Relationships with partners change after baby arrives. According to John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (2008), 67% of couples report a decrease in satisfaction after baby comes home. Finding balance in the relationship is difficult. Parents are exhausted and stretched thin trying to balance the needs of the new life with busy schedules. Exhaustion combined with the great new responsibility can cause turmoil between partners.
There are ways for a mother to care for herself within the relationship during this difficult time.
The classic, cliché response is communication, but it is so important. You are a team, in this together. It is easy to become reactive and attack each other when in the trenches with words like “You aren’t helping enough.” If you are feeling this way, use an “I” message to express your feelings. “I” messages are when you begin your statement with “I” instead of something like “you”. It may also help to be specific with your requests.
Instead of “you aren’t helping enough”, try “I am feeling overwhelmed and would appreciate some help with the baby’s bath tonight”.
Another way to enhance communication is to ask your partner about how he is feeling. Empathize with each other’s struggles to balance all the new roles. After a true, empathic, back and forth conversation, you may feel your bond with your partner enhanced. Even though you have different roles within the relationship, you may be surprised at some similarities in the way you both are feeling.
Be aware in this new territory that disagreements are going to happen. Be kind and gentle to each other during disagreements at this time and remember you are on the same team. Even when it does not feel like it.
Check out Getting Parents on the Same Page for some helpful tips regarding caring for relationships during this time in life.
If you are interested in this topic, check out the book And Baby Makes Three. I highly recommend this book for all new parents.