Love, make the world go round. It makes a family. So why does it seem that the moment you have a baby, you love, or at least your love life, as you know it, appears in a cloud of talc? Let’s face it, you are tired, you are devastated, and there is a good chance you are wearing a baby spit on the shoulder of your shirt.
Obstetrician and gynecologist Laura Filojek McKain explains another reason why many new mothers have lost this loving feeling. “New babies are demanding. They demand attention 24 hours a day and a lot of physical contacts. This can be physically and emotionally draining. When you finally have a moment for yourself, you may need a break from intense physical attachment …”
New mothers face the added challenge of meeting attractive physical changes and hormonal changes as their bodies move into a state of non-pregnancy.
Having a baby changes everything, including your relationship with your partner. Although ideally the ultimate in bonding, having a baby is also a significant life-changing experience and can strain even the best of relationships.
In the early, often overwhelming days of the new parenting, it is easy to become so involved with your fascinating newborn that other parts of your life are neglected. When it is already challenging to try to bathe in your daily routine, it seems almost impossible to worry about anything less urgent than a hungry baby.
The good news is that hormonal changes, physical fatigue, and blinding obsession with your newborn (well, at least hormonal changes and physical fatigue) are temporary. But in the meantime, how do you maintain a close connection with your partner? And why is this so important?
Statistics show that more than half of all new parents experience a decline in marital satisfaction after the birth of a child, with almost 1/3 of all divorces occurring in the child’s first five years of life.
A similar decline is reported after the birth of each subsequent child. Does this mean that having children will be detrimental to your marriage? No. It says, however, many new parents develop harmful ways of relating, or not after their children appear.
The disadvantage of blind obsession with your children is the tendency to neglect other aspects of your life, which may include your partner.
Without communication and teamwork, the mother may feel overwhelmed and devalued, while the father feels the strange man unnecessary, except to take a break in the mother’s tired arms.
None of them is a recipe for proximity. The lack of a relationship that begins as a pure survival instinct can quickly become a habit, as babies become children and preschoolers, making new demands on their time. In the absence of regular and conscious maintenance, parents can separate without realizing what happened until they see the chasm between them.
Alyson Shapiro, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, and renowned marital researcher, John Gottman, Ph.D. found three key concepts that successfully help couples transition from partner to parent in their study: “The baby and the marriage: identifying factors that cushion the decline in marital satisfaction after the arrival of the first baby “in the Journal of Family Psychology (vol. 14, nº 1):
Build affection and affection for your partner.
It is being aware of what is happening in your spouse’s life and responding to it.
Approach problems as something you and your partner have control over and something you can solve together as a couple.
Fight the stress of new parents by using the postpartum period to promote intimacy with your partner. Do you think a nanny is a luxury? Think again. A happy marriage is like happy parents. By nurturing your connection with each other, you directly affect your child’s future happiness and emotional well-being.
Schedule a date with your partner to help rekindle the feelings that made you a couple before making you, mom and dad. Not ready to leave the baby yet? You do not need it. Hire a nanny to entertain your little one and stay at home and spend an uninterrupted night with your partner. The goal is not to run away from the baby; it is to spend quality time together as a couple.
Remember the things you liked to do before you became a parent. Laugh together. Talk about something other than the color of your baby’s last dirty diaper.
Most importantly, eliminate any preconceived notions you may have about life with your new baby. The realities of everyday parenting often fall short of the happy images cultivated by the media and by our minds. Parenting and partnership are hard work.