Making time for my relationship and finding our new roles in each other's lives was probably the hardest thing for me when I became a Mother. The mothers I met were all comfortable talking about how hard losing weight was, how exhausted we were and how hard breastfeeding was. We even feel comfortable sharing not wanting to have sex anymore but saying I’ve lost my best friend and I don’t know how to get that relationship back felt so much harder.
Sleep deprivation, recovering from birth and losing interest in sex obviously all play a part in this, but having to put so much energy into another person it can feel impossible to be still interested in our partner’s daily hassles, and stay connected with what each other is going through. Relationships so often just turn into a competition of whose life is harder. Many couples find that having barely had many fights at all up to this point, they’re now squabbling and sniping at each other on a regular basis.
This is why it’s so important to make time for your relationship after having a baby. The temptation can be to not prioritise it as we have so much other stuff to worry about. But with anything in life when it feels its most challenging and we are most stressed, vulnerable and confused having a strong relationship is the thing that can make life that little bit easier
The scary truth is “If you do nothing, the relationship will deteriorate - you’ll be co-parents arguing about tasks. After children, you have to put work into the relationship for it to stay the same, and work even harder to improve it.”
It's so important to remember relationship changes after having a baby are normal and the good this is there are lots of steps we can take to change things. Life is so much easier when we remember to focus on the things we have some control over and it's the baby steps that make the difference, the kiss when you walk through the door, looking into each other's eyes when you are talking.
Stop communication just becoming transactional
“Relationships thrive on time spent together, holding that other person in your mind and connecting and listening to them.” These things can all feel completely overwhelming when we are exhausted, touched out and want to spend any spare time we have cleaning, washing or catching up on sleep. Sometimes it can feel like we would rather spend time on our phones than communicate because, honestly, scrolling takes a lot less energy.
It might not sound sexy but to make something a habit sometimes we have to just be disciplined. Schedule time for your partner, even if it’s small amounts of time to check in with each other and not talk about kids or money.
This is not easy and definitely not something I would recommend in the first six weeks, but even a short walk around the block together or having dinners together can go a long way in helping keep you and your partner connected and communicating. I just went away with my partner for two nights for the first time in two years and we have promised we won't leave it that long again because just getting to have fun together was what we needed.
Mourning your old life
Accept that this is a period of mourning to say goodbye to your old life. You can't spontaneously go out for dinner or book a weekend away and that is a huge adjustment. Communicate that to each other rather than turning it into a blame game of who still has more of their old life. Now is time to find new ways to spend time together and get more creative about how that looks for you.
Baby blues and postnatal health
Acknowledge that your hormones change after having a baby, postnatal depression and baby blues are all real and can affect both parents. My partner struggled to adjust to having a baby much more than I did the first time round as he just didn’t have that instant connection. It's always important to remember this is just a really difficult season in our lives, it's magical but it's full-on. Things do get easier as the children grow up and we have more free time. It can be hard to remember when you are in the thick of it, but life gets so much easier when you are getting a full night's sleep and the children are in childcare or with grandparents. For me going back to work really changed the dynamic as our relationship felt much more equal.
Sex - what sex?
When it comes to sex, you’ve got everything we’ve talked about so far working against you. You have no time, your body’s a mess and you’re annoyed with your partner. Your partner may be desperately counting down the days to your six-week check but talking about how you are feeling and also acknowledging how hard it is for him can really help. Finding ways to communicate and work together is better than just trying to brush your partner off or making them feel ashamed for their advances.
We talk so much about how common the baby’s blues and postnatal depression are, but there is so little support that it is very easy to feel like we are struggling alone and things won’t get better. I specialise in working with mums who are struggling to find their new identity once they become a mum, struggling to find balance after baby and feeling extremely disconnected and misunderstood by their partners. If any of this resonates with you let’s arrange a consultation to discuss how counselling could help.