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Maintaining Connection After Having a Baby

Having children can change the dynamics in our relationships and in our family structure. It can be a difficult adjustment period for many and often the challenges of caring for a child can have a direct impact on the intimacy levels in marriage. Just finding a few moments alone with your partner can be incredibly difficult and often when we have those moments, that’s when we need to get errands done, take a shower, or the many other million things on our list. Sitting down to just focus on our partner and talk is not usually the highest on our priority list, but it should be! Maintaining relationship and marital satisfaction is key to also having a happy family structure. Relationships take work and it really requires both parties to put in the effort, especially after having children. 

5 Tips to Maintaining a Strong Relationship After Having a Baby:

Alter Expectations: 

Give yourself and your expectations a break during this adjustment period. Having a baby and going through the transition of a changing family is difficult. It’s important that you do not set your expectations too high with how things “should be” in your love life or sex life, after having a child. This is a period when you should remain as flexible in your expectations as possible. So many things can change and be different from what we expected. If we are too focused on forcing them to be a certain way, we will inevitably be disappointed and unhappy. 

Keep Up With Strong Communication:

Talking is critical in a relationship and especially during the postpartum period. When a couple is going through the transition of bringing a new baby into the home, it’s important that they are talking along the way about how they are feeling and what needs they may have. For example, there can often be challenges with care-taking of a newborn and checking-in regularly with your partner is very important to maintain clear expectations and understanding during this time. One of the common challenges during adjusting to life with a baby is that many partners feel they are giving 80% of the work and care while their partner is only giving 20. Interestingly, your partner often feels the same way, which creates a disconnect and sometimes anger and resentment. Therefore, strong communication about how you are feeling is very important during this time as well as thoroughly discussing how to divvy up chores and duties around the house so that everyone feels comfortable with their role.

Outside of care-taking of an infant, communication is also key in maintaining intimacy and talking about your relationship and sexual needs. It’s important that couples are also talking about things outside of just the baby. The postpartum period can feel that life revolves around only the baby and often, it does, but it’s important if you are wanting to maintain a healthy and well-connected relationship, that you are embracing other factors in your relationship as well. Keep lines of communication open and strong about all aspects of your lives. 

Feel Good About You & Practice Self-Care:

After a baby, so many things can change, including our bodies, hormones and body image, especially for the partner who has given birth. It can be difficult to feel sexy in your own skin. Even for partners who haven’t physically given birth, just the shift in relationship dynamics and sometimes the lack of intimacy and sex can impact self-esteem and how people view themselves and their relationship

Practicing self-care is critical to reducing stress during the postpartum period as well as improving self-esteem, which both of these factors play a direct role in our relationship and satisfaction. It can be a challenge to balance infant care-taking with self-care and relationship work. Remember that a simple self-care practice is not necessarily something that is lengthy and time-consuming. You can do a quick activity in order to benefit yourself and your self-esteem with just a few minutes each day. While finding a few moments of free time each day is difficult with a child, just understand the importance of this activity to your ability to be a good parent and a good partner in your marriage. It’s definitely worth the effort. 

Embrace Changes in Your Sex Life:

Having a baby does not have to completely destroy your sex life. It may drastically change it, but with a little work, you can still have a very successful intimate and romantic connection with your partner. As we covered in the first tip, review and adjust your expectations. Many couples want their sex life to return to their pre-baby days and it just might not be possible, so it’s important to explore new ways to make intimacy work for you. It’s important to remember that after having a baby, especially for the new mother, hormones are still adjusting in the body and sexual desire may be lower. Also, as with a self-care practice, the postpartum period can impact one’s self-esteem and body image; therefore, having an impact on their sexual desire. So be sure to work on your own self-care and give yourself some time for your body and hormones to readjust. 

Many couples want the spontaneity in their sex life and while that can be very important, the reality is, it may not be possible with small children in your home. Life is hard after a baby and things might not be as smooth. So first, focus on bringing back the intimacy in any way that you can, even if it is scheduled. Later, you can work on spontaneity. This may include scheduling times to have sex with your partner that are during nap times for the baby or it might be a quickie at lunchtime when you used to take more time together in the evening. Your sex life may appear differently after having a baby, but it doesn’t have to completely go away. Find alternatives that work for you and your partner. 

Make Time for Intimacy:

While your sex life is essential in your relationship, just being intimate, close and well-connected is extremely important. Intimacy may include sex, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes it is just holding your partner’s hand and feeling close to them. So after a baby, make time to be emotionally present with your partner. Take the time to actually be engaged and connected to one another. It’s a time you can turn off the tv, put off the chores for 20 minutes and spend time actually talking to one another. 

When a couple is in the transition period of having a new baby, they can often focus on the long list of things that need to get done around the house or simply taking a much-needed nap when they get a moment alone. While you must also do those things (remember how important self-care is also), you must also find balance, even a few minutes every week, to just connect and check-in with your partner. Putting forth this effort into your relationship leads to a stronger connection and higher marital satisfaction.

Be sure to JOIN our free Facebook group called The Couples Collaborative. This is an online support group that provides tips and inspirational material for couples and supportive discussions on challenging relationship-related issues.

Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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