“Becoming a parent is an amazing, wonderful, life-changing experience. You will never feel the same sense of love and responsibility as you do for your newborn, this tiny creature, so completely dependent on you. Many people feel a surge of newfound nurturing – and even a sense of pride and accomplishment as you watch your little one grow. You and your partner – you did this! You two will feel connected like never before as you deepen emotional intimacy during early parenthood. And the journey is just beginning.”
That’s a nice story. One that can be difficult to remember when you’re changing an unending line of dirty diapers. And while, yes – between feedings, spits-ups, and more bodily functions – you can remember that it’s true, you’re probably well aware by now that this idyllic vision of new parenthood is not the whole story. Because babies are an exhausting drain on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
You will sleep less and more sporadically. You will have less sex in general – and no sex for a significant amount of time. You will find yourself forgetting things. You will be crankier. Your exercise schedule will probably be ruined. Your diet will suffer, and naptime alone will sound like a far better way to spend your free time than cuddling on the couch to watch a TV show or – god forbid – trying to have some kind of date night out.
Because all of these natural challenges will inevitably be pushing you and your partner apart, make an extra-special effort to nurture your emotional connection with your partner during this time. Here are some ways that you can strive to do that, even when both of you feel like you don’t have any more of yourselves to give.
Communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, and this holds true even more so after becoming parents.
You and your partner are likely to be going through a whirlwind of emotions as you face new challenges together. Should you give your baby grandma’s heirloom blanket, or are blankets dangerous for kids now? Is your baby developing at a normal, healthy rate? Are they talking enough? Are you talking to them enough? It’s so easy to feel self-doubt as a parent.
Share your thoughts, concerns, and feelings openly with your partner. They are likely going through the same things right besides you, but they might not know how much you relate. Relating, commiserating, and having open dialogue about your struggles with strengthen your emotional connection.
How can you create a safe space for open and honest discussions, where both of you can express your worries and joys without judgment? Active listening is just as important as expressing yourself clearly. Make an effort to really listen to your partner’s thoughts and feelings, and validate their experiences. Setting a timer to take turns talking can help with this. Then you’ll have the assurance that your time to be heard will come.
More than anything super-structure does it mean you you , just talk and listen and try not to judge. You are both likely to be emotional during this time period. Accept that. Try to be extra gracious, forgive, and ask to be forgiven. Remember that the most important thing you can do is show up. Your kids will remember your presence far more than all the little details.
Okay, show of hands. Who’s trying not to laugh?
Finding quality time together with your partner when you have a newborn can be next to impossible. But that is also why it is so important to enjoy those moments when they do come up.
This doesn’t mean you have to plan a date at a 5-star restaurant. While that kind of escape may sound nice, it’s just as likely to feel exhausting. Here are some more reasonable things you can try, though:
Nap together. The baby is actually sleeping? Join them! Not literally – stay in your own bed. But take advantage of this time by snuggling in bed for a nap – or just laying next to each other if you’re all “touched out.” Having a little creature all up in your business can do that to you.
Bathe together. This is a hard time to make space for physical affection and for taking care of yourself and each other. Showering together can be a way to accomplish all three things.
Cuddle on the couch with a TV show. Yes, I wrote about how even this can be too much. And, at times, it can. But if you’re feeling up to it, watching some easily-digestible TV is one of the least intense ways to just be together.
Eat together. Simply being able to sit together and enjoy a good meal can be an incredibly relaxing and connecting experience.
Find help. If you have family or friends willing to come over for a few hours to watch your little one, absolutely take advantage of this. It doesn’t have to be for something like a date night. Early on, that’s probably way too intense. Instead, use their help to let you do one of the above activities in peace. Or do something small, like going for a walk. All of these little moments matter, where you can simply find some time to be together.
Caring for a newborn is a tremendous responsibility. Sharing this can bring you closer as a couple.
Work as a team to ensure that both of you have the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. As much as you want to steal moments of togetherness, it is perhaps even more important to offer your partner time alone to charge their batteries. Solitude can be a great gift when you have a newborn.
Try to fairly share feeding, diaper-changing, and bedtime duties – it can’t always be equal, as one partner may need to work outside the home while the other stays home with your little one. But trying to even things out or working together on tasks like dinner or bedtime can help you feel more like a team and less like fragmented employees of the newborn.
And don’t forget to vocally express your gratitude for each other. Being a parent is hard work, and it’s easy to take each other’s efforts for granted. Saying thank you for something as simple as changing the next diaper can mean a lot. Certainly,a as parents, it’s nice if your child eventually thanks you for all that you’ve done – but that’s a long time coming, so give each other appreciation now, in the newborn years.
You can say “thank you,” but it can also add fun to your relationship if you do this in unique ways. You could leave a bouquet of flowers, a favorite snack, or a loving note. These small gestures can go a long way to help your partner feel valued and loved.
Bottom line? You can continue to deepen emotional intimacy after having a baby — it just requires a concerted effort and mutual understanding.
The arrival of your child does alter your life forever – but it also provides a unique opportunity to radically strengthen your bond as a couple. By communicating openly, making time for each other, sharing responsibilities, and supporting each other’s self-care, you can navigate the challenges of parenthood and keep your emotional connection strong.
Remember: This is a journey you’re embarking on together, and nurturing your relationship along the way will provide you with a major source of strength, support, and happiness in the long run. Last but not least, the saying “It takes a village” still holds up. If you need help remembering how to nurture your connection, don’t hesitate to reach out to professional relationship counselor. You’re not the first to go down this road, and there’s much wisdom to be learned from those who went before you. A licensed therapist can give you the tools and the safe space to do that.