Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner after having a new baby can be challenging. Here are my tips for getting your relationship back on track.
I love my husband. I really do, with all my heart. And I always thought we were the cutest couple. Our marriage was perfect.
And then there came a time in my life when things changed. And that started when I had my first baby.
I felt resentment towards him. I was trying not to roll my eyes when he was talking. I was waiting for him to leave for work so I could get time away from him.
What happened to me?!
Now maybe you think I am a shitty spouse. Or... perhaps you feel like me?
I promise I work hard to be a good partner, not a shitty one. But here is the thing:
We have this image of a perfect family in our heads. We dream about traveling with our baby and taking beautiful family pictures. We imagine how wonderful it is to all cuddle in bed together, how we will look into each other's eyes all dreamy and think, "we are the perfect family".
There will surely be moments like this, but if you are a new parent, you will also realize that having a baby will test your relationship with your partner in ways you did not think of.
During my pregnancy, I did not spend one single minute wondering how a newborn baby would affect my relationship with my husband in any other way than becoming even more perfect.
It's no secret that caring for a baby is a big challenge itself. But did you know that marriage problems and relationship issues are not uncommon in new parents?
So if you are that couple, you are not alone. And here is the reason why a baby can suddenly turn things upside down.
WHY RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE AFTER A BABY
YOUR LIFE HAS CHANGED DRASTICALLY
I was always this person who thought that nothing wouldn't have to change after having a baby. I would still work, travel and do the things I want to do. I would be the cool mom who did all of that.
Oh boy, I have never been more wrong in my entire life.
Everything changed. I became a stay-at-home mom, and all my priorities changed. I was too tired to even think about getting out in the evening to meet with my girlfriends. I was not interested very much in traveling because I thought it was very stressful.
So here is the thing about change. Humans don't like change. Change is uncomfortable. Instinctively we avoid change because we got comfortable with the way things are. It feels secure and predictable. Even if we are having hard times and our life is not the way we want it to be, the change we have to make to get ourselves out of this situation is still so hard. Change is a struggle.
And when a baby comes, your life will change drastically if you want or not. And it doesn't matter how much you wished for this little bug. Adjusting to this kind of change is hard.
You are trying to navigate through life as a new mom, which can set back your relationship with your partner. Even more so if you feel your life changed while your partner's life seems to have stayed pretty much the same.
My life seems to have changed in so many ways, while his still seems to be the same.
YOU ARE SO TIRED
Once your baby arrives, you will constantly be E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D.
Up to toddlerhood and beyond, you will have days when you are tired all the time.
Pregnancy, birth, postpartum, all of that is just tough! Then there is sleep deprivation which is no joke and can actually leave you in tears.
If you don't get enough sleep or an opportunity to rest, your stress hormones will always be high. It's a million times more difficult to deal with things and keep your cool when you are tired. And it's not your fault. It's not because you cannot control yourself. It's because your stress levels are too high!
Now, you don't want to yell at your kids because you love them, and they are so unbelievably cute (you will probably still do every now and then because it's normal), but you will sometimes have zero tolerance left towards your partner.
It's in these situations when mom rage and resentment towards your husband get real.
DIVIDING RESPONSIBILITIES IS NOT REALLY WORKING
This is a tough one in relationships.
I will say that in almost every relationship, one part takes over most of the kid or home-related responsibilities. In most cases, it's the mother. And that can lead to frustration and resentment towards your partner.
I mean, how annoying is it when your partner continues to magically snooze during those night feeds?
I sometimes would kick my husbands snoring butt to just get him up for no reason whatsoever. I was breastfeeding, and honestly, there was nothing for him to do. But it annoyed me how he had the audacity to just lay there and keep sleeping while I was up AGAIN.
But it's not only the night shifts. Sometimes it's all together. Prepping meals, cleaning the home, changing diapers, buying baby items, washing the piles of baby clothes. Moms take on A LOT.
COMMUNICATION IS ONLY ABOUT GIVING ORDERS
How much work is a baby, really?
It's a lot of work. There is always something to do, NON-STOP. Pick up the baby, feed, clean up the mess, change diapers, get dressed, get to sleep. And I am only talking about the good days.
And without really realizing it, all communication becomes about telling your partner what to do.
I will say this: I think there is nothing that a man hates more than being told what to do.
Maybe it's the testosterone, or maybe it's evolutionary. Doesn't matter. They don't like being told what to do.
Even though they will tell you to JUST TELL THEM WHAT TO DO, AND APPARENTLY THEY WILL DO IT.
My husband tolerated some "do this" and "do that". But it would reach a point where he would not want to hear it anymore. And honestly, I kind of get it (at least now). With every "can you do this," I would also get more annoyed and annoyed. So this approach didn't really improve our way of communication.
YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR YOURSELF
When you have a baby, finding time for yourself can be hard. I am not talking about the shower everyone tells you to take, which is supposed to make you magically feel better.
No, I am talking about real alone time. I am talking about at least an hour alone, all to ourselves without thinking about the baby, our home, or our to-do list.
Having a little person following you around all day and having a partner around the rest of the time can make it really difficult to find time to BREATHE.
YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THE TWO OF YOU
We used to go watch a movie, we used to have romantic dinners.
Now we didn't have any of that in the last 3 years because our children still wake up from time to time at night, and all they want is us. No grandparents, no sitter. And I am more comfortable staying at home.
So now, as parents, we are usually at home in the evening (which we are actually fine with most of the time). But sometimes, we also look back at the times when we spontaneously would get something to eat or go for hour-long walks. Two-on-two time is very limited as parents. There is just so much to do or you are just simply too tired.
We love being parents, and we would not change it for anything in the world. But it's normal to sometimes miss fragments of the old life you had with your partner.
HOW TO GET YOUR RELATIONSHIP BACK ON TRACK
There are two things you have to understand.
1. You will now be a parent forever. If you want your relationship to work, you have to make it work as a parent.
2. If you want to improve the relationship with your partner, you have to work on it actively. It will not magically get better once the children get older. And even if, you should not wait for that long.
I have gathered the best ways I could reconcile with my husband and improve our relationship after a pretty tough time.
GET ALONE TIME
This is the number one thing you need ASAP. Yes, you may be tired and exhausted and sleep-deprived. But more than your physical exhaustion, your mental load will drive you to the edge.
For example, you will be able to handle nighttime parenting much better if you have that dedicated alone time. Believe me, exhaustion is not only about sleep.
Once you get at least 1-2 hours to yourself every other day, you will notice everything else getting into place. Your mood, your patience, your resilience, everything will improve. Your body gets used to chasing those little feet around. It also gets used to less sleep. But your brain does not. It needs rest.
In the beginning, it may be hard to ask for alone time. You may feel guilty for wanting to be away from your kids or leaving your husband with them after a day of work. But practice will help. Stop overthinking. They will manage, and no one will be harmed for being away from you for a couple of hours every week.
Alone time as a parent is something very, very precious.
So if you want that resentment and anger towards your partner to go away, as ironically as it sounds, you first have to get away from them.
GIVE THEM ALONE TIME
We are often so stressed that we forget that our other half is also stressed. We may keep forgetting that they also desire some alone time. We might not think that they are also having a hard time. But many do.
So also do something good for them. So give them some alone time and time to breathe.
You might wonder why on earth should they get alone time? You might even feel compelled with all the load on your shoulders.
Before we had our first baby, my husband was a regular runner. He loves running. But as soon as we had kids, it became kind of a rarity. I didn't really feel like encouraging him to run. And I was annoyed if he wanted to run in the morning and leave me alone with the kids again. His workouts were barely an hour long, but I was resistant to giving him the time I didn't have.
Once I started to work on my mindset about the whole subject, I began to make time for him to run. I would motivate him to get him out.
And giving him this alone time made it not only much easier for me to ask for alone time for myself, but it was much easier for him to return the favor. After every workout, he would suggest watching the kids so I could rest.
Who thought he would do that without me having to ask? Well, not old-me!
Today I understand that if you give, you will receive. If you give your partner some alone time, they will return that favor much more easily.
SPEND DEDICATED TIME TOGETHER
Time together as parents may look different. It doesn't matter what you do. All that counts is that you two are together.
It does not have to be a romantic date night. You can keep things simple by having dinner at home or watching a movie. The truth is that keeping the romance alive in a relationship does not have to be complicated. I will even say that simply sitting on the couch together cuddling while scrolling the phone is better than nothing!
I know that some people will tell you not to talk about your kids. But I personally don't believe in that. We talk about everything, but we also love to talk about our kids, so why shouldn't we? There are no rules.
Even adding a hug and kiss before leaving for work or coming home will have a positive impact on your relationship.
TALK AND CLEARLY DIVIDE RESPONSIBILITIES
If you want something, you need to say it. It is as simple as that.
Your partner will never be able to read your mind. If you want them to do something, you need to tell them what you exactly need. Don't automatically assume that they are not willing to help.
And even if there is a sigh, an eye-roll, or whatever they throw in your direction, ignore it, and move on.
Another thing that you have to understand is habit. Your partner needs to develop a habit of taking over child-related duties or chores. Whatever we do, habits are key in our life. But they also take time to develop.
If you get your partner to change your baby's clothes every morning, at some point, they will do it automatically without questioning it. But consistency is key.
So instead of asking them to do stuff randomly, try to get them used to doing things on a regular basis. For example, bathing the baby, getting ready in the morning, and putting them to bed. Create consistent tasks and develop habits out of them. This will help you immensely.
REMEMBER YOU ARE IN THIS TOGETHER
Sometimes when we are in a bad situation or feeling negative emotions, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
You feel stuck in a situation, and it seems as if there is no solution or nothing will ever get better. But that's not true. There is always a solution, but it requires change. And change also has to be initiated by you. You will not wake up, and things magically change overnight. You have to work on it.
There is no denying that parenthood is hard! But try to remember that you are in this together.
If you don't manage to improve your relationship on your own, don't hesitate to consult with a good family therapist to help you along.