If you thought being in a relationship was hard before kids…WOW, it’s next level after a baby arrives*.
Being a new parent is HARD. It’s intense, overwhelming, overstimulating, and just sooo exhausting! The work truly never ends, and there are always pending items on the to-do list.
So where does that leave you and your relationship? How you make time for each other? How do you remain connected? How do you continue to love and support each other when your time together is so limited, and you’re just so tired???
It’s not easy – let’s normalize that. BUT, if you’re reading this, most likely it’s also really important to you. To make it happen requires intentional actions to keep the magic alive.
Check out these 5 tips to support staying connected with your partner after baby’s arrival.
1) Acknowledge the change.
It is VERY common for marital satisfaction to decrease initially after having a child. In fact, Research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman shows that nearly 2/3 of couples experience a decline in marital satisfaction after their baby is born.
So if this is you, you’re definitely not alone.
Becoming a parent is a HUGE life change and inherently impacts a couple’s relationship. Simply put, you just have less time for each other and you may, at least initially, have to prioritize your child’s needs above your relationship.
THIS IS NORMAL. REPEAT. THIS IS NORMAL.
Acknowledging that your relationship will change, to some degree, can help to support having realistic expectations. It’s a lot easier to adjust to a change when you expect it and can mentally prepare for it.
Then, when you experience that shift, simply acknowledge that this is part of the adjustment to parenthood and that it makes sense that there would be a period of time where staying connected is harder and frankly just doesn’t feel the same as it did before baby.
2) Communicate your needs.
Relational roles shift after the arrival of a baby. They just do. You and your partner might have divvied up the household responsibilities in a way that made sense for the two of you as a couple, but those duties will likely have to shift to some degree after your baby arrives.
In order to best support this adjustment, it’s vital to communicate your needs and explore the changes in roles. If you are currently expecting a child, it can be really helpful to talk through the anticipated shift in responsibilities ahead of time to reduce the stress of trying to figure them out after the baby has arrived.
Of course, adjustments to roles will likely happen after the baby arrives as well. You might anticipate certain needs or duties which may end up looking quite different as you live out the experience. That’s entirely expected and okay.
3) Utilize little moments of connection.
Micro-moments of connection can be very helpful as you adjust to spending less time together. Pre-parenthood, most couples are used to spending a lot of time together but struggle to figure out how connection can still feel like a priority after a baby joins their family.
Little moments may initially seem insignificant but they can actually make a huge difference. These things include acts of service like getting a glass of water or taking care of the dishes without being asked. It can also look like a hug, kiss, or touch as you pass by, or a kind comment like, “You’re doing a great job” or “I appreciate you.”
The little things can literally be a life raft, sustaining you and your partner as you adjust to less quality time together.
4) Plan in dates/intimacy and stick with it.
While you and your partner may have once been guided by spontaneity, you might now benefit from scheduled time together. Not only does getting away from your baby require planning some sort of childcare, putting a date/time/place/activity on the calendar also makes it much more likely that it’ll actually happen.
These are the times when you are able to prioritize the relationship. As much as possible, leave the baby stuff at home and focus on the things that you two connect on aside from your child. Of course it might be hard not to talk about the baby at all, but be mindful of where the conversation is going and try to prioritize connecting in some of the ways that you enjoyed pre-baby.
Some couples also find it helpful to schedule physical intimacy. While it can feel unromantic to some, others finds it helpful not only to ensure that it happens but also to have that time together as something to look forward to and get into the right mindset for.
5) Take time for yourself.
Being able to show up in your marriage starts with showing up for yourself. It’s really hard to be able to be the partner that you want to be if you aren’t taking care of yourself. This doesn’t mean that you will be doing your pre-baby self-care routine, but it does mean that you are doing things to fill up your individual cup so that you have energy to give your relationship.
This reminder is meant especially for you parents who feel guilty taking time for yourself. It’s needed and necessary for you to thrive and also for your relationship to thrive.
Becoming a parent is life-changing. It’s wonderful in so many ways, but it can also present some challenges, especially when it comes to connecting with your partner. The key to staying connected is to be intentional in your actions and remember that it might not come as naturally as it did pre-baby, and that’s okay. You and your partner are capable of creating a new rhythm in your relationship that reflects this current life stage.
*This blog is meant to be inclusive of ALL new parents, regardless of how you became a parent, whether through giving birth, adoption, or surrogacy. All information can also be applied to couples who adopt older children.