How Can My Spouse & I Reconnect Post-Baby?
(The following Q & A is written by Spencer Northey LMFT and originally posted in the newsletter for Huffington Post Relationships.)
How do I maintain/salvage a relationship with my husband post-baby when we’re both exhausted mentally and physically all the time, which results in tensions being high?
The work needed to “maintain” a relationship under stress is usually quite different than the work needed to “salvage” a relationship in need of repair. Let’s start with some basic maintenance.
One key to marital maintenance is asking for help. If you can afford a weekly babysitter, this will free up your physical and emotional energy for some time to reconnect as a couple. You can also reach out to trusted friends and family. During the early stages of parenthood, extra help with child-care may be as valuable to your relationship as couples therapy.
Seeking support from other mothers with children around your child’s age will also help you maintain your marriage. It is incredibly helpful to develop these connections and commiserate about your shared trials and tribulations. Mothers often find that they return from such experiences feeling relieved and rejuvenated. Breastfeeding centers, healthcare providers, and meetup.com are great sources to determine which group is right for you.
Even with more help, moments of conflict are inevitable. You are both physically and emotionally overwhelmed. I do not know of any couple that makes it through the “4th trimester” without a few hurtful, regrettable exchanges. Researchers John and Julie Gottman have studied relationships for over 30 years and discovered that satisfied couples maintain a ratio of positive to negative interactions at 5 to 1. The good news is that couples can endure many negative incidents as long as there are enough positive interactions to offset them. So, if you lash out at your partner under stress, look for ways to repair the damage by increasing positive interactions.
It also never ever hurts to say I’m sorry. Even if your part in the relational tear is quite small, a willingness to own and describe what you wish you had done differently will typically pitch to the best in your partner and inspire them to do the same. If these steps do not bring relief, a skilled couples therapist can help the two of you adjust to the demands of parenthood. Remember, it is in your baby’s best interest that the two of you have a solid relationship, so prioritizing your marriage benefits everyone.