Connecting with a Partner after Pregnancy
According to researchers Philip Cowan and Carolyn Pap Cowan from the University of California-Berkeley, most couples say they are less satisfied with their marriages after having children (Kruger 2003). But a few small adjustments can help make connecting with a partner after pregnancy less challenging so you can tackle everything that comes your way.
- Keep communication open. Communication is important to intimacy. Share how you are feeling every day, and don’t keep your emotions a secret. If you’re feeling neglected, speak up. If you’re feeling happy, say so! Open communication is also key to resolving conflict. Every relationship has its difficulties, but after baby comes along, there are a lot more issues and opinions. Talk about each other’s parenting styles. Each partner should listen to the other with respect, without immediately replying, and without placing blame.
- Join a support group. Couples take childbirth classes together, but rarely think about the next stage in their relationship (Kruger 2003). Consider joining a support group or a parenting class. Parenting Now! (formerly Birth to Three) has some wonderful parenting classes available. These classes will help you think concretely about what life with baby looks like. They also provide an outlet for you to discuss your ideas, worries, and hopes. Perhaps most importantly, these groups allow you to work on your issues when you’re calm – not at 3:00 in the morning when baby won’t sleep and you’re both exhausted.
- Date each other.Finding someone who you love and trust to watch baby is crucial to staying connected as a couple after birth. Take opportunities to enjoy your partner as a person first and a parent second. On our date nights, avoid talking about baby. Share your hopes, dreams, and fears. Discuss your hobbies or politics. Rekindle what made the two of you spark in the first place.
- Be intimate. Sex is a reflection of how the relationship is going. If one partner feels hurt or misunderstood, he or she will be less likely to be nurturing or ready for sex. Be clear about your feelings. If you aren’t in the mood for sex, say so and explain why. For example, “I’m still hurt over the argument we had this morning. I don’t feel like having sex, but I’d love to snuggle instead.” Keep in mind that the frequency of sex declines during the early months postpartum, but most couples’ sex lives rebound within two years (Kruger 2003). Explore the many definitions of “intimacy,” which encompasses more than just sex. If you don’t have the energy for sex, try snuggling or cuddling, massages, or simply holding hands.
- Declare an end to family time. Make sure that there is a little time at the end of every night for the two of you to be a couple. Put all the young children to bed and let teenagers know that you’re not to be disturbed (Boteach 2002). Watch a favorite TV show, do a crossword puzzle together, or just relax and decompress after a long day.