I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t prepared at all for how much my life would change after I had my son. In particular, my marriage.
See, my husband and I have always spent lots of time together. After we met, we quickly became inseparable. We went on dates all the time. Dinner, movies, football games, hanging with friends. Our marriage rarely felt like “work”.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect. But it was pretty damn good.
We were so excited when I got pregnant. So excited. Honestly, I didn’t really think about what would happen to my marriage. That’s just not something that ever crossed my mind.
Sure, I knew the statistics. Marital satisfaction is almost guaranteed to decline after having a baby. Did you know, within the first three years of having a baby, two-thirds of couples report that the quality of their marriages has declined? Two-thirds. And after the first five years of having a baby, the divorce rate is 13% for those who were married at the time of the birth (39% for those who were just living together). (Source for all of those lovely stats)
When my son was born, we had been married for 4.5 years. I thought I knew my husband pretty well, I’m sure he thought the same about me. I figured after that much time together, our marriage was rock solid. Throwing a baby into the mix wouldn’t change much.
But once my son was born, we both changed. I became a mother, he became a father. We were sleep deprived, had no spare time, and both plagued by intense anxiety.
But, here we are, our son is now over a year old. We’re still married and (more importantly) still in love. So, how did we nurture our marriage? And most importantly, how can you?
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Treat Your Husband as an Equal
This is so hard for me. I don’t mean to do it, but I’ll often correct my husband.
“Honey, don’t give that to him.”
“Babe, he’ll eat it if you do it this way instead.”
“No, no, no, here just let me do it.”
I stay home with my son. We are together almost 24/7. So, it’s hard for me to bite my tongue and let my hubby figure things out himself.
But I promise you, your marriage will be so much stronger if your husband knows that you trust him as a parent, and respect him as an equal partner.
I’m working on this one, and I already see an improvement in both my attitude towards him and how he responds to me and interacts with our son. It has certainly made a difference.
Make Time for Yourself
(And give your partner time, too)
Maybe this is counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you spend time together? Yes, and we’ll get to that.
When you have a baby, your life tends to revolve around your child. And it should. Your baby is 100% reliant on you for all of his needs.
However, if you give everything you have to your baby, you’re going to burn out and lose yourself. I know I did.
I’m not saying you need to book a spa day or go on a vacation. For me, all I did was demand some time each night, just a few minutes. Enough time to wash my face, cut my nails, pluck my eyebrows. Just normal human things. Things that in the first few months, I didn’t do.
Like I said, I completely lost myself for a while.
Taking just a couple minutes to myself renewed my sense of self. I felt more alive. And because of that, I was finally able to give a piece of myself to my husband, rather than giving everything to our son.
Spend Time Together
Here it is. You knew this was coming because it’s what everyone and their dog will tell you. Spend more time together. Get a sitter, go out on a date.
Well, that wasn’t an option for me. My anxiety screamed at me if I so much as took a shower. Actually leaving my baby was unthinkable.
What’s a new mom to do?
Stay in, of course.
If you are okay with going out, by all means, please do! I really, truly wish I could. The anxiety is just too much.
For those of you with crippling anxiety about leaving the baby, you’ve got two options: stay in and hang out, the three of you or hire a sitter (or friend/family member) but stay at home for your date. Have a nice meal together. But know that your baby is just a room away.
Show Gratitude Often
It can completely change your outlook on a situation if you find something to be grateful for. When you feel like your marriage is struggling, I challenge you to thank your partner for something they’ve done recently.
This can be as tiny as taking out the trash. It could be that he goes to work to provide for your family. Maybe he made coffee this morning. Whatever it is: tell him.
Expressing your gratitude will help both of you. He will feel validated and appreciated. You will start seeing more positives and focusing on them rather than the negatives. Trust me, once you make a conscious effort to start looking for the good, you’ll be amazed at everything you start noticing.
To help you with this, I created these cute printables that you can use to list out the many reasons you’re thankful to have your hubby in your life.
Be Patient and Kind
I’m sure this goes without saying, but when you’re running on empty, it can be hard to remember. Cut your hubby some slack. First of all, because he probably deserves it, but it will also make him more likely to do the same for you.
Particularly in the first months, your hormones will probably be all over the place, you’ll be sleep deprived, and you’ll probably snap at your husband when he doesn’t deserve it. Apologize. Move on.
Just remember to think before you speak, so as not to cause unnecessary drama. Forgive him, because he’ll probably snap at you, too.
Help Your Marriage
I went to school to become a social worker, and one of my favorite classes was a Family, Child, and Lifespan Development course. It was an amazing course, taught by a great teacher.
She had us read the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. I would recommend this book to anyone, regardless of the state of their marriage. It is such a great book for strengthening your marriage. And it’s full of real, actionable advice.
I could seriously go on and on about it, but I won’t. Just read it and follow his advice.
Get Help for Your Marriage
I know there is this big stigma about therapy, but there shouldn’t be. Going to couples counseling might just be the one thing you do that saves your marriage.
Please don’t be afraid of therapy. Honestly, it’s no one else’s business anyway, so you can keep it to yourself if you’d like. But marriage counseling is not the kiss of death on a marriage. I know that many people think, “If it’s bad enough that they’re in counseling, they’re probably headed straight for divorce”.
That is not true.
Seek help! Find a therapist. There is no shame in that. Sometimes having a third party can bring exactly the type of clarity you so desperately need.
How was your marriage affected by having kids? Did things change? How did you handle the changes? And be sure to share this post with other mommas that might need it!