What About Us?

A couples guide to having a baby

Bringing a baby into the world is what it’s all about when you’re making a family. For many couples it’s an exciting time that adds to the closeness of relationship. However, it’s also a time of trepidation, change and unknowns which can have a big impact on a relationships health. Many couples consider the transition into parenthood more complex than they imagined and more difficult to navigate than assumed. For some couples these complexities can become too much for the relationship to handle and can, sadly, manifest in heightened anxieties, conflict and even separation.

Undeniably, coupledom and a relationships health pre-date babies being born. Relationship blue prints are linked to our own births, childhood and families. From these experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) we have each developed strategies and behaviours that help us cope, survive and thrive when we feel emotionally vulnerable. And it is these set of strategies and behaviours that are fundamental to the boom or bust of our adult relationships. You may already be aware of how you and your partner have patterns of conflict, tension or distance that seem repetitive?

This idea is a big concept, and understanding it is enormously important. Particularly when we consider that bringing a baby into the world is often a trigger for feeling vulnerable in our relationships. Obviously, new babies bring lots of joy and lots of stresses. What may be less obvious is the vulnerability this can create within a relationship: A partner’s feeling of rejection, disconnection, or loneliness and for both parents and increased risk of depression, to name but a few.

In reality biological families hinge on the capacity of the couple and prioritising your relationships and its health is paramount. There are a myriad of ways to do this and its worth remembering that good relationships take effort. Here are 5 go-to ideas to keep your relationship on track.

The Golden Rules:
Two ‘golden rules’ in relationship are ‘everything is co-created’ and ‘changing you is all you can do’. Of course, you may be able to influence your partner, however any strategy to force, blame or manipulate is a fast burn to separation. If you want a different relationship stop trying to change your partner and start changing!

Couples Time:
Many couples think that ‘couples time’ means, date nights, kid free days, or weekends away. That’s true, but often as parents we are so exhausted that a night together means flaking out in front of the TV. Two simple alternatives you can ensure are:

  1. Create a day to day romance through increased fondness and admiration. Without these qualities a relationship is unlikely to thrive. Reminding each other about what you appreciate is a simple tool.
  2. Prioritise one, two or a few nights per week for a minimum of 30 mins, together. The critical part is the intent of how you use this time. It needs to be nurturing, caring and respectful. It can be a time to talk, connect, touch, resolve and share.

Let’s talk:
At some level relationship woes are always about communication and many eminent specialists have written on this subject (E.g. John Gottman, Susan Johnson, Stan Tatkin, and others). John Gottman talks about the need for couples to delineate which issues are solvable and which are perpetual. Understanding core skills in active, non violent, connecting and conflict resolving communication is essential. Look at learning these skills as an investment in your life. They will influence not only your own sense of self, but your relationships, parenting and work.

Support team and network:
There is no doubt that it takes a village to raise a child. Nurturing relationships around your family that promote children’s well-being can help new parents relax back into prioritise their intimate relationship. Cast the net wide and consider a support team to include family, friendships, mothers/father groups, community groups, health care providers and professional family services.

Man Up
Men’s capacity to ‘step up’ into fatherhood is a prominent theme of new parents who are in relationship crisis. Whether that’s around emotional literacy, being a fully engaged dad, or in becoming a more supportive partner, woman can feel let down by their men after the birth of a child. Modern men need to have a backbone and a heart. They need the strength, courage and insight to adapt to the changes in lifestyle and romantic relationship. Men, take responsibility for your actions and seek help if you need it.

It’s normal that relationships aren’t always a bed of roses. However, striving to grow your couplehood is the most important gift you bring to each other and your parenting. Ample research shows that children thrive in a family that has a loving, functional parental relationship. They will do better at school, are less likely to be bullies, abuse drugs and alcohol or suffer from mental illness. Healthy relationships are a strong indicator for longer life expectancy and without doubt the pillar of stronger community. Its a convincing argument don’t you think?

‘’Hold me tight’’ – Susan Johnson- Little Brown & Co. 2008
‘’Wired for love’’ – Stan Tatkin – New Harbinger Publications 2012