Many studies have shown that whilst having a baby is often viewed as one to the most joyful events in a couple’s lifetime, the very act of becoming a family can also be the beginning of their relationship unhappiness.
According to Gottman research, a staggering 67% of couples become discontent with each other during the first 3 years of baby’s life, leaving only 33% that remain satisfied during the transition to parenthood and beyond. Exhaustion, hormonal changes, anxiety about baby, a loss of libido and added family pressures are all challenges that can confuse and overwhelm even the strongest of relationships. So here are 5 simple tips to help every new parent stay connected as a couple, instead of just becoming a ‘couple of parents’
1. Favor your friendship everyday - It was discovered that couples who actively focused on their friendship during their transition to parenthood, remained emotionally closer with each other, experienced less hostility and were able to handle challenges better as a duo, than couples who put their relationship on the back burner while they focused on their baby.
Making it a priority to ask ‘non-baby’ related questions of each other everyday is a significant step in maintaining the friendship factor with one another. E.g., What happened at work that was a ‘win’ today? Thinking back, what was our favourite holiday together and why? What is the best part of the day for you? Simple conversation fuels a strong friendship, which is the foundation of a strong parenting partnership.
2. Disconnect from distractions - With a new baby vying for every minute of it’s parents attention, we know that this can leave very few and precious minutes during the day to connect as a couple.
There are also many studies that show that millennials check their smart phones between 85 – 100 times a day. And while we acknowledge that smart phones are a way to connect with friends and family, we need to focus on the friendship of your partner as paramount.
Pick a time during the day that is device free and simply concentrate on each other. Whether that is dinnertime, coming home from work or baby naptime. Pick at least one period of time a day, turn off all devices, and elevate your partner as the most important element in your life for that moment.
3. Tender touch - It is an accepted fact of childbirth that couples will experience a loss of sexual intimacy for approx. 1 – 3 months after baby is born. But while sex may be off the table for a time, it is important to maintain physical contact as a couple.
Touch releases oxytocin into the blood stream, which not only feels good for the recipients, it induces bonding, reduces stress and can also be associated with feelings of trust and relationship building. Holding hands, making time for a 2-minute hug, a foot massage or the famous 6-second kiss, all increase a couple’s physical and emotional intimacy, especially after bringing home a baby.
4. The wind-down walk - Spending time together is a critical part of any relationship and bringing a new baby into the mix can quickly erode this precious commodity.
Taking a walk together, either after work, first thing in the day or a Sunday morning stroll, is a wonderful habit with so many benefits for new parents.
Apart from the physical advantages, gentle exercise releases endorphins, which can reduce pain and also result in positive feelings of general well-being. You also get to spend quality time talking to one another without distraction, and give each other the attention your relationship deserves.
5. The check-in chat – It is nice to know that people are thinking about you during the day, and none more so than your life partner.
There are also times that a stay-at-home parent can experience moments of loneliness and isolation, and being alone with a baby for 8 hours or more can feel like a lifetime. A quick phone call, email or text message lets your partner know that you are on their mind and they are not alone.
Never underestimate the power of a small gesture, as Gottman always says … it’s the ‘SMALL THINGS OFTEN’ that build a positive lasting relationship.
Remember that the greatest gift any couple can give their child, is a strong relationship between the two of you, and when you build love together as a couple, it builds the very foundation of a strong family.
For more help with your relationship challenges check out the Art and Science of Love Couples Workshop
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