Nursing. Solids. Sleep. Teething. With the help of baby books and the internet, expectant parents are often well-versed in what’s to come. However, relationship challenges that accompany parenthood continue to be underestimated.
Decades of research shows that regardless of age, marital status, or orientation, having children strains relationships. A sobering statistic reveals that 92% of couples report more conflict post-baby. As you and your partner’s focus shifts from each other to your baby, your identities as “partner” may take a backseat to “parent,” leading to disconnection.
The good news is that by predicting the challenges you’ll face, you can mindfully approach this exciting transition without sacrificing your relationship satisfaction.
Consider the following tips to protect your partnership post-baby.
Formula for Success
You’re aware by now that 1+1= 3. There’s another powerful relationship formula to keep in mind while preparing your baby’s bottle. In his extensive research on couples, John Gottman discovered a magic ratio for relationship satisfaction and it’s 5:1. What does that mean? For every battle, bicker or badger, try nourishing your relationship with five positive encounters. Pro-relationship acts don’t have to be grand— simply share a laugh, smile, hug, or appreciation.
It’s no secret that new parenthood stressors sap the spark, and that couples have less sex after a baby’s arrival. For that reason, it’s important to schedule “do dates” after your due date. Take your in-laws up on their offer to babysit and set aside quality time for connection. New research shows that the relationship benefits of sexual intimacy can linger for up to 48 hours after the act, powering you and your partner through intimacy lulls when lullabies take center stage.
As a new parent, you’ll quickly find yourself cooing at your baby. This infant directed speech, known as Motherese, engages your baby and stimulates development. Just as you change your communication style to suit your little one, be sure to extend intentional communication to your partner as well. Check out Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages to find out how you can most effectively express love to your partner through words, touch, acts of service, gifts, and/or quality time.
Swaddle Your Love
The practice of swaddling infants is intended to make them feel safe and secure. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired For Love, and founder of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT), asserts that a sense of safety and security are paramount in romantic relationships as well. Consider PACT couples therapy to build and maintain relationship skills that will help buffer you from challenges and protect a prized possession- the relationship that brought you your bundle of joy.