped make it happen – your partner.
Ask a family member or friend to babysit while you do something together (even if it’s just for an hour), plan adults-only excursions/date nights, and don’t let your kids elbow you out of your own bed! Your ‘couple time’ is sacred and private, and it’s okay for your kids to know that sometimes you both want some alone time.
5. Listen to Each Other
Beware of the bickering. Being knackered, conflicting parenting styles, feeling taken for granted, household chores….lots of parents report getting ratty with each other over the day to day things that can escalate if gone unresolved.
Every couple argues, and it’s perfectly normal (and healthy) to argue as long as it’s respectful.
Disagreements are okay, they are an important part of growing together and learning what each other's needs are. Be sure to listen to each other, tune in what the issue is, and work together to communicate effectively to resolve any problems before they become whoppers.
Want even more relationship advice? Make sure you learn what your love language is (and your partner’s) to aid better communication.