Taking Care of Your Marriage After Baby

marriage-after-baby-date-ideas

You may have heard that the research shows that for the majority of couples, the quality of marriage goes down after having a baby. Sometimes simply knowing this can be helpful in navigating the transition to parenthood. It is okay to miss what you used to have, but at the same time you can discover your new normal together and continue to invest in one another and your marriage.

Here are four ideas to keep in mind:

Talk through your expectations.  Much of your experiences are riding on the expectations (whether conscious and unconscious) you have for them and whether or not they are met.  It is not uncommon for couples to have unrealistic expectations for what caring for a baby is really like. Oftentimes it is their first real experience bathing, feeding, diapering, and soothing a newborn.  Lots of time is spent preparing for the labor and delivery, but there is very little emphasis on practical parenting skills. This can leave couples feeling overwhelmed, surprised, angry, or like they are failing when they experience what it is really like to bring baby home. So talk (and keep talking) about your expectations around divisions of household labor, tending to the baby’s needs day and night, who’s going to shop and cook as you adjust to a new baby in the house.   

marriage after baby

Continue to invest in your relationship with your partner. This may be challenging to navigate first with a newborn, but you will soon discover a new normal. At first, you may not be able to or may not want to go on long dates where you leave your baby in someone else’s care. But just because your dating life may look different, does not mean you can’t invest in one another. Have an at-home date while that baby is sleeping.  Be intentional about making it a little more special by lighting a candle, getting take out from your favorite restaurant, or enjoying a special dessert together.  Put away screens and focus on connecting as a couple. If the baby interrupts the moment, don’t get discouraged. In fact, expect that it may happen and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t. Know your dating life will evolve as your child grows.

Continue investing in yourself as individuals. In marriage, it is still important to pursue your own interests and attend to your own needs that may be different from your spouse’s.  This allows you to come back to your partner filled up and invest more in the relationship. As much as we would like it to be true, our partners cannot be everything to us in all things. It is important that we maintain our unique identity as individuals in the face of a marital relationship.  You only have so much energy that is spread across yourself, your relationships, and your contributions to the world.  So in order to balance this energy exchange, you need to fill yourself up through self-care in order to bring a better you to your marriage and your parenting. This can be especially hard for mothers, who often report feeling guilty or selfish if they take time away from their families to get a pedicure, enjoy some quiet reading time at the coffee shop, or to spend some money on new clothes for themselves.  But the reality is, by taking time to care for yourself, you are going to have more to give in your relationships and you will be a better spouse and parent.

Practice gratitude with each other.  If you are intentional about thanking your spouse, even for the little things, it can make a huge difference.  It can feel silly to say, “Thanks for doing the dishes” when you have talked about it and you expect that your spouse does them. But it can make a difference in your relationship.  The more you practice gratitude with you spouse, the more you notice the things they are doing well. You will be more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt when challenges arise instead of jumping to negative conclusions.

By implementing the above ideas, hopefully you and your spouse will continue to grow in your marriage and as new parents. If you are experiencing extra challenges and stress in your relationship, please reach out and get help from a counselor. Contact me: analisa@liminalspacecounseling.com or 651-605-6022