Transitioning from being a couple to parenthood can be an incredibly beautiful and rewarding experience, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Caring for a newborn can take up most of your physical, mental and emotional bandwidth, often leaving little room to focus on your relationship with your partner. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all the new responsibilities, especially for first-time parents, which can over time add strain to your relationship with your partner. Here are a few ways to help nurture your relationship as a couple while acclimating to your new role as parents:
- Be patient with each other – Adjusting to parenthood involves a lot of trial and error and it invariably takes a while to settle into a rhythm. Being sleep deprived for days on end while navigating the steep learning curve can invariably lead to tensions running high. There may be times when you snap at each other and end up saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment. It’s important to recognize that it’s most likely the exhaustion and stress talking. Remember to be patient, kind and forgiving, and create a safe space for each other to have a bad moment when things get overwhelming. Take a moment to catch your breath, gain perspective on what’s important and apologize when needed. There will be good days and bad, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your partner.
- Share the responsibilities – Having a newborn invariably means that domestic responsibilities double, especially with chores that you can no longer procrastinate on. It is important to share the responsibilities to avoid one partner feeling too overwhelmed. Whether it involves caring for your baby or getting things done around the house, taking turns to do different tasks can make things feel less mundane, and more importantly allow each partner to have some downtime while the other spends time bonding with the baby. Remember that you are a team and sharing both the joys and challenges will strengthen your relationship as a couple and lay the foundation for great parenting in the future.
- Check in frequently and communicate with each other – The early days of parenthood can feel like a blur so it’s important to maintain open channels of communication. Expecting your partner to read your mind or automatically anticipate your needs is not always realistic and can instead lead to frustration and disappointment and build resentment over time. Each person’s parenting style may also be different so making sure you’re on the same page becomes key. Communicating honestly allows both partners to express their needs, support each other productively and can help minimize conflict and drama. Checking in frequently with each other to see how each person is coping is also important – allow your partner to voice their fears, concerns and worries regarding parenthood, and provide validation, encouragement and appreciation for all the things that they are doing well.
- Carve out time for romance – It is hard to find the time to be romantic and intimate when you’re constantly operating under a haze of physical and mental exhaustion. Attending to your relationship needs often takes a backseat when most of your focus is on your baby’s wellbeing. However, couples can sometimes have a hard time reconnecting after having a baby, which over time can lead them to grow apart. It’s therefore important to carve out time to nurture your relationship whenever feasible, even if it means cuddling on the couch over a TV show or scheduling date nights. It may never seem to be the perfect time to rekindle the romance but making it a priority will strengthen your relationship and help you better navigate challenges as a couple over time.
- Accept help – It really does take a village to raise a child! If you are fortunate enough to have family members, friends or neighbors around to support you from time to time, don’t shy away from seeking and accepting their help. Having someone over to babysit or help with chores can give you and your partner some much needed time to relax, practice selfcare, or have some alone time to reconnect without interruptions. Relying on others occasionally to focus on yourself and your relationship won’t reflect negatively on your parenting abilities – if anything, taking the time to focus on your own emotional and physical needs and reconnecting with your partner can alleviate stress and help you both be better parents to your child.