You and me plus baby makes three, as the saying goes. But what happens to the relationship between ‘you’ and ‘me’ when baby comes along?
Study after study shows that your satisfaction with your partner is one of the best predictors of your overall life satisfaction – but while having a baby ties you together like nothing else ever before, it also shakes up the status quo, bigtime!
‘A child bonds a couple for the rest of their lives, so there are many ways in which parenthood makes a relationship stronger and deeper,’ says counsellor Jill Barnett Kaufman. ‘But you also take on new and different roles when you become a parent, so it’s absolutely normal for couples to go through a period of flux, when the nature of your relationship, and what you need from one another, changes.’ Sound familiar?
Research has repeatedly shown that most couples assume that having a baby will automatically bring them closer together. But it also picks up that couples find the old status of their relationship challenged after having children, regardless of whether they’re married or not, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, rich or poor.
But it doesn’t have to be that way – if you’re prepared to put in a little work. Whether you had your baby yesterday, or years ago and can feel there are cracks in your relationship already, it’s never too late to make the move.
Here’s what you need to do…
1) Be upfront about emotions
Let’s be honest: a lot changes when you have a baby.
You and your partner may have been at the centre of each other’s universe for years. Of course, he or she isn’t going to be pushed out of the way now that you’re a family of three, but it can take a while to re-navigate your world so that it revolves around two suns, instead of one.
Directly after birth, new mums go through huge hormonal changes,’ says Jill. The dramatic drop in your oestrogen and progesterone levels can leave you feeling euphoric one moment, and weepy the next. If your partner understands and anticipates these changes, as well as how he can impact your mood, he can actively support you through them, and that will bring you closer as a couple.
But if not, it can confuse him and leave him feeling left out of your new world. And the way to help him understand is simply to tell him what’s going on in your head. It doesn’t need to be a running commentary, but simply saying, ‘I’m feeling pretty fragile today’ is a far more positive way of communicating your mood than snapping at him because he didn’t pass you a nappy quickly enough.
Written by Hattie Garlick
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