Every marriage inevitably changes after children are born. For some couples, it brings them closer when they become parents. However, at least 67% of couples find their marriage less satisfying after having a child. It can seem normal if other parents are going through the same marital struggles, but it can have long-term negative consequences on your baby’s mental health. It increases their chances of developing poor social skills, depression, and conduct disorder.
There are a few reasons why this huge change can put such a strain on your relationship. It not only changes your lifestyle but your identity and sex life. Your shared responsibilities (or lack thereof) and added stress can make the transition into parenthood much more difficult.
To improve your marriage, increase your and your partner’s happiness, and avoid negatively affecting your child’s mental health, here are a few ways you can reconnect with your partner and rekindle the flame.
Date nights are a great way not only to spend alone time together but to talk about any frustrations or issues you’re feeling. However, you don’t only need to plan out a fancy night out to talk. You can set aside time in the evening after putting the baby to bed or after putting the baby down for a nap.
Having stress-reducing conversations is key to feeling supported and encouraged. It allows you to vent and show empathy to each other rather than pointing out what your partner is not doing right. You want to feel like you’re in this together, not apart.
When things come up, clearly communicate what you need instead of hoping your partner will catch on eventually. Both partners can always benefit from direct requests rather than passive-aggressive behaviors.
2. Talk About the Division of Labor
This is one of the biggest arguments that couples have when it comes to raising children. When one parent feels like they’re unfairly doing more than the other, they may feel resentful and lash out in subconscious or passive-aggressive ways.
To avoid this, make sure you check in periodically to see if you both feel like you are okay with how the responsibilities are being shared. One partner may have to do more child-rearing than the other because of other responsibilities, but make sure you communicate and discuss how you both feel about it.
Above all, do not keep score of who changed the diaper last or who got up to respond to the crying baby at night. By dividing the labor in the best way that works for you and your partner, you can fulfill your responsibilities with a more positive attitude.
3. Express Gratitude
You might not always remember to be grateful for your partner, especially when they’re driving you up the wall, but taking on an attitude of gratitude can change not only your attitude towards them but the nature of your relationship.
You can show appreciation for one another by appealing to their love language. If they feel loved through receiving gifts, bring little surprise gifts of appreciation home for them. If they like words of affirmation, make an intentional effort to tell them what they’re doing well as a parent or spouse or leave little notes for them to find.
For quality time, plan to spend intentional time together one-on-one, even if that means dropping the baby off with grandparents or other family members you trust. For acts of service, you can make them coffee in the morning, fill up their gas, or buy groceries without needing to be asked. For physical touch, make an effort to be a little more affectionate and remind your partner that you care.
Not all couples may know what Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages are, so talking about them and getting to know what makes you feel loved and appreciated can help strengthen your relationship.
4. Rekindle Your Sex Life
Many couples only focus on the baby after their child is born and forget that their romantic relationship needs to be rekindled from time to time too. Intimacy is crucial to a happy and fulfilling marriage, and waiting until your children are grown up will make it much more difficult to regain.
It may take time to reconnect in the bedroom, especially right after birth, but rekindling your physical connection with your partner is crucial to experiencing a more satisfying relationship.
Making an effort to reconnect with your partner is important after becoming a parent. You don’t want to end up being complacent and find your marriage in shambles years down the line. Focusing on your relationship can strengthen your bond, feel more fulfilled as both a parent and spouse and experience deeper emotional intimacy. When you and your partner are happy, your children will inevitably experience a happy childhood too.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.