“The greatest thing you can do for your children is to love your partner.” (Stephen Covey; The seven habits of highly effective families).
Ellaine Cameron, Centre Manager for Relate Gloucestershire and Swindon, agrees with this statement; “the arrival of a new baby can be exciting, confusing, rewarding, nerve-wracking, stimulating and challenging all at the same time. Emotions and routines can take a while to settle and it can be difficult to create a sense of balance. Sometimes the couple’s romantic relationship can become a second, third or even forgotten priority but it is important that new parents also invest some of their time and resources into each other”.
In reality this can be a challenge in itself when mums and dads are running low on energy, have taken turns with a crying baby and/or are focusing on helping other children adapt to the changes. So what can you do?
Ellaine offers some tips on how to keep a relationship thriving in the midst of ‘baby shock’…
1) Arrange a Date Night
Try scheduling some time in for just the two of you on a regular basis; once a week, once a fortnight… whatever can be organised. If you don’t have access to a babysitter then do your best to name a night when the main focus is you two. A film, a meal, a time to chat, a board-game (no housework or social media allowed). Sounds simple but easily forgotten and a time to look forward to when the next manically busy period occurs.
2) Discuss Conflict Management
Sometimes it is easy for small issues to unnecessarily spiral due to tiredness or stress or unrelated emotions that are surfacing underneath. It might be worth actually discussing a conflict strategy in advance i.e. If one of you begins to feel overwhelmed or neglected how can this be recognised? If there are external issues that need discussing; is there a time you can set aside (i.e. between 7-8pm?) so they do not seep into the whole day? A big area of conflict can result from an unequal division of household chores; could this be reworked into a schedule?
3) Sex Talk
Sex may temporarily change in the relationship so it might be wise to discuss both your needs and how they are affected. But it is also important to recognise that physical touch is one of the five recognised ways that different people show and receive love (the others being gifts, time, loving words or doing something for your partner; Gary Chapman, Love Languages). If you or your partner particularly expresses love or feels loved in this language then ensure you continue to do this even if sex isn’t as frequent i.e. holding hands, cuddling, kissing.
4) Get Help
It is wiser to seek professional help than suffer in silence. If one, or either of you is feeling depressed, then visit your GP. If issues keep reoccurring within the relationship then it might be worth speaking to a counsellor who can help with communication and conflict. Hormones can be altered during this time and sometimes change needs a bit of support to move through the transition.
With over 75 years of relationship support experience, Relate know that sometimes everyone needs a little help. Relate can help you if you're single or in a relationship, straight or gay, young or old. Whatever your circumstances they are dedicated to helping you get the most out of your relationships, no matter how big or small the issue.
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