How Having a Baby Affects Your Relationship With Your Partner

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The transition from being a couple to having a baby and becoming parents is an exciting, empowering, and life-changing experience. Likewise, it's also draining, frustrating, and time-consuming. And, the combination of all of these factors can really take a toll on your relationship if you're not careful.

In fact, research has shown that couples typically experience an increase in conflict and a decrease in overall satisfaction when their first child is born. There are a number of factors that contribute to these feelings including adjustment to new roles and depleted resources like time, sleep, and money.

Many parents are shocked to discover that relationship discord after a baby is born is a reality. They assume that having a baby will naturally bring them closer as a couple. But for that to happen, new parents have to put as much planning and effort into preserving and protecting their marriage as they do in preparing the nursery and taking childbirth classes.

While having a baby is a special time filled with wonder and awe, life with a newborn is incredibly stressful and full of unforeseen challenges along the way. Here's how couples can discuss and prepare for some of the potential pitfalls and issues before they start.

Divide Responsibilities Equally

Parenting can sometimes be exhausting, thankless work that can create stress in a marriage or relationship if expectations for equitable participation are not met.

To broach the subject, you can talk about how the parenting responsibilities were handled in your family and how you want to do things in your own family. Discuss what you both would like to see and figure out a compromise that works for both partners.

Resentment, anger, and frustration can develop in a marriage if one partner feels like they are doing all the work and never gets a break. Regardless of whether you both plan to continue working, or one parent plans to stay at home full time, the childcare, meal preparation, and household chores need to be split in a way that makes sense for your family. It is unrealistic to expect one parent to shoulder all the responsibilities.

Discuss Sleep Strategies

Another major source of contention among new parents is the amount of sleep, they are getting. It's no secret that newborns are awake at odd hours and may even get their days and nights mixed up. Most newborns need to be fed every two to three hours, especially if they are breastfeeding so, it may be a few months before new parents get uninterrupted sleep.

To plan for this stressful and draining time period, couples should decide how to handle the sleepless nights. Try to avoid scenarios where one partner sleeps every night with no worries about getting up and tending to the baby.

Even if one partner works during the week and the other stays at home, they should develop a strategy that allows both new parents some sleep.

For instance, the working parent can get up with the baby on the weekends. Or, if mom is breastfeeding and staying at home, her partner could get up, change the baby's diaper, and bring the baby to mom. If both parents are working and they are bottle feeding the baby, they can take turns getting up with the baby.

The key is that one parent is not saddled with all the nighttime duties. Talk about your ideas before the baby arrives and come up with a game plan. But, be willing to change it after the baby arrives if it's not working out for one or both of you.

The key is that you talk about your needs and be willing to work together. The sleep solution will be different for every couple, but every couple should have one.

Show Appreciation for One Another

One of the biggest complaints about marriage is feeling unappreciated. Put fuel in your partner's gas tank with little words of praise. Saying things like: "You are so good with the baby," "I love that you are feeding our little one," or "Thank you for working so hard every day so that I can stay home with the baby," give your partner the energy to face another day of parenting.

If telling your partner how much you love and appreciate them is not something that comes easily for you, then set a reminder on your phone. Then, follow through with a word of encouragement.

You also can buy a pack of blank notecards and write a thoughtful note once a week. Or, leave post-it notes around the house before you leave for work. Even thoughtful text messages throughout the day can lift your partner's spirits.

Accept Parenting Differences

No two partners will interact with and parent their kids the same. And, this is often a good thing. Instead of insisting that your partner parent exactly like you, accept and appreciate the differences.

Perhaps one partner tends to be more nurturing while the other tends to enjoy active play like peek-a-boo or tickling. Both types are interactions are important and should be appreciated.

There also may be slight differences in the way each parent diapers or feeds the baby. Refrain from correcting your partner. Doing so may cause them to pull back from helping out with the baby.

Be willing to accept that your partner may do things differently and that is OK. Different is not the same thing as wrong.

Invest in Your Relationship

Whether it is spending alone time together or making sure you are having sex, it is important that you make a concerted effort to keep the romance alive in your relationship.

Before your baby arrives, talk about how you will address this keeping in mind that a new mom will need ample time to recover after birth. Normally, sex is permitted after the bleeding stops for a vaginal delivery and longer if mom had c-section or any complications.

Consequently, it's important that there's no pressure to be physically intimate until you're both ready. But, there are other just as important ways for couples to bond including spending quality time together talking, cuddling on the couch during a movie, or taking a leisurely walk together.

Never forget that your relationship is a priority. You can't just put it on the back burner and expect it to be fine in five years. Whether you hire a sitter for a date night each week, or simply plan some adult time over a cup of coffee in the morning, it's vital to keep the connection alive in your relationship. In the end, doing so will benefit your marriage as much as it will benefit your children.

Acknowledge and Discuss Feelings

There are a lot of feelings that can develop after a new baby arrives—and many of them may surprise you. For instance, it is not uncommon for new parents to experience jealousy. Or one or both of you may not find parenting a newborn enjoyable. In fact, you might think it's downright boring.

It's also not uncommon for new moms to experience loneliness and struggle with their changing identity. All of these feelings are normal. The key is that you acknowledge them and discuss them with your partner.

It's important that you are open and honest with one another about how you're feeling. Likewise, you both need to be supportive and good listeners. Acknowledge what your partner is telling you without trying to fix it.

Instead, focus on being empathetic and asking what your partner would like for you do to help make it better. Sometimes all they want is for you to listen and offer a hug. Other times, your partner may want you to do something differently. The key is that you don't invalidate or minimize their feelings but that you listen with an open mind.

A Word From Verywell

When disagreements arise—and they will—make time to discuss them. Addressing conflicts sooner rather than later will pay off in the end. Not only will your partnership benefit, but as your children grow, situations and concerns will change and you will have established a good line of communication and an ability to collaborate.

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