Whether or not this is your first child, having a baby can take its toll on your marriage. Nearly all couples report lower marital satisfaction after the arrival of their first child. This is understandable, normal, and preventable. Communication often and clearly about your parenting responsibilities is important, but so is talking about other issues that have nothing to do with your baby. Sharing your thoughts and feelings will keep your strong as a couple and negotiate parenthood in the early years and beyond.
- Make time to talk. Find time every day to talk, even if it’s while you’re doing something else, like walking the baby in the stroller or getting ready for bed. The important thing is to make a point of reconnecting each day.
- Talk about your expectations of parenthood. It’s common to have fears and concerns when you’re a new parent. Bring these out in the open where you can find ways together to deal with them. Talk about what kinds of parents you each want to be and what you can do to make your hopes a reality.
- Share what you know about babies and children and what you’re learning about your own child. With a new baby in your home, you’re both learning as you go along. Help each other by sharing what you know and what you’re figuring out about your baby’s personality and needs. Be open to what your partner has to say about caring for the baby and allow your partner to do things his/her way too. You may find it helpful for both of you to discuss the tips and techniques you learn.
- Talk about each others needs as a partner and a parent. Be direct, and avoid assuming that your parents is aware of all of your needs. For example, you could say, “I am exhausted. Can you care for the baby while I take a nap?” Ask your partner about his/her needs too.
- Argue fairly. Arguments can be productive if you approach them with the goal of resolving a conflict. Avoid bringing up a sensitive issue when either of you is tired or hungry, or when the baby needs your attention. Find a time to talk when you can focus on what is being said.
- Address one issue at a time when discussing conflicts. There may be a lot to sort out as new parents, but raising a lot of sensitive issues in the same conversation can leave the other person feeling confused and defensive. Figure out what concerns you most, and talk about that first. Stay on the present topic and save other important matters for a later talk.
- Talk about the issue, not who’s “right” or “wrong”. Focus on finding a solution instead of assigning blame.
- Be willing to talk about what is and what isn’t working. Patterns develop in relationships that can be difficult to change. One of you may take primary responsibility for the baby in the beginning, then later realize you’ll all be better off if you share the care more equally. Your life together keeps changing. Be willing to renegotiate your roles and expectations as your baby grows and you enter new phases of your lives.