Just when you thought marriage would change your relationship with your partner, wait until you have a baby. To say that the change is drastic is an understatement. Bringing a baby into the mix will throw your schedules, your hobbies (if you’ll even have time for them anymore) and finances into a tizzy. And the most incredible thing about it all? You won’t even mind it a single bit. Nope, not at all.
When you become a parent, you suddenly feel like a fully-fledged grown-up. You’re learning how to juggle a crazy work schedule, bills, hiring a helper or nanny, looking for the right school for your kid and more. It’s a stressful time for sure, and you may even feel like you’re drifting apart sometimes. Before kids, my husband and I would train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu every evening, go out for dinner afterwards and sleep at an ungodly hour. We would never think twice about seeing a movie late at night and travelling felt like such a breeze. Now, all that’s come to an end. Anyone who’s travelled with two young children knows that it’s a lot more work than it’s worth, so we avoid it when we can. Also, with work and wanting to do bedtime and bathtime every night, I feel like by the time 8pm rolls around, I’m completely knackered and just want to curl up in a ball and read a book ON MY OWN. Not exactly the most romantic of situations, but hey, when you’re tired, you’re tired! I know this isn’t ideal, and sometimes I feel like our babies are driving us further apart.
Apparently, I’m not alone. Research from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows couples experienced greater relationship decline following the transition to parenthood, compared to couples without children. This means that THIS is the most important time to work on your relationship. Here’s how to get started:
Make time for each other
In between shuttling back and forth to work, going on business trips, taking the kids to soccer practice and childcare, you’re going to need to squeeze in what little time you have to bond with your SO. We know, having a little person in your life sucks up so much time and energy that it feels impossible to even attempt to do anything else.
If you need to schedule QT on your diaries, do it. It doesn’t have to be a real date – you can just Netflix and chill when the kids go to bed, or sit on your balcony and drink a glass of wine together. Living in Singapore, we’re lucky enough to have the luxury of having a helper mind our children so we suggest taking advantage of this as much as you can! Recently, my husband and I started doing more BJJ classes together and usually reserve Fridays for date nights. When I’m done putting the kids to bed, we’ll also usually have dinner together, put our phones away and talk about our days. Tee hee!
Learn how to manage your stress
Any new mum or dad will tell you the whole parenting gig is stressful. Throw in a couple of sleepless nights, a crying baby and a crazy work schedule into the mix and you’ll find yourself getting angry and frustrated more often than you can say “formula”. If you find you’re stressed, chances are you’ll probably take it out on your partner. Before lashing out, take the time to manage your own stress levels. Easier said than done, but sometimes you’ve gotta do you first. Admittedly, this is something my husband and I are constantly working on. What’s great is that both of us agree it’s a problem we need to fix.
Find YOUR own way to resolve conflicts
When you’re dealing with a wee one, you’ll need to learn how to resolve conflicts quickly. There’s no time for drama or a week-long sob-fest – you’re probably getting lots of that anyway. Also, you’ll probably find yourselves arguing in front of your baby quite often, which isn’t exactly the healthiest picture of parenthood either. Instead, work on creating a united front. Try not to blame each other and, most importantly, if you want to argue with your partner, do it in private. My husband and I try not to argue in front of our kids, especially since our 3.5-year-old has become super great at remembering and repeating everything.
Know when to let things go
There are times when my husband and I just can’t agree on the same thing. Both of us are incredibly stubborn people, but through seven years of marriage, we’ve learned when to just say sorry and give in. Yes, we know we said that you’ll need to work on finding your own way to deal with conflicts in your relationships, but sometimes it’s better just to let things go. Just because you disagree with your partner on certain things, doesn’t mean you aren’t compatible with each other. It just means you have different opinions. What’s important is that you know when to stop arguing.
We’ll tell you right now that figuring out this stuff and what works for both of you as a couple will take time. But remember, you’re both in this together, taking turns changing poopy diapers, bedtime – the whole shebang. You’ll eventually find sneaky ways to bond – whether it’s getting a few words in while you’re giving the baby a bath or holding hands while you’re heading to work. You’ll learn when to give in and when to stand your ground. Your baby isn’t the only one with growing up to do.
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Pah! Who needs sleep anyway?