Shut Up and Talk it Out: Avoiding the Post-Baby Slump
Relationship Problems After Having a Baby?
Parenting is tough. It’s tough on you as parents, it’s tough on your baby, and it’s really tough on your relationship. In fact, relationship problems after having a baby are not too unheard of.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I were standing over our son, who was maybe 10 hours old at that point. The hospital-issued onesie had these weird little flaps and we were having one hell of a time trying to get it back on him. I tried adjusting a sleeve while she tried moving the bottom flap. Finally, we snapped at each other. She told me to stop and I simply threw my hands up and walked away.
We were never ones to fight or get upset with each other. So, WTF happened?
Sleep deprivation and the crushing weight of being a parent aside, there’s a big reason parenting is so stressful on a relationship: you fail to communicate and you lose sight of yourself, your partner, and your relationship
According to one survey, 67% of women reported a decline in marital satisfaction after becoming a parent. Even Han Solo wouldn’t like those odds. So, what are you to do?
(Sidenote: If you’re curious about why I have a photo of two penguins as the cover photo, it’s because penguins often mate for life and I love “50 First Dates” and IT’S ADORABLE LEAVE ME ALONE.)
5 Tips to Help Avoid Post-Baby Marriage Problems
Before you panic, rest assured you can avoid being a statistic. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to make a relationship work. Throwing a third party, the little bambino, into the mix is sure to create some tension.
BUT, there are some steps you can take to alleviate stress, stay in tune with yourself and your loved one, and actually have some fun while you’re at it. (You might even find that parenting is easier when you’re both rowing in the same direction!) So, without further ado, let’s get started with your first step to working things out.
Talk, Talk, Talk
That’s right—talk. Air some grievances, share in some laughter, cry together, be scared shitless together — embrace parenting in all its horrifying, exciting, unpredictable glory.
Too many couples stay silent about the little things bothering them, the big things eating away at them, and the random things that could bring them together.
In a study done by YourTango.com, 65% of health professionals cite poor communication as the main reason couples split. This isn’t even factoring in the previous number about couples AFTER having children.
Parents that aren’t talking, your odds are looking pretty slim right now.
Once again, don’t panic. Open those lines of communication and remember why the two of you decided to embark on this grand journey in the first place. Even if your pregnancy was a surprise one, you still shared a connection that let you get to that point. Talk it out and get back to basics.
Avoid Losing Yourselves
As the parent of a toddler, I will admit it’s incredibly easy to forget who you are and think of yourself only as a parent. This is doubly-true for couples.
When a good portion of your day is spent caring for a baby and then cleaning, or working and then caring for a baby, you don’t have a lot of time to think about you. This makes you forgetting about the things that make you tick a real possibility.
Take a moment here and there to cherish the little things. Are you a football nut? Catch a bit of the game while you’re feeding your little one. Are you a diehard gamer? Take a moment to play a round of something on your phone while you’re sitting on the toilet. (It’s not much, but it’s something.)
Make Time for Both of You
This one can be difficult, especially in the beginning. It’s not easy to leave your little one with a family member or sitter, but it’s an essential step in making sure you have some quality time with your SO as a couple.
Go out to dinner, see a movie, drive around town – do the things you used to do before becoming parents. These little moments together will help you hold onto who you are and help prevent the two of you from growing distant. This is also a great time to do all that talking I mentioned earlier. (Talking when a baby is crying or needing to be fed can be really difficult.)
Guys, Follow Your Gut
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve asked my wife, “Are you okay?” Usually, I get a, “I’m fine,” but I know that’s probably not true.
Well, a few dozen questionings later and I usually get somewhere. At least, that used to be the case.
Now? She knows I’m asking because I want to help, so she opens up to me. The result? We solve problems faster and we’re happy and healthy as a couple.
Guys, if you have a hunch that something might be wrong with your SO, seriously, ask. They may not want to talk about it right away, so give them time. Just be supportive and jump in and help with the little one every chance you get. This is especially important if you’re working and she’s home with the little one all day. She’s under a ton of stress and ANYTHING you can do without being asked is going to be huge.
P.S. If you haven’t already, go read my tips for new dads and make your partner’s life even easier. They deserve it and so do you.
Be Incredibly Patient
Whether your partner has postpartum or not, trying to figure out why they’re not happy, talking to you, etc. can be incredibly frustrating. Factor in a newborn that isn’t sleeping and you have a recipe for disaster.
I can’t stress this enough: be patient.
If your partner is going through postpartum, there’s a huge chance they aren’t even aware of it either. Patience goes a long way, so simply ask if they’re doing okay, if there’s anything you can help them with, and so on.
Again, follow your gut and jump in and help them whenever you can, and especially when you sense they’re getting overwhelmed. They may not be asking for help, so it’s on you to recognize when they need it. (And again, just being more proactive and helpful in general will help ease this stress before it gets to this point.)
Also, a little goes a long way during those early months of parenthood. Get your partner little gifts, help without them needing to ask, and do nice things for them whenever you can.
Waking up earlier than normal to take the baby for the morning and letting your partner sleep in, for example, is a great way to make a big impact. (You also earn some mad brownie points doing this. Great for those moments you say something stupid. We all do it, dads.)
Surviving the Newborn Stage
Your relationship survived those awkward early weeks and months all new relationships have. It survived the “meet my friends and family” stage. Hell, it survived a pregnancy. Your relationship can get through this, too.
(That little kid’s what, eight, maybe 10 pounds? Your relationship can handle that!)
You’re both in this parenting thing together, and you’re both going to have a far greater time if you stay just that—together. Talk, stay open and honest, laugh and cry a little, and have some fun. You’re on one of life’s most wonderful, wild journeys. Don’t you ever forget that.