Most couples experience a decline in sexual intimacy after having a baby. Follow these simple tips to restore that spark of passion in your relationship between diaper duty and midnight feedings.
Did you know that 1 in 4 couples divorce within the first 5 years after the birth of their first child? And beyond that 67% of couples report a decline in marital satisfaction after baby arrives. Whoa!
I've always known that modern divorce rates were unpleasant, but I was blown away by the statistics of marital dissatisfaction around what's supposed to be such a happy time in the lives of new families.
That's why after the birth of my first child, when the reality of parenting in New York City was fresh, I became trained by the Gottman Institute (the folks known for being able to predict a couple's risk of divorce with 94% accuracy) to help couples in this critical point in their relationship.
It's been phenomenal and I hope to share some of the knowledge I teach my couples in live workshops with you here on the blog so you can manage this transition of life like a pro. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you my Plan for Baby: The Essential Planning Guide for New Parents. It's absolutely free to download now and if you're anxious about preparing for the arrival of your new child, it's a great quick overview of what I've found couples most need to focus on in the months leading up to childbirth.
I'd love to know what you think and how this resource is helpful for you. Be sure to grab it here for free and then leave a comment below with one tip you'll take away to be a pro parent.
With an overwhelming amount of to-dos on all of our plates, not to mention our electronic devices going off at nearly every turn, it’s a wonder we’re able to have a conversation with anyone...ever. Add to that a busy environment like New York City where we’re faced with literally thousands of commercial images everyday vying for our attention, and the possibility for couples to connect through deep, focused, intimate communication seems like a pipe dream.
I know personally how difficult it can be to have regular meaningful conversation with my spouse. My husband, who is a psychiatrist, and I work long hours, and with commuting an hour to and from the office, and with a busy toddler in the mix we’ve noticed how easy it is for the evenings to slip away without us talking about the deepest issues on our hearts. I don’t think we’re alone.
A report from the city's comptroller stated that New Yorkers work the longest average work hours than the next largest cities (over 49 hours per week), largely due to our long commute times. This is a big deal given that a Swedish study showed that couples with commute times over 45 minutes were 40% more likely to divorce. Ouch. Your job might actually be ruining your relationship!
So what can we do? We need to become intentional and efficient in the way we connect with our spouses. When I work with couples I often recommend integrating a daily habit of a Rose-Bud-Thorn conversation with one another. It’s an easy and thorough way to connect intimately on the content that really matters without neglecting important issues on your heart you may not have shared. So carve out some time, usually five to ten minutes, to talk to one another about the following:
Rose - Share one aspect of your day you are really happy about or think was a beautiful
Bud - Share one thing in your life that is in transition, confused, or is emerging and you are anticipating
Thorn - Share one hiccup in your day that was negative and made you frustrated, angry or sad.
Take turns speaking and be sure to listen solely with the intention to understand where your partner is coming from in that moment. You’re not judging, analyzing, critiquing or giving advice! Simply listen, confirm you’ve understood what they shared, and affirm the emotion they described (e.g. That DOES sound very frustrating or Wow what an exciting opportunity. It makes sense you’re so thrilled about it.) If you can have these conversations on a daily basis with your spouse, you’ll be sure to enhance your connection and beat those divorce statistics!
Need a reminder? Download this Share Your Roses: Rose-Bud-Thorn image to place on your refrigerator or keep on your phone as a handy reminder on the go. Be sure to share this post with your spouse so they know why you want to start this habit. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Leave your thoughts below in the comments for how this practice might impact your marriage or how you’re making the time to share your rose-bud-thorn.
I feel like I'm drowning in checklists. I mean, we have checklists for everything--what to pack in your hospital bag and what to put on your shower registry--but where is the checklist for how to prepare your relationship for having a baby? If research shows that 1 in 4 couples divorce within the first 5 years after the birth of their first child (Gottman Insititute) then strengthening our marriages should be at the top of our to-do list when we're expecting a child.
Based on my work with expectant and new first-time parents here in New York City, here are the top emotional and psychological to-dos I recommend couples focus on before baby arrives:
1. Acknowledge the changes that are coming. Babies are a blessing but with heart-bursting cuddles and tiny toes and snuggles come a few inevitable shifts in your life rhythm. Carve out some time as a couple to talk through a minimum of 5 ways you each anticipate the new baby will change your lives.
2. Become experts at managing conflict. Conflict in and of itself is not a red flag for me as a therapist. In fact, couples who handle conflict well often have the best intimacy and stability in their relationship. It’s all about how you manage these stressful moments. During pregnancy, work on enhancing your ability to wade through conflict so when moments of disconnect inevitably happen post-delivery, you’ll be easily able to lean on your skills to bounce back stronger than ever.
3. Communicate your hopes and expectations. Becoming a parent can awaken in us latent dreams and desires for the future we may never have realized existed or never acknowledged. Take some time individually to identify a couple of hopes you have for your individual relationship with your child (e.g. do you want to be the first to push baby on the swings or do you care who does bath time?). Then share your hopes with your partner so you can be a support and advocate for one another’s dreams.
4. Ritualize your romance. It’s no surprise that new parents are totally preoccupied with caring for their little one who demands so much care. Don’t lose your romantic relationship with your spouse just because junior has popped onto the scene. Find small ways now before the baby arrives to establish regular points of connection. Try date nights or committing to a no-screen policy during dinnertime. These small relational habits developed now will make it easy to have quick ways to reconnect once you become parents and have limited time alone.
Let’s make it personal and start making a plan to enhance your post-birth relationship today. What are the most significant ways you expect having this child will impact your marriage? Download this “Expect the Change Couple Activity” quick sheet to capture the transition and commit to a plan to strategically work to overcome that season of change.
Then leave a comment below sharing your wisdom. How might your marriage relationship change after the baby is born? Jot down the transition you expect your relationship will make or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can share any personal resources I may have to help you better manage this next season.