My relationship with my partner is different since having a baby

Many couples find that having a baby can be a challenging time for their relationship. This can be the case even if the relationship has felt very stable and secure before baby came along. The challenges of lack of sleep, juggling different demands, issues with wider family members, financial stressors and many, many more can build up and cause a lot of difficult feelings such as anger, resentment, anxiety and sadness.

Both parents have to undergo a big adjustment when they take on this new role. This often comes with feeling that you have lost your pre-baby identity and have to figure out a new sense of self. We have all grown up in societies that program us to think what a good parent should be, and this can also add a lot of pressure. Some parents, for example, may be surprised to find that they go from feeling very independent and modern in their outlook on sharing household tasks, to feeling like they have to take on traditional roles of doing the housework or being the financial provider for the family. Each of these roles can come with their own pressures. Having to focus on so many other things also means that there is less time to focus on each other or spend time together, and lots of couples find that they end up feeling more distant from each other.

For lots of reasons, it can become hard to talk about these pressures and difficult feelings with your partner. You may feel that your partner doesn’t understand, or you may be aware that they are struggling with their own feelings and you don’t want to burden them with yours. You may have felt let down by the way your partner acted around the time of the birth. Many couples find it can become difficult to talk about the relationship, and this increases the sense of distance and disconnection.

 

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to be a family, and no rule book of what a family unit should look like. It may take a bit of trial and error to work out what the roles and routines will look like for your family unit. Although it can be hard to talk about the difficulties in a relationship, being open and honest with each other can be a really helpful way for each partner to better understand how the other is feeling, and to make changes to help everyone feel better.

Some things that can help with communication are:

  • Setting aside time to talk when you are less likely to be interrupted. Sometimes this may mean having to put certain conversations on hold until you have some more time, for example, after you have put the baby to bed. Practice communicating every day by spending a few minutes giving each other your full attention while you talk about your day. If this becomes a habit you are used to doing to communicate about the ‘little things,’ it becomes easier to talk about the ‘big things.’
  • Tell your partner how you feel without blaming them. Try to own your own feelings, without accusing your partner. An example of this could be saying “I feel really isolated and lonely when we don’t talk” rather than accusing your partner by saying “you never talk to me.”
  • Be honest with each other about your limitations. Sometimes, one partner will be feeling stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted, while the other partner is calmer, and has a bit more energy. Sometimes it will be the other way around, and sometimes both partners will be feeling burnt out. If we expect to have a 50:50 split in the relationship all the time, we can end up feeling resentful or holding a grudge when it doesn’t happen. Checking in with each other and approaching life as a team, where both partners support each other when needed, can avoid resentment and actually increase a sense of connection.
  • For many parents, the sexual side of their relationship also changes after they have a baby. Being patient and understanding, and looking for ways to be affectionate and intimate that don’t involve sex can be helpful while things get back on track.
  • Remember that the phase of life when your children are young and so demanding of your time, energy and attention doesn’t last forever. It can feel like it is going on forever at the time, but it does pass and you and your partner will have more time and energy for each other again.

Becoming a parent is a huge experience, and will have changed both you and your partner in lots of ways. A lot of parents find that their relationship gradually adjusts to the changes that a baby brings. Other people may find that these changes have given them serious doubts about whether or not to continue in the relationship. If you feel that it would be useful to have some professional support to think about your relationship, either on your own or with your partner, please speak to your GP who can let you know about the options for relationship support in your area. Alternatively, you can contact the specialist relationship counselling service, Relate