You’ve heard that having a baby is the happiest time in your life. Of course, you and your partner are ecstatic to have a new addition to the family. You probably took pregnancy and birthing classes, and you’ve read everything about what to expect when you have a baby. But how much do you know about what will happen to your relationship after children come into the picture?
Most people think that their relationship will improve immediately after bringing the baby home because it is such a happy occasion. Research, on the other hand, indicates this is not the case. Coming home as a family when you’ve always been a couple is stressful, and caring for that tiny human takes a great deal of both of your resources. I encourage couples to take a realistic look at what happens in relationships after baby comes. Just like you would prepare for pregnancy and birth, it’s important to fully prepare for the postpartum period, including what happens in the marriage.
So here you have it-just a few things you can use to understand what to expect and how your relationship will be affected when you become a family.
1. Conflict will increase
Conflict increases for 92% of couples in the first year after having a baby. This makes total sense given the late nights, endless tasks, and resources needed to take care of your baby. Normally, you have a great deal of coping skills to pull from when tough stuff comes up. But in this postpartum period, your resources are depleted. It’s pretty easy to snap at your partner when they ask an unnecessary question or forget the bread. I suggest making a plan before the baby comes for how to deal with conflict, practice expressing your needs and asking for help, and using self-compassion and mindfulness techniques to be more patient and accepting of yourself and your partner. If you need help with any of these areas, contact a therapist to work with you on these skills.
2. You don’t naturally nurture your relationship
Again, you and your partner are overwhelmed with your to-do lists and things that have to get done to take care of your baby. 67% of couples report that their relationship satisfaction is lower in the first three years of their baby’s life. This is because we think there is no time to focus on our relationship because all of our time needs to go to our child. The truth is your marriage is the foundation for your family, and it needs to be nurtured. Furthermore, good relationship satisfaction decreases postpartum depression, which is good for the baby. Having a good relationship leads to happier parents, which leads to a happier baby.
3. Your sex life takes a hit
It’s true, you sex drive will temporarily go down in most cases. Mom’s body needs time to recover and those hormones can do some crazy things. Understand and preparing for these changes can make it easier to deal with when it happens. You can still focus on your physical and emotional intimacy. Don’t forget to hold hands, touch each other’s backs, and lay in bed and talk about what’s going on. These things are important, and when sex is back on the table, will lead to more sexual intimacy anyway. Be honest, and share what’s really going on with your body and your emotions.
4. You realize you have different parenting styles
The issue that often arises is that parents have different ideas about how to handle something, like getting the baby to sleep in their crib, breastfeeding versus formula feeding, or when to start solids, and when these differences arise we question what our partner values. You may get stuck in what you think is best, and your partner can feel rejected or that you don’t value them as your co-parent. It can get tricky real fast. Have a discussion about your ideas and why you see merit in them. Reflect your partner’s idea and explain the potential benefits you see. You can try out one way for a few days and the readjust. You will find that there are typically compromises to be made and you have the chance to understand your partner’s perspective more.
5. There are more opportunities than ever to connect
With increased conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, little time to spend as a couple, and no sex, you may be wondering how on earth there are opportunities to connect. I would argue that there are actually far MORE opportunities to get closer to your partner during this time. Here’s why. The brain is truly amazing, and when parents are getting ready to have their baby, hormones are sent to our brains which increase our vulnerability so that we can bond with our baby. Let’s face it, babies are difficult creatures and our bodies need a way to feel affection even in the face of that shrilling newborn cry. Our brains have found a way to do that. What that means is that all parents are more open during this time, and what better opportunity to bond with your partner? There will be really hard times (which is why conflict increases), but if you are prepared and understand these dynamics, you can actually turn things around. Use those challenges as a way to have a heart-to-heart with your partner, share your feelings, and listen to their perspective. Vulnerability seems really hard, but we know that it actually brings people closer together.
If you are a new or expecting parent, I’d love to work with you on getting ready for the upcoming changes in your life and relationship. I believe being prepared is one of the best ways to foster a nurturing relationship and family, as well as decrease symptoms of postpartum depression for both partners. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist located in the Clear Lake area of Houston, Tx. I work with couples that are looking to have an amazing relationship during challenges situations. Call (832) 827-3288 for your free 20 minute phone consultation.
Want to learn some new parenting skills and how to remain calm during tough times? Check this out.