Becoming parents is one of the most challenging milestones in a couple’s relationship. It can pull you together closer than ever or drive you apart. Understand the stresses to strengthen your “two-ness.”
by Fran Giordani
It’s common for a woman to have a low libido in the weeks or even months after having a baby. You’re likely to feel exhausted, sore, and overwhelmed for a long time. Your body needs time to heal, but you’re now dealing with the 24/7 demands of caring for a newborn. You may feel you have no time, or even concern, about building a strong relationship with your husband.
You may find—or your partner may sense—that the intensity of the bond you're developing with your new baby makes you somewhat less emotionally available. Alternatively, a new baby can bring such joy to your lives that it enhances intimacy. But no matter what, parenting children for the first time is one of the most challenging milestones in a couple's relationship.
Not tonight honey, I have a baby
Rhonda Kruse Nordin, author of After the Baby – Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth, says becoming a parent is one of the biggest factors in diminishing a couple’s sex life.
Nordin says while it’s typically true that after the baby is born, women are much more reluctant to resume a normal sex life than men, over time even some men begin to lose interest. The culprit is a combination of exhaustion, lack of time, and lack of ingenuity on both parents’ parts, which can seriously dampen the romantic fires.
Nordin insists there are ways to overcome a withered romance.
“Couples need to put sex in perspective,” she says. “It is part but not the whole of a marital union. Intimacy can be emotional, spiritual, aesthetic, recreational, physical, and sexual.”
If your mate is feeling jealous or intimidated by your new relationship with the baby, try to reassure him that you still love and need him. And make sure that he has plenty of opportunity to care for and bond with the baby. Sharing the joys and frustrations of parenthood can be rewarding and can even intensify your romantic feelings for each other.
For dads, rekindling the post-pregnancy romance is often difficult, mainly because your partner has a new focus in her life who requires constant attention and love. Your partner may not feel sexy, and she will likely often feel tired and have a low energy level.
The best thing for dads is to spend time with your partner, helping with your baby. This is a time for you not only to bond with your baby, but for you to bond as a family.
A dad may need to become romantic in a traditional sense—dinner, movies, and walk-in-the-park-under-a-full-moon stuff—to make his partner feel special and like she is the most beautiful woman in the world again.
Resolve issues early
Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, Ph.D., a staff therapist at the Institute for Sex Therapy in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, says the birth of a first child is one of the most anticipated events in a couple’s life, but the transition to parenthood is also one of the most challenging milestones in a relationship. The birth of a child can bring couples together or push them apart.
“I often come across couples in distress who believe that having a baby may bring them closer and help them resolve differences,” says Pillai-Friedman. “That is a big mistake because the relationship may not be able to withstand the stress that comes with a new baby.
“Although couples who start off on shaky ground are more at risk for drifting apart after the birth of a child, couples who start off in a secure relationship may also falter under the tremendous stress of parenthood. It is very important for couples to prepare their relationship for parenthood.”
Pillai-Friedman recommends that couples take these steps:
● Find a way to resolve major differences in your relationship before the baby is born. If you argue about division of chores in the household before the baby, you need to find ways to resolve these divisions, because they will only get worse after your child is born.
● Analyze all the changes that your lifestyle may go through after your baby’s birth. A new baby usually means sleep deprivation, increased chores, increased chaos, and less time for adult conversation and intimacy. Parents should discuss these changes and brainstorm ways to manage the stress.
● Reevaluate your assumptions about who will do what. Couples often do not discuss who will wake up with the baby, change her diaper, and tend to other needs she has. Both men and women make unrealistic assumptions about how much help they are going to receive from their partners and therefore end up feeling disappointed.
● Find time to connect with each other. Advance planning with a child caretaker or family members will enable you to plan a simple but enjoyable activity together, such as a quiet dinner in a nearby restaurant, a walk in the neighborhood, a chat in the back yard, or a bath together. Be creative. Make time alone together a priority, and you'll find ways to make it happen.
Fran Giordani’s background includes 15 years of in-house editing and copywriting for national periodicals, especially about marriage and relationships. Fran lives in Boston with her husband, Jay, a graphic artist, and their twin cats, Mutt and Jeff.
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