I'm here to tell you that your relationship is important, it is worth investing in, and may well be the best gift that you can give your children.
Today I am going to share with you five (not so simple) steps you can take to protect your marriage after baby is born.
- Teamwork is Key: Statistically, a majority of families today have both parents working outside the home. However, when it comes to household chores, the wife still does the lion's share of the work. As you can imagine, this can build up a lot of resentment and dissatisfaction in a relationship. When I went back to work it took about six months for us to work out a balanced division of labor. If we had communicated better, we could have worked it out sooner. What we decided on was this: my husband comes home at 3:30 and handles the after-school rush and prepares dinner, pays the bills and does household paperwork. I clean the house (with the help of the older children), do the laundry and cook on the weekends. We divide the shopping fairly evenly. A word of wisdom for you is this, for teamwork to really work, you have to allow your spouse to do his work his way. It makes no sense for me to stand over my husband to tell him how to boil noodles, just as I don't want him telling me how to fold socks. Many hands make light work. With a fair division of labor, you will have more time and energy to spend with the family.
- Fill the Love Bank: Make it a point to compliment your spouse. It may not be easy. I remember days that I spent sitting in a chair breastfeeding twins and changing diapers all day; while I imagined my husband out galavanting around time having lunch meetings and carefree time at the coffee shop. It was humbling and difficult for me to thank him daily for working so hard so that we could afford for me to be home with the kids. However, the more I was complimentary to him, the easier it became. Eventually, I found myself believing the words that I was saying. I found myself feeling much more affectionate towards my husband. I found that I was more tender and forgiving of oversights and shortcomings. He, also, began to be more complimentary towards me. He began to acknowledge how overwhelming the task of motherhood was for me at the time. He actively looked for ways to ease my burdens. We began to fall deeper in love with each other.
- Take Time to Talk: Friends take time to talk together. If that is the case, lovers should really carve out time to truly communicate with each other. When our children were babies, I found that we had the best coversations while going for a drive (gasoline was a lot cheaper then too!) We would pop the baby into a carseat, stop through a drivethrough for some coffee and just drive and talk. Sometimes the talk was mundane; what babyfood I made for our son, how his nap pattern was changing, about how he might start crawling any day. My husband would share the boring details of his graduate school research or share a funny story about someone at the lab. Eventually our conversatons ran deeper-- to hopes, dreams, goals, and how we would get there. As time has passed, our kids have gotten older and our lives have gotten busier; we set aside a weekly business lucnh to go over schedules and plans and often make short phone calls during the day, "just because". After the kids go to bed we watch the eveing news and catch up together. Talking to each other is still one of our favorite activites as a couple.
- Fight Fair: All of the marriage advice in the world will not keep a couple from fighting. But, if you must disagree, fight fair. Try not to resort to name calling or foul language, and work on keeping things on an even keel, especially in front of the children. Arguing in front of the children can be healthy, as it teaches kids that their parents can disagree. Make sure you apologize and move on. Make sure you talk to your kids after an argument. Reassure them that you love each other and that disagreement is a normal part of a relationship.
- Date Your Spouse Yes, now. Yes when your baby is tiny. It is likely that you have friends and family clamoring over who can watch baby for "just one hour" so that you can go have dinner. Take them up on it. Baby will be fine in a loving adult's care for an hour. Go have dinner, preferably somehwere where there are no high chairs. Take some time to rediscover what attracted the two of you together in the first place. Go for a walk. Hold hands. Laugh. Have a glass of wine. Fall in love. If you don't have someone you feel comfortable leaving baby with, you can still date, you just may have to get creative. When our first son was a baby we had a weekly date at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We waited until he was nearly asleep, put him in his carseat and knew he would fall asleep on the ride. Then we placed his carseat in a safe corner by my chair at the restuarant and focused on each other. As we added more kids to the mix, we subbed with a post-bedtime livingroom picnic with a Netlflix movie. Whatever you do, carve out time for just the two of you. Your relationship will thank you!
For more help and advice, I highly reccomend, And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives, by John M. Gottman, PhD.
Chime in! Leave a comment and leave your favorite relationship advice! We'd love to hear from you!