April 03, 2023

Preparing Your Relationship for the Arrival of Your Baby - The Ultimate Guide to Relationship Bliss

Preparing Your Relationship for the Arrival of Your Baby - The Ultimate Guide to Relationship Bliss

Written by Pamela Lim,  https://joyfulparenting.sg

There's nothing quite like the anticipation of expecting a baby, where couples can revel in their love for each other and eagerly await their little bundle of joy. But as many new parents quickly discover, a baby can also bring unexpected challenges, throwing a wrench into even the strongest of relationships and putting them under further strain.

Research on postpartum relationships indicates that within one to three years after the birth of their first child, 90% of couples experience a decline in relationship satisfaction, with two-thirds of them describing it as significant. This often results in a rise in conflicts and a resurgence of recurring issues that are repeatedly argued about. Despite this, many expecting couples believe that they will be among the 10% who avoid postpartum relationship dissatisfaction...until their little one arrives.

Is it necessary to prepare your relationship for the arrival of a baby?

Absolutely! Just like in other aspects of life, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mitigating the impact of babies on our relationships. It's possible that a strategy that works for you might not work for your partner, and you might also have different definitions for certain terms, such as compassion, or varying needs when it comes to repairing conflicts. Remember, it is your differences that brought you together, so it's crucial to respect and try to understand them, even if you don't necessarily agree with them. This approach can be helpful in sustaining relationships.

The guidelines outlined below are essential for strengthening relationships and fostering emotional intimacy. These recommendations aim to reduce dissatisfaction and promote positive feelings between partners.

The acronym "PRACTICE" represents these suggestions:

The initial months following the birth of a baby can be quite difficult, primarily due to sleep deprivation and the new challenges that arise. Recognizing this reality can help make relationship issues seem normal and remind us that this is just a phase. It is essential to practice patience with your partner, yourself, and your newborn during this time. 

Studies have revealed a correlation between getting enough sleep and being satisfied in your relationship. It's crucial to support each other to get enough rest, even if that means sleeping separately at times. Additionally, it's important to remember that grievances with your partner may be more influenced by exhaustion than reality.

Attitude Adjustment:
It's normal to feel frustrated and irritable when we're exhausted and going through big changes, and this can sometimes cause conflict in our relationships. One way to handle these situations is by keeping a sense of humor and trying to change our attitude. If you find yourself getting angry and snapping at your partner, try to identify what you really need or want, such as help or support. On the other hand, if your partner is snapping at you, you can ask them what they need from you at that moment and if they could set aside their frustration for a moment.

Although parents are generally compassionate towards their babies, we often fail to extend that same kindness towards ourselves and others. It's important to understand the true meaning of compassion and how to demonstrate it towards one another. After the baby arrives, it's crucial to prioritize expressing compassion towards oneself and one's partner and to request it frequently.

Toxin Taming:
According to psychologist John Gottman, there are four primary attitudes and behaviors that can erode relationship satisfaction: disrespect, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These behaviors can manifest in various ways, such as eye-rolling, finger-pointing, avoiding responsibility, and refusing to engage. It's common for people to have a talent for at least one of these behaviors. Therefore, it's essential to identify your preferred behavior/s and work together to eliminate them. For example, you could pause a conversation to remove these behaviors and strategize ways to repair any damage caused, such as offering an apology or showing affection.

Although hormonal shifts in women postpartum, especially those who breastfeed, can significantly lower sex drives, it's crucial to remain patient and compassionate when it comes to sexual expectations. Instead of focusing solely on full-on sex, quick connections such as a loving look, a tender touch, or a kind word can also contribute to intimacy. However, it's important to recognize the significance of intimacy in a relationship and to discuss how to handle the challenges surrounding it before the baby's arrival. This way, you can be better prepared to support each other in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship postpartum. 

Starting conversations, particularly those about sensitive topics, can significantly impact their outcomes. Studies indicate that 96% of conversations' outcomes are predicted by what happens in the first five minutes. Therefore, it's crucial to approach conversations gently. Instead of blaming, speak from an "I" perspective and avoid using "you" language. Avoid coming across as a know-it-all and begin by saying "I'm not sure" or "My best guess is...". Additionally, ask curious "what" and "how" questions rather than focusing solely on finding solutions. This approach can foster open communication and promote healthy conversation outcomes.

According to research, 70% of relationship issues are ongoing and may never go away completely. Therefore, it's crucial to identify these recurrent problems and work together to either avoid or resolve them as quickly as possible. Start by making a list of your enduring, recurrent relationship issues, and then brainstorm strategies for avoiding or limiting their impact. By working together proactively, you can minimize the negative effects of these ongoing problems and strengthen your relationship over time.

To sum up, maintaining relationship satisfaction requires consistent effort and practice. If you recognize the importance of these strategies beyond the newborn stage, you are ready to prioritize your relationship's well-being and ensure it continues to thrive. By taking steps to prepare your relationship for the arrival of your baby and continuing to invest in it, you can successfully navigate the challenges of parenthood and emerge even stronger as a couple.

Remember that no relationship is perfect, and challenges will arise, but by committing to these strategies, you can strengthen your connection and weather any storm. With patience, dedication, and mutual support, you and your partner can navigate parenthood and build a relationship that lasts a lifetime.