No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.
- Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build.
- Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming.
- We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
- Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
- Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.
These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:
- Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
- Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
- Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
- Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
- Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
- Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.
Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***