Even the strongest bonds can be tested when the excitement of a brand new baby gives way to sleep deprivation, self-doubt and lack of communication. Want to keep your marriage strong as the two of you become a family? Here’s how:
- Split up
Wait, what? One of the most important things you can do for each other as a couple is to go your separate ways. It takes effort and a bit of planning, but continuing to pursue interests and friendships on your own makes you a better partner—and parent. But who really feels like meeting friends for a movie after a long day of caring for a baby? You may have to start small when your baby is young, especially if you’re breastfeeding and can’t be more than a feeding away. Take a walk on your own, escape to the backyard to call your BFF or just take a nap. Likewise, try and make sure your partner has time to pursue his interests as well. It won’t always be easy, but it’s important in the long run.
- Put your relationship first
Newborns put you into full-on survival mode, which makes it hard to take care of yourself, let alone your spouse. But the foundation of your new little family is the bond you’ve created with each other—and small steps you take to be thoughtful to each other pay off massively in the long run. Pouring that third cup of coffee? Pour one for your spouse, too. Think about how the baby affects each of you in different ways and acknowledge this. Dads, don’t use breastfeeding or “bonding” with mom as an excuse to back away from your spouse. She needs you now more than ever and she needs to feel that strong foundation underneath her feet.
Invest in a really good coffee pot. Enough said.
Even when nothing seems funny—projectile spit up, overflowing diaper pail, nasty case of diaper rash—laughter is one of the most important things that can keep your marriage strong. Laughing together after a particularly challenging day helps you both stay sane. So put on that favorite funny DVD and share some laughs, even if you have to watch it half an hour at a time.
Seriously, who feels like getting busy when your boobs are leaking and you’re still wearing maternity undies? But those simmering urges might never come back if you don’t try and keep the fire stoked. Have an honest conversation about when you might be ready for more than a peck on the cheek, and make a pact to remember how you made the baby in the first place. A kiss in the kitchen, a hand lingering on your shoulder when he takes the baby for bath time, a wink across the room—it all keeps the fires warm, and helps you see each other as more than roommates. And when you’re ready to bring sexy back? The journey isn’t that far.
- Divide and conquer
Until you’ve had a baby, you just can’t explain it—babies are time sucks. It’s easy to think that you can run errands and get everything done just as easily with baby in tow, because they just sleep all day, right? Comparing your to-do lists and consolidating errands throughout the week takes a load off both of you, leaving more time for playing with your baby and enjoying your family.
Whether your relationship was relatively new when your baby came into the picture or you’ve been married for a decade, listening is one of the most important things you can do to stay close. So even when your baby-frazzled mind can’t remember if you showered this morning, you both need to have at least a few minutes out of each day for real communication.
Babies are all sorts of awesome—and all sorts of exhausting. But keeping your relationship strong will result in a big payoff down the road. Like when you have a teenager.