Therapist Laura Heck shares insights on how couples can keep the flame alive after having kids. You can get more information from her here.
The transition to parenthood is a storm of first experiences that is fun, exciting, scary, emotional, overwhelming, and joyful. Your relationship with yourself changes as your identify, priorities and values shift. Your relationship with your own parents change as you finally begin to understand the gravity of how precious you really are to them. Your relationship with your own partner changes even more drastically from two individuals to a unit.
Keeping the connection through parenthood is down right tough. Researchers show that 67% of couples experience a decrease in relationship satisfaction after baby arrives. Yikes!
What's to blame for a decline in marital satisfaction?
- Sleep deprivation
- Decline in sexual desire
- Increased stress
- Increased depressive symptoms
- Decline in intimacy
- Communication decreases
- Father involvement decreases
- Gender role polarization
Quick tips for keeping connection during early parenthood:
#1 Honor one another's roles as mother and father
Talk about your experience of your own mother and father growing up. What kind of mom/dad do you want to be? What will be your greatest challenge as mom/dad? What are your hopes/fears/worries for the future? How can your partner support you in becoming the type of mom/dad you want to be to your child?
#2 Get out of the way so dad can be highly involved
When dads are highly involved with their infants, the benefits to the baby and dad are overwhelming (higher cognitive functioning, higher IQs, more empathy, more securly attached, more resilient, greater tolerance for stress, are more playful and resourceful, and the list goes on and on). The problem is that women can often get in the way of father involvement or take a one up position as knowing better. You each will find unique ways of holding baby, pacifying baby, diapering, etc. Hamper the knee jerk reaction to correct or criticize differences in parenting.
#3 Work as a team
There is a tendency to divide and conquer with youngsters. The problem is that dividing will do just that...divide you. It is tough to find time together in the first place, instead, use opportunities like bath time to be together as a couple and connect meaningfully.
#4 Reestablish your romance and passion
A decrease in intimacy is common in the first few months after baby is born but romance and lovemaking is an important part of relationships and should be a priority. Spontaneous lovemaking will forever be a thing of the past. Calendared sex is your new normal!
One of my favorite resources for couples who are pregnant or recently postpartum is a book called "And Baby Makes 3". You will learn more tips about how to keep the connection alive, amidst the joy, confusion, exhaustion, excitement of early parenthood.