I have been with my husband for ten years and we have definitely had our share of ups and downs. It is completely normal to go through rough patches and have the occasional fight. But on the whole, we have been happy together and there is a lot of love between us.
When we found out we were having a baby, we knew things would change in our lives. We expected earlier starts, less of a social life and not as much disposable income. But I thought that ‘us’ as a couple would remain relatively unchanged. Boy, was I wrong.
Sleepless nights, changing hormones, overwhelming love for someone new, everything about having a baby can put a strain on our relationship. That is not to say that it is all bad. There is truly nothing more incredible than watching the one you love hold your tiny baby and sing softly to them. But there were a lot more tears and fights between us, and the words “you just don’t understand” was thrown around a lot.
With my baby now fifteen months old, here is what I have learnt that helped my relationship get back on track after the early chaotic days:
1. Give each other the benefit of the doubt
When it is 3am and you are up for the eighth time with a crying baby, it can be quite easy to come across as annoyed or snappy with your partner. After all, you are tired and frustrated and possibly overwhelmed by the tiny human’s seemingly endless needs. We have a rule in our house. What is said between the hours of 12am and 5am cannot be held against each other.
Give each other the benefit of the doubt. What I mean by this is, you are with this person for a reason. They might seem like a demented crazy person at times, but you know deep down that they are fun and lovely. So don’t just presume they are angry with you if they are sounding short. Your poor partner is probably just so tired and trying to adjust to life as a parent. Give them a cuddle instead of snapping back, which while easy, is not constructive.
2. Divide and conquer
I think we are all guilty of putting high expectations on our partner without really communicating what we need. I am definitely guilty of this. I just expect that my husband will know by instinct to hang the washing out, pay the credit card and settle the baby when he cries.
But one thing I have learnt is to be really clear and concise in what I need from him. And be receptive to hear what he needs from me in return. After about our tenth fight about my husband not doing enough housework, we sat down together and literally wrote a list of everything we expect the other to do. Sounds a bit scary, but after a very calm and reasonable conversation we both came away knowing exactly what the other one was ‘in charge’ of.
My husband would get the baby up in the morning, give him breakfast and get him ready for the day, while I had breakfast by myself and got dressed. Then when he left to go to work, I at least felt that I was a bit more prepared for a long day of being mum.
Different approaches work for different families. But having a clear set of responsibilities takes the guess work out of what each person expects the other to be doing and can stop a lot of arguments
3. Revisit divide and conquer regularly
Babies grow so quickly, especially in the first year, and their routine seems to change weekly or sometimes even daily. So it is important to revisit the ‘Divide and Conquer’ strategy on a regular basis. What works one week may not work the next. By revisiting the list, you are once again reiterating what you need and not presuming your partner can read your mind.
4. Show some passion
I know that intimacy and sex may be the absolute last thing on your mind when you have a new baby. But you know what is achievable and can be totally lovely? A good old-fashioned pash.
Reminiscent of your teenage years, a pash is more than just a quick kiss on the lips that is often done out of habit. A pash is when you stop for a minute and place a big old wet sloppy kiss on your partner, complete with closed eyes and a cheeky bum grab. Just stopping for one or two of these pashes a day, can spark some intimacy and turn your otherwise often irritating co parent into an object of desire. Just taking slow steps to the possibility of maybe making more babies later.
5. Have a laugh and try not to take yourself so seriously
It can be completely overwhelming dealing with a tiny human. You question everything. Are they wearing enough layers? Oh my god, are they suffocating from too many layers?? What the hell does wearing one more layer than me mean when my partner and I have on different amounts of layers???
But when you aren’t stressing about the tiny human, I bet you still have a great sense of humour lurking in there somewhere. Try not to lose the joy from life. Not everything has to be so serious all the time. Even if you just stop to watch a funny YouTube clip of a monkey throwing poo at another monkey, take some time to laugh. Aim to laugh once a day, even if nothing seems particularly funny. Laughter is its own form of therapy. And if you are laughing with each other, that is even better! I like to jump out and scare my husband. Lurking by the door as he is stepping out of the shower and jumping out at him always gives him a scare. This amuses me. He says I have the darkness inside me. He says it affectionately of course. It makes us closer to laugh together and definitely heals any wounds we may have inflicted on the other in less funny moments.
I’m sure there will still be days where we have disagreements, but if our relationship is starting on a good base, I know we can weather the storm and work through it together as a team.
Need a bit of a pick me up after reading this rather serious article? Check out Mum Life Struggles: Cafes with Stairs and Other Complaints
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