Having a baby is one of the most joyous, transformative experiences a couple can have. It can bring you closer to your partner than you ever imagined. However, after having babies, couples are seriously at risk of silently drifting apart. Why? Shifts in dynamics put your children at the center of your universe. Juggling work, hobbies, friends, and your little ones can take up every minute. Busy days, challenging behaviors, or sleepless nights can leave you with little energy to devote to your partner. Time goes by, and suddenly you realize your relationship is no longer what you want it to be. Don’t wait until the kids are older to make an effort. Try these 5 ways to prevent the “silent drift apart” after having kids.
- 15 Minutes of Complete Presence – The biggest reason couples give for neglecting their relationships after having kids is “there’s just not enough time.” If your lives feel crazy, try to give your partner 15 minutes of “complete presence” where you are both looking at each other, close, really listening, and truly engaged. You could try lighting a candle during this time or sitting in the same place on the couch. This can be an extremely powerful way to connect when there’s little time.
- Don’t Blame Your Partner for Changes in Your Life – Recognize that a partner can’t make you happy. After baby, there is tremendous joy. However, it’s also normal to grieve or feel down about losing parts of your old life (such as hobbies, exercising, seeing friends, having free time) that you miss after having a baby. By acknowledging your natural feelings of loss, you can avoid displacing your feelings and blaming your partner for your sadness.
- Chore Talks – After you have a baby, chores become a lot more difficult. You constantly need to buy diapers, baby food, etc. Your house may be way messier with toddlers emptying drawers, playing with toys, going through the mail, or dumping out bins of blocks. You create more dishes and laundry. You may feel so exhausted from sleepless nights that mowing the lawn, fixing a light, or folding loads of laundry may feel insurmountable. If one parent stays home, expectations of who does what may change. It’s important to have regular talks to continue discussing who does what chores, how the balance is or isn’t working, and what can be done to relieve the pressure of chores on each of you (for example, hiring someone to clean for a few months, getting groceries delivered, or paying a neighbor to mow your lawn).
- Date Nights or Mornings – Carve out time for a date breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, or adventure each week. Even if it’s only for an hour, your time with “just the two of you” if fundamentally different from your time with kids. It’s important to talk and to create new experiences as a couple.
- Remember the Rituals – By maintaining “relationship building” rituals for holidays or special times, you grow as a couple and feed the fire between you. On busy holidays, don’t forget the little things for your spouse, such as giving them a well-written card, a holiday stocking, a small gift, or breakfast in bed. Celebrate your partner’s birthday with enthusiasm and a to-do. Make eggs together or go out for breakfast on Sundays. Create “just the two of you” rituals around holidays, such as having hot chocolate together on Christmas Eve after the kids go to bed, hearing music together on the 4th of July, or running a 5K together on Thanksgiving morning.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a counselor for individuals and couples in private practice in Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Oak Brook, IL). She specializes in counseling and wellness for parents of babies and young children. firstname.lastname@example.org or www.erinleyba.com