Relationships after baby is HARD! In motherhood/parenthood, you're trying to do a million things and then also have to be like “hey, I can't forget my partner”.
When you have a baby with your partner, you absolutely fall more in love with them. But your relationship after having kids also comes with challenges. So much of my day is spent regulating my children's moods and my own mood that when my husband gets home, I often unload on him because I won't unload on the kids and when he comes home, I feel like I can finally relax. That can put a huge strain on a relationship.
I will start by saying that I am by no means an expert. My relationship is not perfect. But these are the things I have learned along the way.
There are moments of pure BLISS
Okay, first, just a couple of things everyone experiences.
Like I said, you 1000% love your partner more and see them in such a beautiful, new way once you have a baby with them. There are truly moments of absolute, pure, unbelievable bliss that you will experience.
It can be overwhelming and even make you cry about how utterly happy you are with your little family.
These moments are so beautiful. Soak them up.
Sex after baby
I have a whole blog post on sex after pregnancy/baby.
I need at least 6 months to recover before we can do this. And even at that point, I'm breastfeeding and my body goes “no!”. The sex drive is nowhere. Then you're hormones start to get the best of you and you're like wait, we're not having sex at all?!
Soon after I had my baby, I heard my husband talking about Susie the HR lady and I was like “who is Susie the HR lady?!” because your hormones are just insane and you're left alone with your baby all day and you're like “hmm I wonder who she is, I wonder if she's cute. I'm not giving him any so he probably needs to get it somewhere else”. I don't know. You feel crazy.
If this ever happens to you like it happened to me, talk. to. your. partner. I basically told my husband “um I heard you talking about Susie and my mind went all these crazy places because I'm hormonal and we haven't had sex in a really long time.” He responded like “are you serious? You really think I would go get that elsewhere when you're here with my baby?” and I said “uh yeah because I am crazy right now and kind of smell like BO, I have no rational thoughts, and I complain a lot right now”. He laughed at me and then told me she was 67 and followed that up with all the reassurance I needed. And I felt SO much better! So just talk to them about it. I've done it multiple times.
Tip #1: Practice asking for things
Alright, into my tips/learnings. I came up with 7 things that have helped me tremendously.
First, ask for what you need. This sounds so simple and yet it can be so hard. It's not easy for us to do that, but it makes a world of difference.
I will get so angry because Seth doesn't do the dishes while I'm putting the girls down for bed. He did the laundry, he folded all the blankets and picked up the toys but he DID NOT DO THE DISHES! First thing I needed to do was recognize and appreciate all of the things he did do. And then tell him how grateful I was. Then, the second thing I needed to do was tell him it would be so helpful to me for him to do the dishes. The one thing that really drives me nuts is the dishes. I can live with toys on the floor or half done laundry, but I cannot live with dirty dishes. Guess what?! He had no idea. Because I hadn't told him.
The best way to realize what things you need help with is to pay attention to when you have those moments where you feel resentment towards your partner. The moments when you're like boiling over with anger. Take a deep breath, try to figure out what's truly bothering you, and how you can productively ask for your partner's help with it…LATER! Wait until you're calmer to ask them for it.
Another thing I have realized is that your partner's brain is your logical brain. With all the hormones and the craziness, it can be hard to come up with simple solutions. But, when you explain to your partner like “hey, I need to figure out how I can get a shower in everyday, can you help me find a solution?” they're usually great and helping you out.
And other times, you need to tell your partner “I need to vent a little right now and I know you have fantastic solutions, but that's really not what I want right now. I just want you to listen and if it's in one ear and out the other, that's okay, I just need to get it out”.
Whatever it is that you need, usually when you ask for things clearly, your partner is super receptive.
Tip #2: Keep leaning in
Keep leaning in and believing that your partner is doing the best they can (just like you!).
My husband is super great about asking for time for himself when he needs it. He will say to me “can I just go take 20 minutes to myself upstairs? I need a break.”. And sometimes, I'm like “umm okay, but I never get a break”. Well, first of all, I rarely ask for a break. Second of all, he won't ask for a break unless he truly needs it. So, I need to come in with some compassion and say “yes, absolutely”. And then I can totally follow that up with, “and can I take one when you're done?”. (Or not, because I know he is only coming to me when he needs it and it can just serve as a reminder to do the same when I really need it).
He's not trying to make me angry, he's doing the best he can too, and we just need to lean in.
Tip #3: Talk about your goals together
I made a goal worksheet last year for New Year's because I am obsessed with setting goals and I wanted to do it with my partner. The beginning part is also a recap of everything we did well in the previous year too because that is super great to recognize as well. It also lays out actionable steps for how to achieve these things.
I have a goal worksheet template on my website that you can get. (The code HEYSHAYLA gets you a discount).
However you choose to do it, it is really helpful to talk all these things out to get on the same page and be able to better support each other in these dreams and goals.
Tip #4: Therapy is a great investment in your relationship
I've heard that the first four years of a baby's life is the hardest on your relationship because they are just so needy and reliant on you and that strains your relationship. Babies make your life so much brighter in so many ways but being able to put enough effort into your relationship is difficult, nonetheless. So much of your time and attention goes towards your children and it takes away time from the partnership.
I heard once that “my partner is my number one and our children are our number one” and I loved that so much. My husband and I need to keep our relationship to keep the family and then together, our children are our #1 priority.
So, for sure, if you need some therapy, GO! It's nice to have a third person to talk to and a new perspective that isn't directly involved. Whether it's solo therapy to help you navigate your relationship or couples therapy together, it can be so beneficial. If you feel you need it, don't hesitate to do it.
Tip #5: Learn your love languages
What do they need and what do you need? Is it physical touch that your partner needs from you? Do they need words of affirmation? Do they need more one on one time with you?
Figure out what theirs is and help them figure out what yours is. That way you guys can provide what each other needs and best support one another.
Tip #6: Take time to connect
Even if quality time isn't your (or your partner's) love language, you still will always need quality time together. This will look different than it used to. Maybe it used to be going to a baseball game together, going on a dinner date, taking a trip together. If you can still make it work to do all that, good for you, my friend!
Realistically, most of us probably can't do these things all that often. Connecting can look like so many things. It can be as simple as all of us snuggling in bed and he and I touching feet, or holding hands above the pillows.
And, MAKE EYE CONTACT. This is so underrated. There's so many times when I catch myself looking at my phone while my partner is trying to tell me something. It's so important to make a conscious effort to stop what I'm doing, look at him, and truly listen to him. Zeroing in and giving him undivided attention (even if it's just for a little bit) is HUGE!
Tip #7: Put yourself in their shoes
This is a big one. It kind of ties to #2. Your partner is doing the best they can too. And, when you take the time to see things from their perspective, it can be a game changer.
There's times where Seth will text me on his way home from work saying it's been a crazy day at work and when he gets home I'm like oh thank god I can take a shower, and a break, and he can watch the girls for a bit. Then I remember that he had just told me what an overwhelming day it was. Oh yeahhh. If I were him in that position, I would need a couple minutes to decompress before jumping into dad mode. So I give that to him and then he can give me the break I want.
Anytime you put yourself in the shoes of your partner (or anyone for that matter) you gain more understanding of their side, even if it's just a little bit. This goes a long way. The more you understand each other and the more in-tune you are with each other, the better off your relationship is.
Put in the work
The moral of the story is, you have to put in the work. Before I was married and had babies, if I was in a relationship and it was too challenging and felt like it wasn't really working out, I was like see ya, this is too much, I'm out. Totallyyy not the case anymore.
When Seth and I started dating, he told me “you can't just jump ship when things start to get hard” and I was like “uhhh yeah I do. What do you mean?”. He taught me that you work through things when they feel like they aren't working and aren't easy.
We both are now so committed to working very hard to keep leaning in, keep connecting, keep talking to each other, keep the spark alive, keep the relationship strong.
I hope these tips were helpful. The overarching theme is that it's okay (and normal) for your relationship to feel hard after having kids and that it's so important to give each other grace, communicate with your partner, put in the hard work, and soak in the blissful moments.