Having a child is one of life’s greatest blessings however it can also put a lot of strain on a relationship. Tiredness, financial pressures, body changes, mixed emotions, increased responsibility and less time are just some of the factors that can cause issues.
Life changing and challenging, even the happiest of couples can suddenly find themselves on shaky ground as they navigate their way around this new territory of nappies, feeds and sleepless nights.
So how do you keep the love alive? Here are my top five tips to make sure you and your partner remain a solid family unit once there are little ones in the mix:
1. Connect and communicate
Make time to sit down and talk about your day to each other. Even if one of you is working and the other on baby duties, it’s important to share all aspects of your lives and understand what the other one is dealing with on a daily basis. This is also a good opportunity to raise any concerns or frustrations too. Parenthood is very demanding and there is a lot to think about now you’re a family instead of a couple, so be sure not to bottle any emotions up and address any potential issues before they become a big problem.
2. Share responsibility
The best relationships are when you work as a team – even if you don’t have kids. Leading Dr. Stan Tatkin, psychologist and leading relationship expert, calls it the ‘couple bubble’ which is when couples feel safe, supported and secure that their partner has their back no matter what. So take the divide and conquer approach, where you write up a list of chores and responsibilities for your family and between the two of you work out who is going to do each one. Even someone working full time can still help out with children responsibilities, such as taking the reins on the weekend or being in charge of breakfast time. So share the load and you’ll avoid resentment and arguments.
3. Show affection
When you’re sleep deprived, tied to a little person and not feeling so glamorous (especially for women who have been through a lot of physical and hormonal changes), it’s not unusual for romance to take a dive. Just because you might not be spending as much time between the sheets as before however doesn’t mean you can’t still be intimate or show your love for one another. Curl up together to watch TV, kiss each other hello and goodbye, show your appreciation for how well your partner has taken to parenthood, and tell them how much you love them. A lot of issues between new parents can come from misunderstanding – for example some men can feel inadequate and unappreciated when their partner is focused on the baby, and many women can feel unattractive and isolated. But if you’re clear about how much you still love your partner, there will be no confusion and you can focus on the parenthood demands instead.
4. Lock in date nights
It might seem impossible but it really is important for parents to spend quality time together, without children. Get a babysitter or enlist the help of a family member or friend and lock in regular outings or activities for the two of you. Whether it’s having breakfast at the local café for an hour, going on a bike ride together or a romantic meal at a restaurant – whatever you enjoy doing together, plan it out and put it in the diary. And if getting the children minded isn’t an option, you can always create special couple time at home too – for example schedule in a movie night once a week on the couch, enjoy a nice dinner with wine once the kids are in bed, or enjoy a coffee outside together when the baby is napping.
5. Get extra help if you need it
Parenthood can be very demanding and when you’re both fatigued, fed up and frustrated, this is not going to be good for any relationship. So don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help when you need it, or if you can afford it hire more help. Your environment has a lot to do with your emotional state, and so if there is mess everywhere your mind is also going to feel all over the place. So book in a cleaner, get your mother-in-law to watch the baby while you catch up on some sleep, accept your friend’s offer of a cooked meal, and anything else that might help you both feel more organised, in control, happy and content with one another.
Having a child really can make your relationship become even stronger if you’re on the same team, communicating openly and making time for romance - so remember to follow my tips and you’ll be well on your way to creating the loving family unit you know can be.
For more tips, daily quotes and information about love, dating, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Melissa Ferrari - Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert. Also available is information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.