If you’re a new or expectant parent, you’re probably relishing all of the joy, excitement and memories your new baby will bring. You’re also probably fretting over the changes and challenges that will occur, too.
No one prepares us for the relationship struggles that happen after a baby arrives. We don’t realize how taxing sleep deprivation, uncertain parenting roles, money worries and everyday stressors can be on our marriage. You soon realize that your precious arrival has set off a bigger cascade of problems between you and your spouse than you ever knew possible.
If you’re worried about how your newborn baby will affect your relationship, or if you’re currently suffering, know that you are not alone. Marriage research shows that 67 percent of couples report a significant decline in marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby. So how can you and your partner be more like other the 37 percent of marriage overachievers?
Here are five research-proven strategies that will significantly improve your marriage after the birth of a baby:
- Strengthen your friendship by sharing fondness and admiration.
Appreciate your spouse during ordinary moments and recognize their positive aspects. When you see your partner doing something that is helpful, meaningful or thoughtful, express your gratitude to them in a positive way. These everyday appreciations lead to admiration and a feeling of deep friendship.
- Maintain the positive perspective.
Scan your relationship for all of the things that your spouse is doing well, instead of all the things they’re doing wrong. When you speak kindly and respectfully of your partner, think fondly of them and find gratitude in the everyday, you are strengthening the foundation of both the partner and parent relationship. Your marriage will be happier and more fulfilling if you see the good in it. This is a win-win for both your marriage and for baby.
- Talk about the day’s stress in a supportive and constructive way.
We all experience stress on the job, staying at home taking care of a newborn, managing finances and balancing multiple family responsibilities. To help cope with external stressors, it’s important to provide empathy and support to your better half during times of strain and worry. Show that you care and understand, offer support, give affection and help your partner problem-solve. Avoid ignoring your partner, failing to respond, getting defensive, showing criticism or siding with the enemy.
- Practice constructive problem-solving.
Relationship satisfaction is not determined by the number of disagreements you have, but by the way you handle conflict or problems when they occur. Constructive conflict situations occur when you bring up issues in a gentle way without criticism, defensiveness or anger; accept the other person’s interpretation of events; repair the conflict if it starts to turn negative; and compromise by finding common ground. If you stick with these during an argument, you’ll be more likely to bounce back quickly.
- Incorporate intimacy and romance.
After a new baby arrives, the last thing on your mind is getting intimate with your spouse, and that’s OK. Understanding that a decrease in intimacy is common in those first few months and reminding each other that you will get it back helps normalize the experience.
Romance and lovemaking are an important part of a satisfactory relationship, so having an active and healthy sex life is necessary. Even before you start getting some of your sleep and sanity back to even contemplate getting intimate again, continue to show affection, hug, kiss, laugh and maintain closeness daily. Then when ready, start slow and find your passion again. Remember, it takes time, so be patient.
A new baby doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your relationship. You can have a happy, successful relationship with these proven techniques to help you stay connected, improve communication and handle conflict effectively.
New parents photo available from Shutterstock