Bringing a new baby into your life is perhaps the most exciting thing that you will ever do. This little being that you and your partner created together is magical, amazing …and also quite stressful.
Becoming parents can bring you and your partner closer together in many ways. However, parenting can also place a lot of strain on your marriage.
Parenting changes each of you, so naturally, it changes your relationship. Furthermore, you have an entirely different dynamic because it’s not just the two of you anymore.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different. You can work together to find ways to reduce the stress in your marriage.
It’s Normal for Parenting to Stress Your Marriage
First of all, it’s important that you recognize that this experience is very normal. Of course, not every parent will find their marriage strained by a new baby.
Nevertheless, it’s more common than not. A baby changes everything. It’s unreasonable to expect that your relationship would remain the same. The stress of that change can be hard.
In fact, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have found that relationship satisfaction declines in about two/thirds of couples after the first baby is born. Moreover, hostility increased significantly among these new parents.
Accepting that the stress is normal gives you a little bit of relief. There’s no need to beat yourself up for not being a better partner because you’re too busy being a parent.
There’s also no need to let frustration with your partner build up. Acknowledge—to yourself and to your spouse—that this is a hard time. Just saying aloud that there’s a problem helps you get on track to resolving it.
Don’t Ignore the Issues
The stress might be normal, but it’s not healthy. Therefore, it’s important to deal with the issues head-on in order to preserve your marriage. It can definitely be tempting to set the issue aside for later. After all, you’re both very busy, tired, and wrapped up in caring for the baby. However, the sooner you get back on track with your partner, the happier you’re all going to be (baby included).
Steps for Decreasing Postpartum Stress in Your Marriage
In their book “And Baby Makes Three,” Drs. Gottman suggest a variety of steps to help decrease postpartum marital stress. First of all, focus on delighting in your baby together. The baby is joyful, despite all of the stressors they bring. Focus on that.
Then, turn your focus to each other. It’s really important to regain physical intimacy with your spouse if you’ve lost it. This doesn’t mean that you have to have sex, although that would be helpful. Instead, focus on all of the little ways that physical touch brings you together.
Even though you’re both exhausted, you can snuggle on the couch. Holding hands, patting each other on the shoulders, and taking five minutes for a long body-to-body hug can all reduce marital strain.
Of course, you also have to deal with your conflicts. Tips include:
Soften your approach.
Be gentle with your spouse.
Own your own contributions to every problem.
Speak about your own experience without blaming your spouse.
Share openly the conflicting feelings you might have.
Make time to do things for yourself so all of the pressure isn’t on your spouse to fix it.
The Stress Might Be Depression
It’s important to understand that although this is normal, it can also be clinically serious. Many people also do not realize that depression can occur at anytime for parents and it is not isolated to the early months or couple of years of being a parent. Children get older, some have more children and it can seem the responsibilities are endless and relief is no where insight. To learn more about how parents in general are impacted by depression and how therapy can help, please click here.
Can Both Parents Get Postpartum Depression?
Also not often talked about is the possibility that both parents might be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Therefore, the issues might go beyond what you can resolve alone as a couple. You might need individual or couples’ therapy to get through this challenging time.
To learn more about postpartum depression in fathers, please click here.
To learn more about how counseling can help treat postpartum depression and anxiety, please click here.
I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
COMING SOON! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!