Return to: Head Over Heels!
Reconnecting to our partners after Baby.
Boy meets Girl. The two fall in love. They get married, have a child. The love that brought them together in the first place only intensifies with the birth of this child they’ve created. They live happily ever after.
Ahh, how nice it would be if it were only that simple. It is beautiful when being in love brings forth a child and two people become a family, but it’s wishful thinking to imagine that that child won’t impact the couple’s relationship in huge and unforeseen ways. Having a child greatly impacts many aspects of a relationship, including how we feel about ourselves, our partner, our sensuality, our bodies, our future. All sorts of issues and fears come up: our own unresolved childhood issues, body image issues, fears about the future, worries over finances, fears about parenting “right”–and communication issues already endemic to our relationship with our partner become magnified. And that doesn’t take into account the more everyday issues of hormones, sleep (or lack thereof), and roles (e.g. who’s going to stay home? Who is going to get up at night for feedings? And who is going to bring in the extra money that having a baby requires?). With a little effort, however, this time can also be one of even deeper connection to our partner as together we share in the miracle and joy of having not only created a life, but in falling deeply in love with that little person and raising him or her and watching them grow.
Couples I know who have weathered this period well had several things in common. I would like to share these with you because having these tools can make all the difference in how this times goes. A few of the common threads between couples who become closer during this period are:
They communicate well with each other. Needs are expressed in a calm, non-judgmental and honest way. Needs are stated as an “I statement” rather than a “You statement”–such as “I could use more help with the feedings” vs. “You never help.” “I statements” begin with the pronoun “I,” not “you,” and state the feeling or need in a positive, not negative, way. They do not include the words “never” or “always”. Communicate both what you need AND what you appreciate. Showing appreciation for the job the other person is doing is as important as sharing what isn’t working.
Couples make time for intimacy: Sensuality and sexuality are often put on the back burner during this time in a relationship and not surprisingly that effects the intimacy the couple has with each other. Since sexuality is an expression of our love for each other, without it, the couple doesn’t feel as close. Here are some ways to insure sexuality still has a place:
Go to bed earlier. One couple I know went to bed soon after they put their baby down even though that was much earlier than their own bedtime. But doing so, at least some nights of the week, insured they would have alone time, quiet time, and not be too tired for sex. Another couple I know found baby’s nap time a good time for their sexual rendezvous! Having that time in the afternoon meant they didn’t feel guilty if they didn’t have the energy or were not in the mood at night. Being together on the weekend is another possible time to slip love-making in. If that means capitalizing on nap time or getting a babysitter to watch the baby once a week and slipping away somewhere, then do that. Making a date for love-making may sound too “planned” or not spontaneous enough, but actually, it sends the message to your partner that it’s so important that you are setting time aside for it in advance because you so want to have it happen.
Carve out Alone Time. Alone time as a couple and for each other. Offer to give each other a break. Time alone can recharge your batteries. Men can offer their wives a day at the spa or time for a manicure or alone time for reading or a bath (the things we women used to do without thinking twice!). Offering that shows your wife that you understand what she does all day (whether as a full-time stay-at-home mom or a woman who is struggling to be both a mom and a woman with a job outside the home) and that she has very little time for herself. It also shows that you understand the value of time with your baby so you can bond with him or her like your wife gets to. It shows reverence to both your partner and your baby to offer to be alone with him or her.
Hire a sitter and have alone time together as a couple. Carving out “couple time” is an intimate act as well and necessary for re-charging the relationship. You know how flight attendants tell us to first put oxygen masks on ourselves in case of an emergency and then put it on our child? Why do they do that? Because we are no good to our child if we are passed out. We can’t tend to our child if we have no life-force ourselves. Likewise, if we are exhausted in our life and feel spent, we can’t possibly give to our child. We need to give ourselves emotional oxygen. Time for ourselves–doing what feeds and nourishes us–gives us emotional oxygen.
Men: You have no idea how attractive you are when you help with housework! If you want to be desired by your wife, make her feel important. Make her feel attractive. Help with chores and do it lovingly. You may have seen the popular book “Porn for Women” that shows photos of men baking, cleaning, offering foot rubs–although it is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it isn’t far off the mark! When you help with the baby, when you offer breaks to your wife, when you pick up the slack, you become far more attractive.
Your sex appeal grows exponentially with the help you provide your woman. Women also often mention how attractive their husband is when interacting positively with their baby. Men, seeing you being loving and attentive toward your child makes you more attractive to your wives.
Women: Love your new body. Your body is glorious. It may be a different body than your pre-baby body, but it’s beautiful in a different way. You have carried a child for nine months, delivered a baby. You are powerful and creative beyond measure! Do not judge your body. Instead try to celebrate it and rejoice in your feminine beauty. What can you do for yourself that makes you feel sexy? Pretty matching bra and panties? Skinny-dipping? Dancing? Listening to Marvin Gaye? Baths with candlelight and a glass of wine? What can you give to yourself that has no agenda other than feeling good about yourself and sexy in your own skin? Do this for yourself whenever possible and do it with love. You give love to your partner and yourself all day, everyday. Treat yourself as often as possible with that same devotion, affection and love. And watch your self-talk and make sure it’s kind and loving.
Becoming parents can and ideally will be the grandest, most expansive time of your life, as you step back in awe and witness your own heart grow in ways you could not have dreamed possible before. It is all the more enriching when it also serves as a time for the deepening and expanding of love you feel for and with your partner as you nurture your baby together.
Catherine DeMonte has been married 26 years and has two grown sons. She is a licensed Marriage, Family, Child therapist in Calabasas and sees adults and children in her practice. She specializes in couples who want to nurture their marriage with them same dedication, love and focus they bring to their children. She is the founder of Head-Over-Heels couples classes. She may be reached at (818) 880-6559 or at email@example.com. Please see her website at: www.catherinedemonte.com. and her facebook fan page at Catherine DeMonte, LMFT.