How baby changes your relationship
A baby means loss and conflict too. Handle these tensions with these tips to safeguard your relationship.
Laughing couple

Research and experience suggests that nine out of ten couples fight more after baby is born, and that one of the biggest fights is about who does what. New parents experience the birth of a first child as a crisis, although the soft-focus world of baby adverts leads us to believe that we are the only parents with a problem.

The birth of a baby can be considered a traumatic life event. Many couples vow that a new baby will not change their lifestyles, but the reality is that a baby changes everything. Not only do you need to cope with the demands of parenting, you also need to adjust to your changing relationship.

Add the fact that you’re both probably suffering from sleep deprivation and there is no wonder the pressure can cause previously wonderful relationships to dissolve into regular duelling matches. Learn how to tackle problems and not each other. Many of these may involve a sense of loss:

• Loss of:

  • your previous lifestyle and identity
  • your income and financial independence
  • companionship and sexual intimacy
  • job/career and self esteem
  • friends and hobbies/sport

Make a plan before you make a baby
Many critical issues become a problem because they aren’t addressed before the baby is born. If poor patterns of communication existed before the baby’s birth, then the normal stresses and strains of raising a baby will make things worse. Resentments can build up rapidly and easily feed an argument if they aren’t expressed appropriately.

Ideally, a couple should develop effective communication before they decide to parent. As a couple, you should feel comfortable expressing your deepest fears and desires. It would help to discuss your expectations of parenthood, your roles and the impact of your own childhood on your values.

Financial strategies should be set up and agreed upon before one of you gives up work. Expectations regarding lifestyle should be explored. Discussion around discipline, involvement of in-laws, attitudes towards feeding and sleep routines would be invaluable.

Once your baby arrives some of these may change but at least you will have started a conversation that you can continue. New moms can often feel plunged into a world of domestic drudgery and just having dad help with the household chores can be a relief. Dads on the other hand may feel solely responsible for the family’s financial wellbeing.

Some disagreement is inevitable. But the fighting doesn’t only affect your and your partner. Parental conflict can create havoc in children’s lives. Frustrations between you and your partner are an opportunity to model positive conflict resolution and communication that demonstrates love, respect, and trust.

So how can you handle these tensions effectively?

  • Have your arguments in private
  • Don’t put each other down
  • Avoid losing your temper, blaming or sarcasm
  • Avoid absolute terms like “always” or “never”
  • Don’t interrupt each other. Listen to what your partner has to say
  • Take time to cool down if things get over-heated
  • Use “I” messages to describe your feelings, rather than “You” messages to blame
  • Acknowledge ways that you yourself are contributing to the problem
  • Try and see the situation from the other person’s point of view
  • Remember that some problems with emotional roots don’t need solving – sometimes just being heard is enough
  • Try to get to the root of the problem – if you’re yelling about dirty cups in the sink, what is really bothering you?
  • Try holding hands while you resolve conflict. It’s almost impossible to be hostile while holding hands.
  • Cultivate a sense of humour. Couples who laugh together, stay together
  • If necessary, get professional help

You know you need urgent professional help when:

  • Your partner physically/verbally abuses you
  • One or both partners resorts to abusing alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
  • One or both partners has trouble sleeping, eating and/or feels depressed
  • One partner continually withdraws from conflict
  • One partner tends to demean, blame or bully the other partner
  • You feel ashamed of your behaviour during an argument
  • Your arguments are never resolved

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