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When Becoming Parents Kills Your Coupledom

Katlyn Joy |28, August 2014


There is no greater joy than having a child and falling in love with this perfect creature. And perhaps there is no greater strain on a relationship, than becoming a parent. Few things, outside dire circumstances, will test your marriage in the way becoming three can.

Why Marriage Changes After Baby

1. Shifting focus.

When it was just you two, it was easy to maintain your relationship. It was an easy and obvious priority. Once you became pregnant, the focus began to shift to the baby. After baby arrives, there is no question whom is the center of the family now. Babies demand so much of you both, and it can be hard to have anything left over for each other.

2. Time shortage.

Related to shifting focus, is the scarcity of time. You will sometimes have to be super-creative to find a scrap of time to grab a shower. Having a conversation or intimacy with your mate is difficult due to the day slipping away, or frequent interruptions for bottles, diaper changes or comforting.

3. Energy.

Sadly, if baby finally sleeps the night, and you both have the good fortune to be at home and not busy, you may very well miss out simply because your body was craving sleep more than together time. It's a physical reality you have to contend with at least in the first months of parenthood.

4. New roles.

Some mothers in particular have a hard time switching back and forth from being a wife to being a mother. Dads can struggle seeing their wives as both simultaneously, and seeing them give birth may take some time to regroup and return to normal. Finding balance in your family roles plus the other roles you assume in your life can take time, and practice.

5. Neglect.

All these elements add up to relationship suffering from lack of attention. If you think you can put off rebuilding those connections until baby is older and demands less of you, you may be horribly disappointed in the results. A neglected marriage is like an untended garden. Don't let the weeds take over, or the plants dry out. Many couples finally sit across from one another when the child starts school and are startled to realize the partner is a near stranger.

How to Prevent or Reverse the Uncoupling

1. Keep your focus on your marriage while adding baby to the mix.

It's not an either or situation. You have enough love and devotion to go around. Don't allow every conversation to be about the baby, setting a dangerous precedent.

2. Make time together a priority.

If you don't schedule couple time, it will get pushed to the wayside and forgotten. Plan a date night at least once a month, even if it's just a dinner or in the most extreme situations, a walk alone. Put it on the calendar and treat it as you would another appointment that shouldn't be broken.

3. Preserve, build and protect your energy.

You've heard it a million times: nap when baby does. That's one idea. Stop sweating the little things. Let things go when possible. If you used to dust every few days, give it up. If you are president of some club, take a leave of absence. Make your bedroom an oasis, instead of an alternative office and living room. Sleep is a priority, so facilitate a good night's rest.

4. Don't forget you are a wife as well as a mom now!

While some fathers may get so enthralled in fatherhood, this is primarily a woman's tendency. You are always a mother, from this day forward. However, you don't need to be acting as a mother every second of the day. Don't forget who you both were together that created this family.

5. Don't neglect your spouse.

Besides making appointments and sharing focus, you need to maintain daily connection. Make time for affection, if not intimacy, every day. Stop and give him a real, honest kiss. Carve out moments to talk about the rest of your lives, and not the bills or the car repairs, but about your day, the news and your work. If you realize you've both let the relationship go back burner, make a concerted effort to pour energy into your marriage again. Apologize for any hurts that have built up, and let bygones be bygones. Your family is built on this partnership; protect and nurture it.

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