Life with a new baby is undoubtedly a joyous experience. From the first giggles to the first steps, there are more memorable moments than you can count. However, as baby becomes the center of the household, it’s natural that your relationship with your partner takes a back seat. The transition to life with baby is one of the most challenging changes a couple endures and has the potential to either strengthen or negatively impact your relationship. It’s essential to continue to make time for your primary relationship despite the distraction and joy of life with a new baby.
Here are three simple ways you can continue to foster connection with your partner after having a baby.
Establish new rituals
One of the most challenging aspects of adjusting to life postpartum is the loss of your past rituals with your partner. While it might be possible to continue to practice some of these, life with baby will most likely make it challenging. Let’s say, for instance, that prior to baby, Sunday mornings were your lazy time together to connect. Maybe you stayed in bed late, spent the morning making a gourmet breakfast together, and wrapped up this time together by walking to the local farmer’s market. When you throw a newborn into the mix, suddenly that downtime is filled with a baby who needs to be fed, changed, and cared for. Suddenly, the focus has shifted away from you as a couple and onto your new, important family member.
Without that consistent time to connect, you and your partner can start to feel distant, resentful, and disconnected. When this happens, you might experience more disagreements and criticism. Often the disagreements will be about things unrelated to the new baby, because the stress of the baby and strain on your time can manifest in more tension and conflict overall.
This is where new rituals become important. With a new baby, your schedule and availability changes by the hour. All of a sudden, baby may fall asleep and you have a unexpected two hours with your partner on a Sunday afternoon. Resist the urge to spend that time cleaning the house and restocking diapers, rather plan to spend naptime on Sundays connecting with your partner. Lie in bed together in the quiet for 20 minutes while baby is sleeping, make some espresso and spend a half-hour really talking with your partner about his or her week. Make rituals more fluid and flexible, but don’t abandon them completely. Set boundaries around your limited free time and make connecting with one another the priority. It’s important to establish this regular time to connect and keep your relationship strong because a strong partnership is essential to managing the pressure of life with a baby.
Plan time away
Prior to becoming parents, it was probably easy to be spontaneous and get away for the weekend without much planning. You could probably say “yes” to every invitation from your friends to go camping or head out of town for a ski trip. Life with baby requires far more planning and support.
Getting away, with friends and especially as a couple, is an important way to connect and manage the new strain on your time. Put away some money every month as a couple and start thinking through the resources you’ll need to get away. Maybe that means flying grandma in for the weekend to spend time with her grandchild, or asking a good family friend to help out for one evening while you and your partner have a staycation in a hotel close to home. Release the guilt you might feel about leaving your new baby and reframe this as an opportunity for you to strengthen your relationship with your partner, which will inevitably make you a stronger partner and parent. Use this time also to reflect and understand who are you becoming as both an individual and a couple following this huge shift in your life. Not to mention, taking even a day away from your newborn will help you appreciate your time with your baby more upon return.
Meaningfully connect at least once daily
Along with rituals that are ideally implemented weekly, it’s essential to connect once a day with your partner in a meaningful way. With a newborn around, days will be filled to the brim and fly by. Before you know it, a week has gone by and you haven’t even looked your partner in the eyes and told him or her how important they are in your life.
Making the effort to meaningfully connect once a day, despite being tired and spread thin as a new parent is essential. This might be taking the three minutes to stop and give your partner a goodnight kiss before you rock your newborn to sleep. This might be lying in bed together for 5 minutes just holding one another and discussing your day. This might be letting baby fuss in the other room for a few short minutes so you have the opportunity to really hear the details of your partner’s stressful work day. Stop, connect, and express gratitude, even for just five minutes daily. Look into your partner’s eyes and ensure that he or she knows that you recognize, value, and care despite being pulled in several directions with a new baby in the house.
At Center for Shared Insight, we strive to help partners connect in difficult times through individual therapy. By understanding your own patterns and challenges, especially in times of transition, you can more proactively show up in your relationships in a productive, loving way. Contact our team to share more about your unique situation and learn how we can help.