Most parents will agree that having their baby has been a beautiful experience and a blessing in their lives. And while having a baby brings so many joys, it’s a disservice to couples to not be prepared for some of the tougher parts of having a baby.
Transitioning to parenthood is a difficult time for most first time parents – and one that is talked less about. Very few couples are prepared for the dramatic shift their life takes with the arrival of a little human. Long gone are the relaxing weekend afternoons, movie nights, hand-in-hand evening strolls, and spontaneous plans with friends. Life in those first few months becomes about survival mode with sleepless nights, baby schedules, and breastfeeding battles. Amidst all of this, a couple is transitioned into a new role of becoming parents over night (one they don’t even have time to make sense of or process), faced with an increase of domestic duties, decreased sex life, increased expenses, decreased date nights, and increased family time with baby…and grandparents!
With all these changes that impact a couple’s relationship, it’s no surprise Drs. John Gottman and Julie Gottman (renowned psychologists and researchers who have been studying couples for decades), found that 67% of couples in their research reported decreased relationship satisfaction for as much as 3 years since having their first child. So, what are some things first time parents can do to prevent relationship dissatisfaction after the birth of their child? Here are 3 tips to actively implement in your relationship post-baby:
- Be Friends: Maintain your pre-baby friendship during the transition to parenthood. Don’t lose sight of who you were to each other before you became parents. Keep getting to know each other on an intimate level, as you would with a friend. Continue to acquaint yourself to each other’s thoughts, feelings, each other’s work day and personal day, ups and downs with friends or other relationships, etc. Continue to celebrate joys and grieve sorrows together.
- Listen & Support: Don’t let stresses of daily life build up inside of you. Continue to share your frustrations with each other as you would before baby arrived. Rough day at work? Baby being extra fussy? Forgot to do something very important? Use these stresses as opportunity to vent in order to gain comfort, support, and encouragement from each other. This will help both of you feel like you’re “in it” together.
- Be Gentle: If something is upsetting you, be mindful of how you approach the discussion or disagreement. Saying something harshly will only lead to defensiveness, shutting down, or fighting back. Approach conflict in a manner that is calm and rational in order to have productive conversations and build common ground with each other. Click here to understand the difference between a harsh start-up and a gentle one.
While implementing these 3 tips might seem difficult – what with sleepless night, low patience, and a crying baby – it is important for couples to make conscious efforts to prevent conflict and maintain relationship satisfaction those first few months postpartum. With everything that parents do for their precious babies, the greatest gift a couple can give their child is the gift of a happy, healthy, secure relationship between each other.