Relationship Bliss After Baby? It is Possible!

What is the only time that crying, screaming, sleep deprivation and dirty diapers are related to a life-changing milestone of joy? Answer: You guessed it – when you have a baby.

Every parent knows that having a baby brings a myriad of emotions, ranging from the most extreme joy, pride and elation to complete exhaustion, frustration and worry. It’s no wonder that most moms and dads of little ones have times they feel they are on physical, mental and emotional overload, especially in the first few years. I just had my second beautiful baby in August and these feelings are my reality at the present time. My heart feels so much gratitude and love, while laundry is piling up, dinner needs to be made and my toddler needs playtime and attention too. I haven’t even mentioned my husband yet, have I? Oh yes, there’s US too. Our relationship, our marriage – taking care of our relationship is important also. It makes me wonder if it is possible to prioritize everything and still succeed at giving one-hundred percent to it all. And realistically, there is no way a new parent can give their all to everything, there are some things that are going to slide or suffer a bit for the short-term, which is very hard for someone like me who seeks to excel in all my commitments. At the end of the day, I think the relationship that usually gets compromised the most in the early years of having children is that of the couple. Relationship expert John Gottman’s research shows that marital satisfaction declines following the birth of a child for 67% of couples (2011, Journal of Family Psychology, Volume 14, No.1). There are some couples that bounce back from this and resume pre-baby levels of satisfaction, while many others continue declining or remain at lower levels. When baby number two was on the way, I knew how important it would be to focus on not only caring for my baby and my toddler, but also for myself and my marriage. I wanted to be in the 33% who stay satisfied after having children. Parental conflict, stress, depression and mental health issues all have negative effects on children, and having a safe, secure bond with your partner is a buffer against those things. Instead of letting the marital relationship fall to the bottom of my to do list, my goal became to make it a priority because the wellbeing of our marital relationship directly impacts the wellbeing of our children.

Helpful Ways Couples Can Remain Connected After a Baby:

  • Tune into your kids AND your partner and their needs as well
  • Share your own needs and emotions and have real, open conversations about how things are going with your partner.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s hurt and ask for forgiveness when you inevitably fall short and mess up.
  • Make time for regular check-ins with your partner even ten minutes a day helps- to talk about how each partner is doing and what is going on for them.
  • Practice self-care. Engaging in some form of relaxation/meditation daily will allow you to better nurture all your relationships without feeling overwhelmed with stress yourself.
  • Establish family rituals, such as playtime, storytime, eating dinner together, to create shared meaning with your spouse.
  • Have a conversation about how you will divide household chores, responsibilities, childcare duties, work, etc. and try to agree/compromise on a plan. Remember, it is more about HOW you have this conversation, than what you decide.
  • Make time for physical closeness, cuddling and intimacy helps our brain fire off those “feel good” chemicals and it may even lead to sex!
Most importantly, know that it is normal to go through difficult times in your relationship when you have young children, but there are also ways to build back and get to an even better, more connected place as a couple if you navigate the roads with care. Sometimes you may need a map or a guide to help you get there, and that is where a good book, individual or couples therapist comes is super helpful.