When Baby Makes Three: Keeping Your Marriage Strong
Sam’s and Melissa’s 1-year-old son brought them plenty of joy. Getting their bearings as new parents, though, wasn’t so easy. They argued about trivial things, and all of their conversations turned into fights. Sam said he had too much on his mind with the baby and didn’t have time to discuss things. Melissa wished he would agree to go to marriage counseling, but Sam refused. How could they make things work?
Start with a reality check
Having a new baby is one of the biggest changes a couple will ever go through. No matter how ready couples think they may be, most new parents don’t feel prepared once they begin caring for a baby.
Many new fathers think there’s something wrong with them if they resent the baby at times. Others feel weak or like failures because they don’t always know what they’re doing. It may be the same for the woman, though, and completely normal.
Parenting magazines tend to glamorize the experience or focus only on the positive aspects of having a new baby in the house. Rarely do they mention how new parents can feel isolated from friends, family and each other. It can be hard to take a shower or cook a healthy meal while you’re caring for a baby, let alone have a conversation with your spouse. Of course, all of this is in addition to sleep deprivation.
Keep the lines of communication open
Not being able to connect with your spouse may be a new problem in your relationship. Of course, now is the time when the two of you really need to talk. Without that daily “meeting” about the state of the family, it’s natural for anger, sadness and fear to set in. Keep in mind that these emotions may be expressed in different ways.
For instance, the baby’s father may feel jealous of the attention that mom gives to the baby. He might feel less important to her. To get the relationship back on track, both partners should set aside time on a regular basis just to talk about things and spend some time together. It’s hard to get away for very long, especially if you’re breast-feeding, but short weekly meetings can help you stay on top of the state of the family. This may be the time to hire a babysitter or ask your family for help.
Also be aware of the signs of postpartum depression, which can take a toll on any relationship. A new mother should talk to her doctor if she is:
Feeling like she is in a fog
Afraid to be alone
Unable to concentrate
Feeling sad most of the time
Medication or therapy might be recommended to help overcome these issues.
Work things through together
If one partner refuses to seek counseling, the other’s approach must remain very positive. Start by thanking your partner for the supportive things he or she has done. Share the emotions you’ve had since you became a parent, such as sadness, fear and resentment. Being honest will make it easier for your partner to open up, too. At the same time, you will be acknowledging that these emotions are normal.
Your partner may still refuse to talk after you’ve tried this positive approach. He or she may simply get angry and shut down. If this happens, remind your partner that both of you need to work things out as a team.
Help from a professional may be needed. You can’t force someone into counseling, though, so you’ll have to decide how you will take care of yourself in the meantime. Hopefully a positive approach, a little humor and validating your partner’s feelings will help the anger melt away.