Whether you are expecting your first child or your fifth, one area often overlooked is how the new bundle of joy will change your life once he or she arrives— and especially how a little one will affect your relationship with your partner. For any couple, the transition of life before baby and after alters every aspect of the relationship.

The first few months with a baby are generally the most difficult. During this period, each person grapples with the new responsibilities, what the responsibilities mean on a day-to-day basis and how the responsibilities define the parents’ relationship.

Important questions to consider include: What sacrifices will be made by each party for the benefit of the child? What duties will be covered by each person? And how will the obligations of work and family matters come into play? These concerns are rarely discussed before a child’s birth and end up becoming sore subjects within a relationship. This is because the issues eventually surface while each person is sleep deprived, emotionally spent and overwhelmed with new responsibilities.

However, the transition to parenthood can also create an opportunity for an even stronger relationship, namely if the foundation for working together is laid down by the expecting parents prior to baby’s arrival. Communication is critical for a harmonious relationship to exist and a solid partnership to thrive. Take time to communicate about the imminent changes during the pregnancy and continue the conversation throughout baby’s infancy.

Here are additional ways to preserve your relationship during the early years with your child.

Find time to discuss conflicts when not emotional.

There are always going to be occasions when disagreements occur. The key to working through those moments is to carve out time to talk when each person is not defensive and real communication can occur. Sometimes a calm discussion may not take place for several days, allowing each person to cool off after a conflict and be able to listen to the other person’s point of view. Just agree to set times to talk and clear the air.

Be open to listening to the needs and feelings of your partner.

Sometimes couples need private time to reconnect, learn how each other is feeling and be candid about what each person perceives is missing from the relationship. Life can be so busy and chaotic that weeks can go by with mom really needing a hug and dad truly wanting intimate time, while neither are able to get those needs met.  

Talk about your physical and emotional needs to maintain closeness and intimacy.

While talking about what each other might yearn for in the short term, also discuss what initiatives you want to put in place now that spontaneity is not as easy to achieve as life before baby. Can you arrange private nights in the bedroom, where you can make plans to meet up right after putting the baby down? Or what about trying to rendezvous in the middle of Sunday afternoons when the baby is taking a nap? With a young child, it’s helpful to be creative, rather than allow a romantic moment to unfold. Be proactive because intimacy likely won’t happen otherwise.

Plan a regular date night.

This is another way to reconnect to who you are as a couple— not just as your baby’s parents. Whether it be a grandparent or family friend, find a great babysitter to watch your baby while you, the couple, go off and do something fun. Or plan a night as simple as having a private picnic in your own house. Dedicate this time to yourselves. It keeps your relationship fresh.

Appreciate and cherish each other on a regular basis.

With a new baby occupying your full attention, taking one another for granted may result. Try to make an effort to do little things to show how much you care for your partner. A few examples are leaving a note for your husband before he goes to work, having dad rub mom’s back or shoulders when the baby is sleeping, cooking a special meal, offering to take the baby and give the other parent a break or arranging for a babysitter to tend to baby while you share time alone with your spouse.

Learn how to collaborate.

This is where parenting as a team plays a role in the equation. Realize how to come together and agree on the parenting methods you will use. Find ways to help each other with the responsibilities of child-rearing, considering each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Communication is vital because both parents need to talk about where each requires assistance, what each likes or doesn’t like about what the partner is doing, and what compromises will be made. Remember, when parents are happy, baby is happy.

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