Postpartum Relationship Tips

Relationships

Written by Dr. Alyssa Berlin, perinatal psychologist, certified gottman educator

Everyone wants the best for their baby. We want our little one to be happy and healthy and we want to be good parents. It may be surprising to you that one secret to being a good parent is to have a happy relationship with your partner.

However, after we welcome our new addition, there tends to be such a strong focus on the baby that it’s easy to forget about the couple’s relationship. Yes, we want to be good parents but not at the expense of being great partners.

Improving relationship satisfaction between partners is crucial throughout the transition to parenthood. Little else poses the same threat to a relationship more than having a baby. We will discuss the main ways that becoming parents changes the partner relationship and how to strengthen and enhance your bond with one another.

 

WithBaby

There is no getting around it; your relationship with your partner will change when you have a baby.

1. The primary change that happens surrounds the new roles that you each have now that you are officially parents. As new parents, there is a tendency for roles within your new family to become more traditional; one person often assumes the hunter/gatherer role while the other person focuses on nurturing and care giving.

2. A number of physical and emotional changes occur as well. I am sure you have heard the rumors regarding the scarcity of sleep when your new bundle arrives. With the loss of sleep that commonly occurs comes a cessation in many important relationship sustaining behaviors, such as a reduction in sex, spontaneous conversation, date night and self-care activities. Bottom line, any activity that has to compete with sleep in those early months will lose.

**Unfortunately when we stop nurturing ourselves and our relationship, it is common for partners to withdraw from one another. This often leads to feelings of distance and isolation and marks the beginning of the downward cascade in relationship satisfaction.

3. After a baby is born it is common for dad or the non-birthing partner to inadvertently become marginalized. Commonly, mom is enveloped in a circle of love and support by female onlookers, all with the best intentions of helping mom acclimate to her new role. However, it may leave little room for the nonbirthing partner to join the party. As such, the non-birthing partner will likely retreat and focus his or her efforts on the newly assigned role of hunter/gatherer and financially providing for the family. The non-birthing partner’s immediate withdrawal from the family leaves mom feeling abandoned and alone and will be another precipitating factor in their relationship discord.

4. Many couples struggle with the perceived “loss of freedom” that is born with the new addition to the family. Specifically, couples will struggle with the inability to maintain their former social life prior to baby. This will be compounded if there is a discrepancy between partners as to how much of their former night life should or should not be traded for diaper duty.

LoveROck

There are numerous ways that you can strengthen your relationship with your partner, even before the baby’s arrival.

1. Take a deep breath, let yourself off the hook, and recognize that what you are feeling is NORMAL. This is a crucial component, because with the realization of normalcy comes a lot of internal calm and peace of mind. Recognize that birth and parenthood are powerful, life changing moments and there will be a NORMAL period of adjustment that accompanies these milestones.

2. We want to keep partners involved from the beginning. Prior to the baby’s arrival, sit down with your partner and discuss specific jobs and/or bonding moments that will be designated for your partner, and only for your partner, irrespective of the well meaning (pushy?) family and friends that just want to “help out,” i.e. bath, massage, story time, play.

**It is interesting to note that Mother Nature clearly defines mom’s role: she will carry the baby for 9+ months, give birth to the little bundle and if inclined, she will breastfeed the baby. However, the non-birthing partner’s role is more ambiguous and up to each individual family to define. As such, when you discuss with your partner what role he/she wants to play, you help to clarify his/her role and anchor them to the family. This can minimize feelings of confusion, loneliness and isolation and enhance the bonding process between partners and baby.

3. It is really important to restore emotional intimacy to the relationship ASAP. This alone is the key to relationship satisfaction after baby. You can accomplish this in three pivotal ways: date night, sex and talking.

**People are confused about date night. The assumption is that it has to take place out of the home and must occur at night. Wrong. The purpose of date night is to rekindle the spark between two people. This can happen at any time and any place. Right after your baby is born it may feel daunting to go out for the typical “dinner and a movie” date that your remember from your pre-baby days. Simplify. Stay home as long as you are accomplishing the goal of enhancing the closeness between the two of you – it counts as a date. Remember, anything that has to compete with sleep will lose. So let’s save date night by having a date in the morning or afternoon or any other time of day that is feasible for you.

**Sex adds a different level of electricity to a relationship and is a big proponent of a couple’s emotional connection with each other. Therefore, I encourage you to resume physical intimacy when it is feasible and mutually desired by both parties. In the interim, “nonthreatening massage,” cuddling and touch are invaluable ways to stay connected and minimize feelings of isolation and loneliness.

**Talking is a great way to stay in sync with your partner. It’s the day to day interactions, the small things that really lay the foundation of love, romance and happiness in the relationship as a whole.

**Set aside a specific time (not at night) each day to talk to each other.

LOVE

I suggest connecting with your partner on 3 levels:
**Emotionally: how is your partner feeling?
**Cognitively: what is your partner thinking?
**Physically: How is your partner healing?

Take turns listening and supporting each other in a nonjudgmental way. With all of these in place, the postpartum relationship can start its journey with more ease and with conscious awareness.

New couples should spend time EVERYDAY lying NAKED with each other, if even for 10 minutes…This does not have to lead to sex but can provide intimate physical connection while a woman’s body is healing. This is a good life practice to maintain the heat connected between two lovers.

*Institute Naked Time into your daily routine with your partners. 10 minutes a day for at least a week, and journal on how it impacts your relationship.

Here is a COMPASSION ‘Go-To’ LIST from Sacred Relationships created by Tim & Anni Daulter

When we get into entanglements with our beloved, SOMETIMES we don’t respond from our highest selves…This is a good PRACTICE to kick start the conversation from RIGHT MIND! I hope it helps!

Compassion

Please share and print out if you think this could help you get started from RIGHT MIND when having hard talks with your beloved

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