Let’s face it, life with a newborn can throw a serious curveball into your relationship. In this article we off 7 practical steps on how to keep your relationship strong after having a baby.
Pedro and Sylvia were a vibrant couple we met at church. They also seemed to have a perpetual smile and enjoyed each other. They hiked, did water sports, and enjoyed going to the movies on date night. Their relationship was the envy of many young couples.
Then they had their first child. Things changed. Priorities shifted.
Their communication was reduced to complaints, grumbling, and frustration. Their intimacy level hit rock bottom.
They were both frustrated. They loved their newborn baby, but she was bringing a new challenge to their marriage they didn’t anticipate.
Today they have three children. And…they are once again the happy couple people remember.
Using the practical steps we will list below, they were able to reclaim (and maintain) a strong relationship as their family began to grow.
Having a baby can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but it can also put a strain on your relationship if you aren’t prepared. In fact, the transition into parenthood is the top reason couples give for wanting a divorce, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The best way to stick it out is to have clear, realistic expectations about what having a baby means for your marriage.
Having a baby changes a couple in many ways and for many people, it can also be the start of a new era in their relationship. (We’re not just talking about the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, and the cribs to set up.) Having a baby makes each partner’s perspective on their relationship shift, both on an emotional level and on a practical level. And while the time and energy the two of you have to give each other may change dramatically, your love doesn’t have to change.
In fact, if you take the time to learn how to manage your relationship after the baby, the two of you may find yourselves stronger than ever before.
Here are seven (7) ways (steps) that will help you keep your marriage connected, close, and strong.
In This Article
- 1) Don’t Believe The Myths About How Marriage Changes After A Baby
- 2) Realize The Changes Are Temporary
- 3) Make Time For Each Other
- 4) Avoid Transactional Thinking and Behavior
- 5) Don’t Put Your Sex Life On The Back Burner
- 6) Be Transparent and Open
- 7) Understand the Changes Taking Place In Your Body Following Pregnancy
- Final Thoughts On How To Keep Relationship Strong After Having A Baby
1) Don’t Believe The Myths About How Marriage Changes After A Baby
One of the biggest hurdles we face is our thoughts. These thoughts become beliefs that shape how we approach our relationship.
There are many myths about how a newborn will dramatically change your marriage. The truth is often hard to find in midst of these false beliefs.
To clarify: Marriage does change. How can it not change. You’ve added a new person to your family, so, of course they change.
The myth is not that marriage changes, it is that it gets worse after a baby enters the picture. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I mention this is as a key step because if you enter this season of marriage with a false belief that things will never be the same (ie., you will never be as close as you used to be…sex will never be as good…(men) you’ll always be put on the back burner…(women) your body will never recover…you’ll never feel the way you used to…) you are doomed to failure.
The items I mention are only a few of the things we frequently hear…
They are challenges, not verdicts of permanent change.
If you see them as obstacles to overcome, you can partner to make your relationship better than before.
If, however, you see them as a permanent sentence, you will not work together to keep you marriage strong.
2) Realize The Changes Are Temporary
All relationships go through phases and seasons. This doesn’t mean love changes. It simply acknowledges that we are in process – we grow.
Growth means change.
The key to growing stronger is to grow together, not apart.The key to growing stronger is to grow together, not apart. Click To Tweet
You can grow together by remembering a few practical rules of relationships.
Rule #1: Keep The Lines Of Communication Open
I often tell couples who are struggling in their relationship that as long as they are communicating (not arguing and fighting – that’s not communication), they can find a solution to their problems.
It’s when they cease communication things fall apart.
Rule #2: Keep Connecting Physically
This doesn’t just mean sexual contact. In fact, it is often the non-sexual contact that bonds us on a deeper level. Especially when we are faced with a challenge.
I’ve found it is hard to be angry when I am holding my wife’s hand. There is something about physical contact that allows love, forgiveness, and acceptance to flow between us.
We can grow together when we bring our spouse into our world. This includes communicating with them (see above), but goes deeper.
We bring our spouse into our world by letting them be a part of what we experience.
3) Make Time For Each Other
We call this couple time. It is time set aside for just the two of you. It’s vital, necessary, and healthy to guard your time together.
This means creating the time. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘waiting to see if you can have time together.’ Make it happen.
Your baby is important and needs (demands) your time. But don’t forget, so does your marriage. That means we must make time for each other as our family grows.
Children are not suppose to replace your marriage. When (and if) they do, your marriage will fall apart.
We will talk more about this below. For now, it is vital to understand that one of the major currencies of a healthy relationship is time spent together.Your baby is important and needs (demands) your time. But don't forget, so does your marriage. That means we must make time for each other as our family grows. Click To Tweet
Quick illustration to drive this home:
Our economy is based on a monetary currency. We have $1 bills, $5 bills, and up. When we want something, we go to a story and give our currency in exchange for the thing we want.
I recently bought a birthday gift for my grandson. I gave the company money, they presented me with the item I wanted to give as a gift.
This is a transactional economy. We give one thing in order to get another thing we determine of equal value.
Most people do not realize relationships have a currency of their own. This is especially true of marriage. Some people are troubled by this idea, but it is a fact.
The currency of a healthy relationship can be broken down into positive communication, time spent together, and offering forgiveness and acceptance to our spouse.
The more of this we give, the more ‘good’ receive in our relationship.
I am not suggesting we buy our partners love. On the contrary, healthy love cannot be bought.
But…healthy love grows when we invest our time, energy, love and attention in the relationship.
Think about it. The people you are closest to (your best friends) are those you share your life with.
But how would you feel if a stranger approached you and expected the same involvement you have with your friends?
Relationships grow just like a plant grows. You can’t expect the same level of commitment, engagement, and involvement with a stranger that you have with your spouse or closest friends.
My point is time is the currency of a great marriage. Without you move in opposite directions. Spending time together is vital to grow as a couple.Time is the currency of a great marriage. Without you move in opposite directions. Spending time together is vital to grow as a couple. Click To Tweet
A practical way to make sure you create time for each other is to create a schedule for your baby. The more you control your schedule, the easier it will be to schedule your time together.
4) Avoid Transactional Thinking and Behavior
In the point above we talked about the healthy, positive side of transactions in marriage.
But there are negative transactions we need to be aware of.
These negative transactional actions can be identified as ‘either or’ behaviors.
This is when we allow our relationship to be reduced to placing orders and giving information only.
- ‘The baby needs to be changed.’
- ‘Where are the diapers?’
- ‘We have a doctor’s appointment Wednesday.’
- ‘I can’t find the baby bottles.’
- ‘You need to help more with the baby’
The list is endless. It’s not that these things don’t need to be said, the problem occurs when this is the scope of our conversation.
If we never take the time to ask, ‘How are you doing in all of this…’ you miss an opportunity to grow together and share a special connection.
This happens when one partner replaces the other with the baby.
This is tricky to convey because babies do demand our attention and should get our love. I’m not suggesting otherwise.
I am suggesting that if the wife pours ALL her energy into the newborn (and leaves nothing for the marriage), you have replaced your husband with your child.
If the husband pours all his affection into his new child and offers nothing for his wife, he is replacing his marriage for his role as father.
It happens both ways. And unfortunately it happens often.
This is perhaps the most challenging issue as children enter the family. Partly because it is natural and normal to give attention to a baby. Let’s face it, babies demand our attention because they can’t provide for themselves. This doesn’t imply they should replace your marriage.
My perspective is this is normal, natural, and healthy for a season. It becomes dangerous for marriage if attention is withheld from our spouse.
When we stop doing all the things we used to do to make our relationship amazing, we run the risk of having a transactional replacement. We replace our spouse with the new children.
5) Don’t Put Your Sex Life On The Back Burner
Marriage is more than physical intimacy. But that doesn’t indicate it isn’t a priority.
Three psychologist studied the relationship between sexual frequency (how often couples engage in physical intimacy) and their sense of happiness (overall well-being). They found that more frequent engagement is associated with greater well-being.
Anyone who is observant, who discovers the person they have always dreamed of, knows that sexual energy comes into play before sex even takes place. The greatest pleasure isn’t sex, but the passion with which it is practiced. When the passion is intense, then sex joins in to complete the dance, but it is never the principal aim. – Paulo Coelho
Sex is more than an act of pleasure, it’s the ability to be able to feel so close to a person, so connected, so comfortable that it’s almost breathtaking to the point you feel you can’t take it. And at this moment you’re a part of them. – Thom York
6) Be Transparent and Open
What is transparency? What does it mean for a marriage?
Transparency means you’re both aware of the status of your relationship at all times and you’re willing to talk about it. Transparency is a two-way street–not only do you need to share with each other what’s happening in your relationship, but you also need to listen to each other.
Brene Brown puts it this way:
Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.– Brené Brown
Transparency doesn’t mean being a sissy (men). And it doesn’t mean blathering on about everything you don’t like. It is about opening your heart to allow your partner to participate in your life.Transparency is about opening your heart to allow your partner to participate in your life. Click To Tweet
It is about connection. It is about knowing that you can rely on your partner to be who they are. This doesn’t mean that you have to like everything they do, but it does mean that you know that they will always be an honest partner and will not try to manipulate or play games with your emotions.
How are you supposed to be transparent?
You share your needs, thoughts, emotions and feelings with each other. Being transparent requires being vulnerable. It’s scary because it means allowing yourself to be exposed, open and accessible. Being vulnerable means that when one person hurts the other person won’t hold it against them.
It is about allowing them into life’s most fulfilling experiences for both of you. It is about trusting them and sharing dreams and hopes with them. It is about being present for each other, even when it means having conversations without the children in the middle of the room.
It is about taking the time to connect whenever you can because you know that, in the beginning and in the end, love is the most important thing.
7) Understand the Changes Taking Place In Your Body Following Pregnancy
It’s no secret a woman’s body experiences changes during and after pregnancy. What we often overlook, is how this impacts our relationship.
Here are four area’s of change that takes place:
#1 Physical Change
The physical change is how your body looks and feels.
A lot of women are terrified of gaining weight during pregnancy. They are afraid that they will lose their figures or feel unattractive (which can be a contributing factor to low self esteem).
The best thing you can do is to be honest and open with your partner. That way, you won’t have any secrets and your partner won’t feel like you’re hiding anything from them.
#2 Emotional Changes
Emotional changes include (but are not limited to) postpartum depression, anxiety, relationship issues and feeling insecure.
A lot of couples find it hard to navigate these emotions after pregnancy because they are so overwhelming. We often try to avoid talking about them because we don’t want to make things worse by bringing up the topic at the wrong time.
You have to be willing to talk about your moods, desires and even your partner’s moods with each other because this is a process that will help you work through the insecurity and fear that has taken place with your relationship during pregnancy.
#3 Chemical Changes
Here are a few chemical and biological changes that happen immediately following pregnancy:
During pregnancy, the female hormone estrogen rises. This hormone plays a role in shaping your moods, appetite and libido.
When this hormonal change occurs, some women experience emotional swings between being really happy and loving their partner and then feeling insecure and apprehensive about their relationship.
If you aren’t open with each other about these mood swings (whether they are positive or negative), you will be more likely to feel uncomfortable in the relationship. You may even begin to wonder if your partner doesn’t care for you anymore.
The key to navigating this is to talk about everything with each other so that you can work through it together in a healthy way.
Just after giving birth, a rise in the hormone oxytocin occurs. The body produces this hormone when you breastfeed to create feelings of bonding and closeness with your child.
Unfortunately, the same thing happens between partners and it can make it hard for a couple to be close because of new feelings of love for their baby.
The best thing that you can do is to talk about those feelings with each other. Tell each other how you’re feeling and how the change in your relationship makes you feel about your partner. Expect some tension (as long as it remains respectful).
This hormone, produced by your adrenal glands, plays a part in making you more aggressive and aggressive during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, there is a huge rise in testosterone during pregnancy which can cause obvious mood swings in a wife.
There are ways to avoid these mood swings (which include talking about them and dealing with the changes together) but make sure to also arm yourselves with more self-love and self-confidence so that you feel better about yourself.
Basically, communication is key to navigating these hormonal changes if you want to maintain or build your relationship after pregnancy.
#4 Changes in our Thinking
During pregnancy, we think differently than we did before becoming pregnant. It is common for couples to experience different and surprising thoughts about each other and their relationship.
It can be difficult to talk about these thoughts so that you are not putting your partner down or saying things that will make them feel bad. But, if you’re open with your feelings, your partner should be able to understand why you would have these mixed-up ideas.
In some cases, the thought process might be a sign of your mental health and it can help you feel better after pregnancy if you discuss the issue with your doctor.
If you want more tips on how to make your marriage better, we offer eight things couples can do every day to make their marriage better here.
Final Thoughts On How To Keep Relationship Strong After Having A Baby
Keeping a relationship strong after pregnancy is difficult, but it is possible. It’s important to be honest and open with each other (and yourself) about the changes that are happening within your relationship.
You deserve to have plenty of love and support in your life. If your partner doesn’t feel the same way about you or the idea of having more kids, don’t be afraid to talk about it.
You aren’t alone and there are a lot of couples who want to start a family but simply can’t because they don’t feel committed to each other.
Brief overview of what we covered:
- Don’t Believe The Myths About How Marriage Changes After A Baby
- Realize The Changes Are Temporary
- Make Time For Each Other
- Avoid Transactional Thinking and Behavior
- Don’t Put Your Sex Life On The Back Burner
- Be Transparent and Open
- Understand the Changes Taking Place In Your Body Following Pregnancy
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