Trouble Staying Connected after Baby?

trouble_staying_connected_after_babyWhile the rewards and joys of parenthood can be immensely satisfying and deeply meaningful, those who cling to an unrealistic and romanticized vision of having a child may be set up for a very rude awakening. Having a baby, especially that first baby, not only turns any parent’s world upside down, but it also causes a dramatic paradigm shift in a couple’s relationship.

Almost overnight, partners experience a significant change in their relationship dynamics. They instantaneously are no longer simply lovers, they are now parents — mothers and fathers who, at least initially, must function in a sleep-deprived state. Their relationship inevitably takes a back seat to the responsibility of caring for a newborn baby. If the couple hasn’t prepared in advance or somehow acquired a realistic understanding of what to expect, their relationship is destined to suffer. Even couples who have prepared struggle to escape the fallout from the sudden change. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the divorce rate is quite high for couples with young children which only reinforces how difficult this phase in a relationship can be.

The importance of having a good support system in place, as well as being financially and educationally prepared for this life-changing event cannot be overstated. Just in case it’s not already evident, clearly “having a baby to save a marriage” is worse than a bad idea, it may ensure the relationship ends in short order. A relationship without a previous solid connection will not be improved with the additional stress and increased responsibility of parenthood.

While it takes a lot of effort to stay connected as a couple, doing so with a new baby is far more challenging. Additionally, even couples who had a strong connection before having a child, will struggle to maintain their connection. Viewing the struggle as a temporary situation may make it seem easier to manage, particularly at first. Some couples efficiently function as a “partnership,” raising the kids and living together as a family, but not otherwise connecting with each other for years. These are typically the people who find they no longer have anything in common, and experience “empty nest” syndrome most severely after the children grow up and leave home.

Keeping connected as a couple takes lots of time, energy, and commitment. It’s hard, but doable — if both parties commit to what is needed and follow through to make it happen. Here are some suggestions that will help you and your partner stay connected after your baby arrives:

1) Have the “how to stay connected” conversation well before your baby is born. Ideally, discuss this even before the pregnancy.

2) Remember that the relationship is a priority in addition to the baby. Don’t let caring for the baby’s needs always take precedence over the needs of the couple. The longer your needs or the needs of your partner are put on hold, the more difficult it is to reconnect down the line.

3) Schedule time alone with your partner either as an actual date night or just simply connecting for 10-15 minutes at home during the baby’s nap. Use the opportunity to talk about something other than your new infant.

4) Divide the chores. Nothing can create resentment faster than one partner feeling like the other is not doing their share of the household work. Both partners need to come to an agreement and understand the need to split chores or switch them around after the baby comes. Ideally, again, this conversation should occur even before having a baby. Don’t wait until after the fact to find out your partner won’t change diapers!

5) Schedule solo time for each partner, agreeing as a couple on how much and how often. Staying connected with friends and personal interests is necessary for individual well-being, as well as the strength of the relationship.

6) Don’t stop doing little things for each other: That greeting or goodbye kiss, quick text, or phone call just to say “I’m thinking of you” truly means a lot, and goes a long way to staying connected with your partner, with or without baby.

Go ahead and try the above tips. If you are still struggling to reconnect, it is important to not wait to reach out for professional support.

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