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Life after baby comes with a whirlwind of changes. Body changes, emotional changes, lifestyle changes, and relationship changes. If you’ve found yourself in an unhappy marriage after bab, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll cover some common changes that can affect a new parent’s relationship with one another and how to keep that flame burning strong after bringing home their new baby.
According to world-renowned John Gottman (who has published over 200 academic articles, over 40 books, and conducted 40 years of research), “67% of couples experienced a precipitous decline in relationship satisfaction in the first 3 years of the baby’s life“, per his research.
And when you really think about it, it’s not really a surprise. Between the sleep deprivation, decreased marital satisfaction, and even just trying to balance out the household chores — new parents are faced with many moving pieces they likely are not prepared for.
If you’re feeling like your marriage after baby is slowly slipping through the cracks, let’s take a look at some of the reasons these relationship problems happen in the first place.
Common Reasons You Could Have an Unhappy Marriage After Baby
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage…except, now your marriage is on the rocks. What gives?! Let’s take a look at these 7 common problems new parents are up against after having a baby:
1) Emotional Changes
Did you know, 1 in 10 dads and 1 in 7 moms suffer from postpartum depression?
Imagine, if you’re in that postpartum stage with BOTH partners suffering from emotional issues — how can they show up best for one another?
Maternal mental health disorders are very real and they can easily break a strong marriage. Not because any parent wants them to, but so many parents are blindsided by these challenges.
This is why it’s so important to carve out time during pregnancy to learn about these types of changes and mood disorders that can occur. They do not discriminate one bit. Often times once a parent experiences it, they don’t even realize they’re going through it (or they’re in some denial of it) which delays the process of getting the appropriate help.
These emotional shifts are a huge turning point in many relationships because how can a partner show up for the other when they’re struggling to show up for themself?
Be kind to one another during this time. Prioritize open & honest communication with one another without judgment. Pick a day or two out of the week to “check-in” with one another mentally. These might sound silly, but they’re the small building blocks that can help your relationship flourish during a time of stress.
2) Physical Changes Post-Birth
Many times after giving birth a woman will experience much lower self-esteem for a variety of reasons. Maybe she now has:
- Loose skin
- More weight
- Different skin texture
- Stretch marks
Whatever the change entails, it can be a tough adjustment for some moms. If dad is also being critical or constantly making remarks about her appearance — it’s a recipe for disaster.
What should you do? For one, dads should be understanding that the woman he married or is in a relationship with has many qualities that go beneath just her appearance. Her worth isn’t defined by her looks which have greatly changed since birth.
Meanwhile, moms can practice showing themselves a little self-love and acceptance of their current body. She doesn’t need to love it all the time, but she can accept and be thankful for what it’s accomplished. That gratitude will carry over tenfold in her confidence. Here are a few more tips to help with body acceptance after baby.
3) Increased Stress
Becoming a new parent means you will have sleepless nights, less quality time to yourself (and each other), and possibly parenting disagreements. All a recipe for lots of stress.
The best way to deal with this type of stress is to be a little more forgiving towards one another as you’re learning how to navigate life as a first-time parent.
Another way to navigate this difficult time is to ensure you’re both working on the same team. Instead of things always being one-sided, make sure you’re taking a WE approach and considering your partner’s needs too.
4) Poor Communication
I’ve heard this one a lot amongst couples in their first year of parenthood. I mean, I can totally relate to it myself!
Whenever we have big changes in life (such as a new baby), it’s so important we don’t let our communication with our partner break down.
This means, instead of shutting down and keeping your concerns to yourself, ask your partner when a good time would be for you two to discuss some things that have been on your mind.
Instead of approaching your partner with a “you always ____” approach, try using “I Statements”, they’re much easier to be receptive to. Click here for some examples of I statements.
5) Different Parenting Styles
I think at some point, even a happy couple, could admit they’ve faced some instance of conflict over different parenting styles. The key to navigating this issue isn’t to convince your partner that your way is better, but instead to really hear them out and listen to the values they see behind their parenting choices.
The couple should be able to identify values together to help them come up with a plan that embraces BOTH of their values as a new parent. Don’t let the small things tear you apart.
6) Little to No Intimacy
Last but not least, the intimacy (aka diminishing sex life). The birth of a baby can leave mom feeling NOT in the mood (especially for the first couple of months as she’s physically healing down there). Word of advice: a 6-week checkup is NOT enough to clear a woman for intercourse.
Often times moms have lingering pelvic floor issues that get missed, so do not assume a 6-week postpartum checkup is enough to get the party started again.
However, the good news is that intimacy isn’t just sex! Intimacy also includes acts of physical touch and affection.
The goal here isn’t to have a relationship loaded with intercourse, but to have a relationship that feels safe, comfortable, and includes ALL aspects of intimacy to keep your relationship strong (even during the early days).
One of my favorite tips was called the 6-second-kiss. The goal is to give your partner at least one 6-second-kiss each day (in place quick unconnected pecks on the cheek that become part of routine life). During these 6 seconds, you allow yourself to create some form of physical touch, bond with your partner, possibly lead to other forms of intimacy, but more importantly, help you both feel connected!
Give it a try and leave a comment on this article letting me know your thoughts!
Practical Ways to Fix Your Unhappy Marriage After Baby
We talked about some of the common issues a new mother and her partner might face after the birth of their first baby. Now, let’s talk about some practical solutions too!
Communicate – Honestly!
One of the best things to do in a stressful situation is to communicate what it’s like for you and how your partner can help. However, you need to be willing to put those listening ears on and hear them out too.
Some of the popular areas that seem to cause the most stress for new couples revolve around finances, intimacy, and family-related conflicts.
If finances are a touchy subject for your relationship, try to identify WHY. Then, work together to come up with a plan.
For example: Parents are stressed out from living paycheck to paycheck. We know constantly arguing doesn’t solve any problems, however, coming up with a budget plan to spend less and save more sure can! In fact, here are a few creative money saving ideas to help get you started!
If family differences are an issue, I suggest you and your partner dive into your own family values. What kind of values do you want to uphold? What types of interactions do you want around yourselves and your children?
Let’s say you have a family member who comes over always in a bad mood, always judging what you do, and criticizes your kids — it’s time to discuss some boundaries with them ASAP. Be sure you and your partner are on the same page before sharing those boundaries.
If you and your partner are struggling to communicate with one another without breaking into a fight, I suggest seeking out the help of a family therapist. This can be a great tool to help you both feel reconnected with one another. You can find a therapist near you by going to Psychology Today and entering your search criteria.
Define Your Parenting Roles
Defining your roles can be a great help to set expectations. For example, if your partner is the provider for the family and comes home upset the house isn’t tidy every day — it’s time to define your roles a bit more.
Yes, a stay-at-home mom has more time than the partner who is physically away from the home to tidy things up, but it’s important to remember that children (especially babies) can eat up a lot of time. Therefore, delegating certain tasks can be of great help!
And also just lowering expectations when you’re still in those survival mode days is a given.
Tackle the Learning Curve of Parenting TOGETHER
The last thing new parents need is to get to a point where they’re not working as a team. Parenting is a TEAM effort. This new life you’re navigating is a team effort. Why not find solutions and solve problems together too?
Embrace the power of WE as you journey through parenthood together. Check-in with your partner often and ask them how they’re doing.
Learn new things together — whether it’s attending a parenting workshop or reading a baby book, do it together.
Schedule Regular Date Nights
Lastly, make time for one another through regular date nights! Now, “regular” can mean weekly, monthly, or whatever works for your family. The long term idea is that prioritizing time for your relationship might be able to prevent some of those bigger issues from ever becoming a problem in the first place!
So, what does a date night look like when you have an infant? Some new moms (when polled on my Instagram) shared that they would do bedtime movie nights after they got their baby down for sleep. Meanwhile, others mentioned they’d have a family member come over during nap time while they and their partner went out for a casual coffee or lunch date.
If you’re like me and my husband, we did lots of reading and game board nights with one another whenever our little guy would get some sleep. We also prioritized the two of us catching up from the lack of sleep we’d get every day.
What’s important is that you find time for one another in some way. Those little things really do add up to keep your relationship prospering.
The BEST Marriage After Baby Resources for New Parents
If you’re a married couple or new parents looking for resources to improve your relationship after the birth of your child, check out these below:
- Dr. Tracy D ‘Be Connected’ Relationship Membership – A members only community that includes live Q & A’s with Dr. Tracy herself, monthly lessons, handouts, and so much more to help you reconnect with your partner.
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (hands down my favorite relationship book by John Gottman)
- Postpartum Support International (promotes awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide)
Yes, adding a child to your relationship can really shake things up from the old days and how they use to be. However, it’ll be one of the best things you’ll experience and hopefully, it can bring you together despite having an unhappy marriage after baby. On that note, which tips from this article will you start applying to your relationship today?
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