When my husband of 10 years and I found out we were having a baby, we knew our lives would change dramatically. We expected sleep deprivation and less 'alone time'. But I thought that ‘us’ as a couple would remain relatively unchanged. Boy, was I wrong.
The reality is, having a baby can put a strain on even the strongest relationship. With my baby now a toddler, here's what I have learnt that helped my relationship get back on track after the early chaotic days:
1. Give Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt
When it's 3am and you are up for the eighth time with a crying baby, it can be quite easy to come across as annoyed or snappy with your partner. So we have a rule in our house. What is said between the hours of 12am and 5am cannot be held against the other person.
They might seem like a demented crazy person at times, but you know deep down that they are fun and lovely. They, like you, are probably just tired and trying to adjust to life as a parent.
2. Divide and Conquer
I think we're all guilty of putting high expectations on our partner without really communicating what we need. I definitely am guilty of this. I just expect that my husband will know by instinct what I need from him without actually telling him.
So I've started to be really clear and concise in what I need from him. After about our umpteenth fight about my husband not doing enough housework, we sat down together and literally wrote a list of everything we expect the other to do. After a very calm and reasonable conversation we both came away knowing exactly what the other one was ‘in charge’ of.
3. Revisit Divide and Conquer Regularly
Babies grow so quickly, especially in the first year, and their routine seems to change weekly or sometimes even daily. So it's important to revisit the above ‘Divide and Conquer’ strategy on a regular basis. What works one week may not work the next. By re-addressing your needs, you are once again not presuming your partner can read your mind.
4. Show Some Love
I know that intimacy may be the absolute last thing on your mind when you have a new baby. But you know what is achievable and can be totally lovely? A good old-fashioned kiss. Holding hands. A pat on the back. Cuddling in bed before falling asleep. However you as a couple show your affection towards each other.
Just showing some affection once a day, can spark some intimacy and remind yourself of the love you share.
5. Have a Laugh
It can be completely overwhelming dealing with a baby. You can question everything you are doing and constantly doubt yourself.
But when you aren’t stressing about your baby, I bet you still have a great sense of humour lurking in there somewhere. Try not to lose the joy from life. Not everything has to be serious all the time. Laughter is its own form of therapy. And if you are laughing with your partner, that is even better.
I am sure there will still be days where my husband and I have disagreements, but if we are conscious of how to keep things steady, I know we can weather the storm and work through it together as a team.
What are your tips on managing your relationship after a baby?