How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Baby Arrives, Straight From an Expert
For first-time parents, the anticipation of baby's arrival can be swirling with both excitement and uncertainty. We already know that sleep-deprived nights and days, a regular schedule of dirty diapers, and the endless magical moments in between are all part of the package, but one thing many of us don't expect? How much that little bundle of joy really affects our relationship with our partner.
"Before the arrive of a child, it is just the two partners. They may be busy with other things and activities, like work, home, and volunteering, but they have time to focus their attention on each other," says relationship expert and Oakland University psychology professor Dr. Terri Orbuch, PhD. When it's just two people in a relationship, they can still focus on issues between themselves while still having self-care time, too, she tells us.
"When a child arrives, partners become parents," Orbuch continues. "They must focus their energies and attention on the child. They add a new role or identity into their already busy schedules. It is a change."
Sound all too familiar? That's why we asked Orbuch — who's also known as " The Love Doctor" — for her top advice for keeping a relationship strong post-baby. Keep reading to find out what to expect after a child arrives, why relationships get rocky, and her top tips on keeping that spark alive.
What are the most common issues/complaints that couples face after the arrival — whether by birth or adoption — of a child?
Parents don't get enough sleep, they spend less time together (like two ships passing in the night), have little time for self, [and] can't focus their attention on the relationship or each other. Division of household chores and child care, like who should do what and criticizing the other for how they do a chore [also becomes an issue]. Bickering about money is also common.
Why do some relationships become strained after the arrival of a baby?
Although a child is wonderful and brings joy to both of you, it also has challenges, new obstacles, and new things to figure out for both of you: Who is going to wake up to take care of the baby, what about going to work, who will shop, how do we go out together? This is particularly stressful if the two of you haven't talked about who will do what and how things are going to change post-baby. In addition, when things are stressed and new obstacles arrive many couples think something is wrong with them. These obstacles, stress and challenges are typical — so having realistic expectations is important.
What are your top 3 to 5 tips for strengthening a relationship post-baby?
1. Have realistic expectations.
2. Share parenting. It doesn't have to be 50/50 but studies show that when both parents are involved, it makes for a happier and more satisfied relationship. Also, if you need help with parenting — tell the other parent. They may not know that you need help with a specific chore or in general. Make sure you communicate your needs and expectations.
3. Don’t criticize other parent. If both people are trying to do their best, and the child isn't harmed in any way, don't get angry at the other parent if he or she isn't doing it "your" way. If you criticize or get angry for how they're folding the towels or cleaning the bathroom, your partner is less likely to do it next time.
4. Be creative. Come up with creative ways to spend time together. Instead of "date" night it might be "errand" night at Costco, Target, or the grocery store. You might even wake up in the middle of the night (set your alarms) to share an intimate moment or have sex. Being creative is also exciting.
5. Reserve special time. Make up a calendar together. Who is doing what when. You might give the child a bath on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, your partner does it on Thursday and Saturday, and you do it together on Sunday. Also, many couples have decided that a babysitter is great on Sunday afternoons, just so they can get a few more hours of sleep!