Having a baby is one of the most stressful times in a marriage. Sleepless nights and fights over whose turn it is to change diapers can make even a strong relationship suffer.
Despite the excitement that comes with welcoming a new baby, research shows that within three years of the birth of a child, approximately two-thirds of couples will experience a significant drop in their relationship quality and a dramatic increase in relationship conflict, hostility, and dissatisfaction. (Gottman, 1999)
I know that in my own life, I feel completely exhausted at the end of the day. My patience is short and my expectations of my husband are often too high. This is definitely not a good situation, but I know I’m not alone.
I feel believe that having a good relationship with your spouse is imperative to building a happy family. A good relationship between parents builds security for children and shows them how to be in a loving relationship.
All couples disagree and, though it is important for children to see people get along, it’s also good for them to learn how to deal with conflict.
3 things I try to focus on in my marriage:
Spend Time Together
It’s important to remember that your role as a spouse continues even when you become a parent. A good relationship requires time and intimacy – elusive commodities for new parents.
My husband and I schedule a date night every couple of weeks. I think these are kind of stressful because it takes a lot of planning and there is so much pressure to get all dressed up and have fun. I actually prefer nice family nights at home where Matt and I can relax together after the kids go to bed. With his work schedule, this isn’t a reality for us very often, hence the date nights, but I do cherish both.
Talk to your partner about your expectations of each other and of the kids. I find that most of our parenting decisions are up to me since I am home most often. It is my responsibility to talk to my husband about these strategies so that we can be on the same page. On the same note, I expect my husband to talk to me about anything at his job that may affect our family – like schedules, meetings, etc.
In addition to talking family logistics, I crave adult conversations like we used to. Being around kids all day is emotionally draining and I feel like it makes my brain deteriorate. I once read a study that parents should talk to each other uninterrupted for 20 minutes a day and ask open-ended questions that lead to real conversations. That sounds perfect to me.
Appreciate Each Other
If you’re staying home to care for the baby, you may find yourself doing more work than ever around the house. In spite of that, your efforts may go unappreciated. The working partner often perceives that the stay at home partner is not really doing much at home and has plenty of time to clean, cook, and take care of other household chores.
The reality is that caring for a baby requires more work than most full-time jobs. On the flip-side, the working partner may be jealous that they do not get to spend as much time with the kids. Regardless of your family’s setup, being a parent is hard. It’s important that partners take time to recognize the efforts each puts in.
Tell your partner “thank you” every day. There are a million ways to do this, but some of my favorites include:
- A written note saying “thank you for _______.”
- Taking the kids somewhere and leaving your partner at home in a quiet house.
- A giant hug at the end of the day that says “I couldn’t do what you do, so thanks for doing it.”
“Having a child intensifies everything in a relationship,” Jerrold Lee Shapiro, PhD, a clinical psychologist and chairman of the department of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California. tells WebMD. “With the arrival of a child, everything good in a marriage gets better, everything bad gets worse. A couple that has good intimacy will find a lot more to share, more experiences to get excited about together. A couple that has a lot of distance will find that a child becomes a wedge.”
Instead of sitting at home doting on your little one all the time, make some time for your partner. It’s easy to forget about each other’s needs when there are kids in the house that require so much love, attention, and energy. You may find yourselves bickering a lot or just not connecting the way you used to. It takes time to adjust to being parents. Make it a priority to line up a sitter and go do adult things, just the two of you. The time alone will help you reconnect, and fall in love all over again.