If you’ve gone through having a baby, you know the pressure it puts on your relationship. Sleepless nights, struggling with feeding, and exhaustion all play a part in strains between parents. This can then escalate into arguments and irritation, all while grappling with a young baby.
Naturally, this results in a less harmonious relationship for many couples. New research from the Dresden University in Germany has shown how soon relationships recover.
The study followed the journey of 500 new fathers and over 100 second-time dads, asking them repeatedly over time about the wellbeing of their relationships, up to 2 years post-partum.
The study found that new dads felt their happiness in their relationship dropped until over a year after the birth of their baby. Dads with more than one child reported lowered relationship satisfaction also, however this recovered to a normal level sooner after the birth of their second baby.
The effects of parenting on relationships
Going through a patch of stress and strain causes disharmony in all relationships, but arguably no life change is bigger than becoming a parent. The weight of responsibility in caring for a delicate life can create rifts between even the previously most happy couples. Add in a lack of sleep, little time for each other, and less time and opportunity for intimacy, and cracks can begin to show.
How to mitigate relationship strain
While caught in a swirl of nappies, feeds and naps, it might be hard to see how the stress in your relationship can be addressed. However, there are little ways that you can seek to create more happiness between you:
Talk it out
Find a few minutes a day to check in with each other and see how you’re doing. Sometimes, just being open about your feelings can offer the chance to offload and also reconnect. Even if you share negative emotions, you are still strengthening your bond by talking, as well as helping your stress levels.
Share the load
Frustration can arise between new parents when there is a perceived notion of one partner not ‘pulling their weight’. This can get worse when one partner returns to work, and the housework and responsibilities in the home pile up.
Rather than approaching the situation angrily, try to keep in mind the stress load on both of your shoulders, and start a conversation to address the problem calmly. Using ‘I feel’ statements rather than ‘you are’ statements can also help move things forward rather than create more strain. For example, you could start by saying ‘I feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do’, rather than ‘You’re not helping me enough’. The latter statement might cause your partner to get defensive, whereas the ‘I feel’ sentence communicates how you feel.
Create a rota
If the washing up is piling up in the sink and the washing basket is overflowing, you could try creating a rota between you to tackle tasks. Perhaps dad could take the baby out for a walk while mum has 20 minutes of peace and a chance to have a shower, or vice versa? Try and schedule in time for both of you to breathe and have a minute to yourself as well as deal with the necessary responsibilities.
Lean on support
If you’re lucky enough to have relatives near by, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if your baby’s auntie can just pick up some shopping for you, or grandma can look after the baby for an hour while you and your partner nip out for a coffee, it all helps.
Find moments to nurture your relationship
Try and grab opportunities to feel like a couple again- perhaps Friday nights can be when you enjoy a takeaway together- even if baby is napping in the corner! If you’ve got a babysitter, make date nights to get away just the two of you for a few hours. That time can be instrumental in remembering why you love each other, and help you sail through the tough times more easily.
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