We’ve all heard it said that your marriage is more important after you have children, not less. Yet, there has been a huge shift in parenting over the last several years in which we are always putting our children first.
The reason our marriages matter more after children is because our marriage is a model of what healthy relationships look like. And parenting children is so much easier when you are a team. And being a co-parenting team is much easier when you have a solid spousal relationship. Always remember that before you were a mom and dad, you were a husband and wife.
While I was working in the Chaplain’s office at Ft. Benning I read And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by John Gottman. I liked it so much that it’s a book I highly recommend to all parents and parents to be (I even list it on my resource page!)
I value Gottman’s insights on marriage and so I really took some of his principles to heart in preparation for when we had our own kids. And it sure is coming in handy now! Gottman has Six Steps for Maintaining Romance After Children. Who doesn’t want to keep that spark alive? Nobody goes into having children intending to neglect their marriage. But during the new born phase so much of a new parents’ life begins to revolve around the new baby. The new baby’s eating schedule, sleeping schedule. And suddenly the intimacy and closeness between husband and wife begins to decrease. It just happens.
Maintaining the same level of romance and intimacy takes a lot of work. Here are just a few of the steps he recommends for maintaining Intimacy and Romance in your marriage:
- Soften how you bring up a problem
- The importance of repair
- Accepting influence
- Savoring your friendship
- Giving Grace
It is not about avoiding problems that may come up as new parents, but finding positive strategies to manage the problems as they occur. Tensions can begin to run high in the first few months home with a new baby. Neither parent is particularly experienced or confident in their parenting abilities. This insecurity can make emotions run high. New moms have a surge of hormones to top it all off making them even more prone to being emotional. Lack of sleep also contributes to the rise in tensions in the home. Nobody can function at their best when they are being awoken every two to four hours.
So small events may turn into larger disruptions than might be normal. When this happens remember to give yourself grace. And to give your partner grace.
Giving your partner grace can be more difficult for new moms. New moms may not see how the transition for their partner is as difficult for dad as it is for mom. New moms, especially those who nurse are now the primary source of survival for a new born and are often still struggling with postpartum symptoms. But both new Mom and Dad need grace during the transition into parenthood. Grace can help promote intimacy in your marriage because it will prevent harboring resentment. Resentment prevents intimacy because it allows there to be separation within the marriage. Resentment can build up walls. Walls up = no intimacy.
Importance of Repair
Because tensions run high during the transition from a two person family to a three person family, repair attempts are so important. Why? Because we may often hurt our spouse’s feelings. Making and accepting repair attempts is more telling of relationship satisfaction than how many arguments a couple has. But it is not enough for one person to constantly be making repair attempts; the other must accept them. By accepting the repair attempt you are coming back together and creating more intimacy. When you reject your partner’s repair attempt you are putting up a wall between you. This prevents intimacy from growing in your marriage.
Savoring Your Friendship
Remember what brought ya’ll together as a couple to begin with. Most likely it has something to do with a friendship that was cultivated. During the postpartum period sexual intimacy is off the table. So finding old ways to create intimacy is important. At the beginning of your relationship, most likely sex was no the element of your relationship that created intimacy. Most often intimacy is created through friendship which leads to a more sexually intimate relationship. Get back to basics and by spending time together you can help maintain levels of intimacy in your relationship. While you may not be able to find time to get away and spend one on one time with your spouse, spending time together as a new family can help you maintain your friendship. It is a way to create new memories and experiences together.
This is just a way to start maintaining intimacy in your relationship after the newest addition has arrived. If you are looking for more information check out Gottman’s book And Baby Makes Three. He has such relevant information for new parents!