Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

Edited by Shelley


How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

According to the Gottman Institute, experts in marital stability and divorce prediction, 69% of new parents report feelings of disappointment and hurt after bringing baby home. If you're worried about how to keep your relationship strong after having a baby, you're not alone. It's wise to consider the strength of your relationship as you transition into parenthood with your partner. Here is a guide to building a strong relationship between you and your partner that will lead to a strong family unit.

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Strengthen the Relationship Before the Baby Arrives

Parents who are already struggling with feelings of uncertainty about the relationship or about having a baby will be more at risk of separation or dissolution of the union after the baby arrives.

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Spend quality time with your partner before the baby comes. Go to places where you can be alone and talk in peace without interruption, such as a park, by the sea, or even a walk down the sidewalk in your neighborhood. Enjoy this time alone together as it will be one of the last times you have before you both become parents and are changed forever.

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Keep the Lines of Communication Open

After the baby arrives, make a point of keeping the lines of communication open between you and your partner. Be sure to listen as well as speak, as communication is a two-way street. You and your partner may not always feel able to find the words to express all the emotions you are both feeling. Becoming a parent is an emotional experience that can transcend our language boundaries. However, simply admitting this aloud will help to bridge the divide. If you're feeling overwhelmed about some aspect of your new responsibilities, say that you are. It's common for loved ones to feel similarly when dealing with the same situation, and you may find that you both are feeling scared, inadequate or confused about your new role. Honest communication will help both of you to confide in one another and to support and uplift each other.

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Avoid Criticizing Your Spouse

Sometimes one parent has previous experience with caring for a baby. In this instance, it's common for that parent to criticize the other when they notice something being done wrong. If this describes your situation, be careful about criticizing your spouse. Though you should certainly speak up if there's a real problem with the way your partner is caring for the baby, you must do so in a loving and respectful manner. There's a difference between correcting behavior and criticizing behavior. In fact, this is a skill that you will need to learn as a parent, so you might as well learn it now. Note that there is more than one way to do certain things, and neither is necessarily right or wrong. In these instances, it may be best to compromise and let your spouse do something their way instead of yours.

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Respect Each Other's Roles

In many situations, one parent becomes the primary caregiver and stays home with the new baby at least for a time, while the other returns to work to earn a living for the family. Both of these roles are equally important and valuable to the safety and security of the family. Unfortunately, the usual stresses of life don't stop after the baby is born. Over time, one or both parents may come to begrudge the life that the other person is leading. The husband may begin to wish he could "loaf" around at home all day with the baby. The wife may complain that she's stuck with no one to talk to all day while the husband gets to go have "fun" at work. Neither of these complaints is valid, because as you know from life experience, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It's important to recognize the other's role for what it is. Both roles are hard at times and easy at other times. Both roles deserve respect.

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Allow Your Spouse to Vent

Every now and again, we all need to let off a little steam. Pent up bitterness and frustration can come out in angry episodes that can leave one or both parents feeling hurt or unappreciated. Bringing up a baby can ignite all kinds of negative feelings right alongside all the positive ones. Be patient and let your spouse blow off some steam sometimes. They may come off sounding like a child throwing a tantrum, but you'll come out a winner if you can just wait patiently until they're done without reacting in kind. Half the things they might say, they don't even mean, and it's likely they'll just be so relieved to have gotten it out, and so thankful that you aren't angry with them that you'll end up in a warm embrace.

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Enjoy the Baby Together

Between the feedings, the changes and the sleepless nights, some parents forget to actually enjoy the baby together. Take time to relish the company of the baby. Turn off the television and sit interacting with the baby together. Notice how your baby is already changing from having that tiny newborn look into a pudgier, more filled-out baby look. Play simple games with the baby, make eye contact and talk to the baby. Although parents naturally do these things alone while caring for the baby, it's important to share the joys that the baby brings to your family. Remember why you decided to have a baby in the first place.

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Take Care of Your Physical Self

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Women have a tendency to throw themselves so much into caring for their families that they neglect themselves. It's so critical to take care of yourself physically after having a baby. If you don't, your sex life will suffer, your self-esteem will suffer, and of course your health will suffer. Don't forget that in order to do the best job possible of being a parent and spouse, you need to take care of your physical well being first. Of course, immediately after the baby is born, you shouldn't put pressure on yourself to lose all the extra weight instantly like celebrities seem to do. Give yourself a much-deserved break from any physical exertion, and be sure to follow your doctor's guidelines about when it's safe to resume your exercise routine. After you have your doc's okay, though, make your physical body a priority; not just for the sake of looks, but for the sake of health.

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Keep Up Your Interests

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The business of caring for a baby takes up a lot of time, but it's important to keep up your interests and hobbies just as you did before the baby was born. There are a few reasons for this. First, your mental and emotional health depend on you having and/or doing things just for you, and no one else. Whether it's meeting the girls every Wednesday night for a gab session, gardening, working on your blog or binging on episodes of Mad Men, continue doing it for as long as it brings you pleasure. This isn't being selfish, because both parents need this. Make sure that you allow your spouse to enjoy his private enjoyments, too, even though they don't include you or the baby. The second reason you both need to keep up your interests is because you need to be interesting to your partner. If you never do anything separate from your partner and baby, you won't have anything new to talk about. You will both be happier and more interesting partners for each other when you carve out alone time away from one another.

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Don't Chain Yourself to the Baby

If you have a trusted family member who is willing and responsible enough to care for your new baby, take advantage every now and then. Make things easy on yourself and have them come to your house instead of bringing the baby and baby's accessories to their home. Once they understand how you wish your baby to be cared for while you're away, take off with your partner on an unfettered adventure. Take in a movie, go play pool, or just grab an ice cream cone without the baby. Try not to let each other feel guilty about leaving the baby in the care of someone else. Get to know your partner again and tell them all the reasons why you love them.

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Get Outside Help

With a new baby to care for, everything takes longer to do. Whether it's grocery shopping, laundry, changing sheets, paying bills or cooking meals, it all must be done while taking care of the adorable infant who is now your responsibility. Don't hesitate to get outside help if you can afford it. Many services are surprisingly affordable, and they can make a huge difference in how much time you have leftover to spend with your partner. Consider ordering groceries online, having a cleaning person come in on a weekly basis or ordering restaurant take-out food. You don't have to commit to these services for a lifetime. You could just do it whenever you feel like life is getting the best of you. This outside help will prevent you and your partner from playing the blame game, where each accuses the other of not helping out enough. Settle the argument before it happens by hiring outside help.

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Think of your relationship as being on a team together with your partner. When you and your partner consider yourselves as team players with a common goal, it will be easier to see that working together is much better than being at odds with one another.

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