Raising a family can enhance your relationship, according to Silvina Irwin, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who works with couples. But the resources, time and energy you once devoted to your relationship will naturally get depleted, she said.
“Couples often find themselves making more withdrawals from the relationship bank, and making fewer deposits,” she said.
In more traditional households, dads might feel like they’ve lost their wives to their little one, while moms might feel utterly overwhelmed, Irwin said.
And this can have serious consequences for the relationship. Men might feel “less desired and less desirable,” turning away from the relationship and toward close female co-workers, gaming or pornography, she said. Women might feel “devalued and abandoned. This can breed resentment, frustration and confusion, as they may ask themselves ‘What happened to my supportive partner?’ and they feel largely on their own.”
So what can you do?
Irwin offered these four tips to help you reconnect, maintain your intimacy and have a healthy relationship.
1. Date your spouse.
Make time to reconnect outside the home — just the two of you and without interruptions. “Find trusted sitters and family if you have them close by to lean on so you and your partner can go out and spend adult time with one another,” Irwin said.
2. Spend together time at home — minus the kids.
Even if it’s just a few minutes, spend those moments together after your kids are asleep, Irwin said. Avoid talking about the kids and schedules, she said. Instead, focus on your relationship. Simply start with “how are we doing?” she said.
3. Don’t forget about the little things.
Small gestures can be powerful. For instance, “physical contact promotes a wealth of positive feelings, and can help couples feel closer and more connected,” Irwin said. Take a minute or two to hug or kiss your partner, and try holding hands more often, Irwin said.
4. Ask for what you need.
Oftentimes we expect our partners to know exactly what we need. But, as Irwin said, “your partner isn’t a mind reader.” Spell out your needs. If you miss him or her and need more time together, just say it. Be receptive to your partner’s needs as well. “The more each of you feels like you can turn to one another, the greater your sense of security and safety will be in the relationship — and security and safety are the cornerstone for intimacy.”
For more on how parenthood affects marriage — and how to overcome the obstacles — check out this piece.
When you first became a parent, what helped you sustain your relationship? What issues did you run into?
How do you maintain your intimacy now?