Thanks for the talented Emily Pardy for today’s blog post! Emily is a counselor and founder of Ready Nest Counseling in Nashville, TN. Ready Nest Counseling helps couples prepare for parenthood by caring for their relational wellness as they transition through conception, pregnancy, post-partum, and infertility. Emily has written for multiple parenting publications including Thriving Family magazine and ParentLife magazine. She has her Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy from Lipscomb University and is the author of For All Maternity, a humorous memoir of her own journey into motherhood. Emily resides in Nashville, TN with her husband and three rambunctious daughters.
Welcoming a new baby adds a lot of things to a relationship. Love, joy, and more patience than you ever knew you had inside you, all come with bringing a newborn into your home. All of a sudden you have a tangible representation of your love for one another staring back at your face, requiring constant attention. The sweet smell of a new baby can fill you with all kinds of wonderful feelings, but no matter how hard you try to juggle life, work, and relationships, there is one thing that precious bundle of joy can’t create for your marriage: Romance.
While it took love to bring your baby into the world, it’s ironic now that your baby seems to hold the power to extinguish that same spark. No one ever has a baby to “spice up” their love life, that’s for sure. Nothing can kill the momentum of arousal quite like a cry of an infant in need. Parents are built with the intuition to drop everything and rescue their baby, so it’s only natural to push your relationship to the back burner again and again as your newborn takes priority.
But, your newborn is not a newborn forever. Soon, he or she is crawling, teething, and hopefully (eventually, I promise) sleeping through the night. While your baby is growing and developing, however, it’s common for couples to not progress their relationship at the same pace.
The new roles of motherhood and fatherhood have taken their toll, no doubt, and subtle patterns have crept into a couple’s “new normal” often leading to feelings of resentment (i.e. She’s so affectionate with the baby but hasn’t let me touch her in weeks) or insecurity (i.e. I can’t feel comfortable naked until I lose the rest of this baby weight). So, couples tend to avoid the topic of sex and romance, and like the laundry pile in the corner that never seems to go away, too many relationships begin to stink if they get left there too long.
Take heart! You can rebuild this connection with your partner. Stop looking for your relationship to resemble the one you had prior to having children. Instead, it’s time to look ahead and embrace the new partnership that you have with your spouse as a parent and begin to incorporate romantic connections in the daily life you now share together.
You don’t need to take a vacation away from your problems to hit the reset button on your relationship. If you can’t afford a weekend getaway, don’t fret. Reality rarely carves out time for extravagant gestures, so you have to make an intentional effort to do what you can when you can. It’s in the small things that patterns actually change for the better, so know that habits are best learned when integrated into your real life. If your real life includes a pumping schedule, taking out the trash on Wednesdays, and making sure you don’t sleep with your make-up on, then you’re in good company. Your chaotic life didn’t happen overnight, so rest assured that even tiny changes in your relationship could have significant impact in the long run. Commitment is built on trust, so don’t take on too much at once or you’ll just disappoint yourself. Instead, find something that works for your relationship and invest in that effort consistently. Here’s a good place to start:
Connection that takes 1 minute or less:
- Text your partner a flirty message or photo
- Bring your partner their favorite drink without asking
- Share a GIF from a favorite show or film you both love
- Snapchat or Tweet an inside joke or playful message
- Hug your spouse for no reason
- Tell your partner you’re thankful to be in this together
- Hand over the remote control
- Tag your spouse on Instagram with a favorite picture
- Smile from across the room
- Hold hands if only for a moment
- Ask if you can get them anything while you’re up
- Put both your phones on “Do not disturb”
- Shout I LOVE YOU from the other room
Connection that takes 5-10 minutes:
- Leave a note on the mirror or steering wheel
- Make coffee and pour your spouse’s cup first
- Offer to change the baby’s diaper so your spouse can relax
- Watch a clip of your favorite film together on YouTube
- Make a snack for just the two of you (No Goldfish crackers allowed!)
- Make the bed together
- Go to bed at the same time/get up at the same time
- Tell your spouse your favorite thing about them this week and why
- Ask how their day was and ask a follow up question before telling how yours was
- Make out on the couch like teenagers
- Rub your spouse’s feet or shoulders
- Read a passage out loud from the current book you’re into
- Listen to a song from your dating history together that brings up fond memories
And the list goes on! These simple tasks do not take long, but the effort is intentional and meaningful. These tiny moments of reconnection aren’t going to solve a major conflict or turn the tide of patterns in one try, but they will help you see your partner for who they really are and not the parent-robot-roommate-butler you’ve been living with for the last few months!
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to incorporate a few creative moments of connection and make the effort to rekindle the romance you desire in your relationship. Tiny steps of connection can set the tone for a lifetime of commitment, and a daily life that’s filled with glimpses of encouragement that you’re in this chaotic season together.