You did it. You and your partner made it through the pregnancy and the birth and you’ve brought home your new bundle of joy. It’s totally different, but in a way, it reminds you of the early stages of your relationship. You’re blissed out and functioning through a haze of love, though your honeymoon phase has been replaced with a babymoon. You’re still overcome with happiness and a little preoccupied with another person, but your late nights of love look a little different as you feed and cuddle your little one instead of snuggling each other.

Everyone talks about how much life changes when you bring home a new baby. They warn you that you’ll never sleep again. That you will worry more than you ever have about anything in your life. And they tell you your heart will beat outside of your body. Friends, family, and other parents tell you the good and the bad about bringing home baby, but they rarely tell you the impact it will have on your relationship with your partner.

It’s true that adding a member to your family expands your heart and your home with love. But it’s also true that adjusting to being parents is one of the most stressful life transitions you and your partner will face. Every routine you’ve created in your life together is suddenly thrown for a loop. And it’s not that you’re not completely open and willing to adjust your schedule. It’s that you and your partner have established patterns that must change seemingly overnight.

What’s more, bringing home a baby often brings out old patterns from when you were young, and you might start to realize just how different you and your partner feel about things like breast vs bottle feeding, buying new toys, and daycare. Nothing makes you pay attention to your family values and what’s important to you than bringing home a new baby.

Unfortunately, what happens for most new parents is that these realizations turn into disagreements. Couple that with a severe lack of sleep, and it’s easy for parents to succumb to the stress of a new baby and turn these disagreements into arguments.

The downside to getting caught up in the stress of a new family dynamic is that couples who normally communicate well, forget the communication skills that have worked for their relationship in the past. Instead, it becomes about quickly – and often insensitively – making a statement or getting a point across.

Perhaps for your family, it plays out a little something like this…

Mom has been home all day with a fussy baby. She’s changed, fed, burped, read to, and put the baby down for a nap and the little one still won’t calm down. She’s feeling like a failure and like she should never have become a mom in the first place.

Meanwhile, dad has had a hectic day at work. He’s had to lay off a good employee and his lunch meeting turned into an attack on his entire department. All day he’s been looking forward to coming home to his partner and his new baby.

When dad gets home, he’s expecting to see a smiling family and instead finds both people he loves in a crying mess. He tries to help by offering suggestions and mom snaps back that she tried all of that already. Mom then goes on to complain that dad gets to go to work and escape all day and only comes home for the fun parts. Both mom and dad feel hurt, misunderstood, and taken for granted.

Or maybe it’s more like this…

Mom has had a really long stressful day at the office. Her boss has been critical of her work ever since returning from maternity leave and keeps making passive jokes that she’s never going to catch up. She feels extremely guilty for leaving her new baby and has to commute home in bumper to bumper traffic.

Dad arrives at the same time and both are counting the dollars as they pay the nanny. Exhausted, Mom goes straight to freezing her pumped milk and nursing the baby while Dad heads to make dinner.

Neither partner takes a moment to connect with the other and when things finally settle down for the evening the feel a vast distance between them.

Eventually, as new parents struggle to communicate well, they start to drive a wedge in the relationship. Both partners begin to resent each other and it’s not unusual for them to turn the resentment toward the new baby as well. All of this is common and a typical response to adjusting to a new family dynamic. However, if left to spread, this anger and resentment can start to harm the relationship. The key to keeping the transition to parenthood from harming your relationship is to acknowledge and accept that life has changed. Once partners are able to look at life differently, they can start to slow down and be intentional about the ways they speak to each other.

There is no doubt adding a baby to the family changes the way couples interact. But if you and your partner can learn to focus on the ways you talk to each other and the messages you are sending, you can come together through the stress rather than let it divide you. Cultivating positive communication makes it entirely possible to turn toward your partner in times of stress rather than letting it divide you.

Keep reading to see just how good communication can make you better parents and better partners.

When you and your partner ignore your communication skills

It’s really easy to take your frustrations out on the person you love. After all, there is a sense of safety in your relationship which allows you to be completely and utterly yourself.

Unfortunately, when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, you’re often not at your best. And being yourself can mean being indirect, passive-aggressive, or even outwardly aggressive about expressing your needs. When you and your partners allow yourselves to communicate negatively with each other, you send the message that whatever pressure you are under is more important than your relationship. The drawback of this is that you’re creating a divide in your family at a time when you should be coming together.

At the very least you find yourself creating a distance for the sake of trying to have more peace and calm in the household. The last thing you want is to have your new baby grow up in a chaotic environment.  But on your worst days, you and your partner are unable to discuss the changes you are going through in a civil way and you end up screaming and arguing. Refusing to intentionally communicate and put your differences aside only makes it harder for your relationship to adjust to its new dynamic. In the end, couples who can’t accept the changes they are going through and talk about them in a way that improves the relationship have lower relationship satisfaction and more anger and distance.

When you start to prioritize communication

On the other hand, some pretty remarkable things start to happen in your relationship when you and your partner choose to prioritize your communication skills. Whatever you put effort and energy into grows. Appreciating and focusing on the positive changes that have come from bringing your baby home – and making sure to openly discuss them can have a profound impact on the way you and your partner adjust to parenthood as well as the way you work together.

When you and your partner prioritize your communication, you have the potential to feel more grounded and more present in your new roles as parents. You will quickly notice the changes in your relationship as you start to relax around your new baby and settle into parenthood. Overall, by being more communicative and caring toward each other, you will work together to create a new rhythm that works well for you individually and as a family.

How being more intentional about communicating with your partner will improve your relationship after baby

It’s wonderful to think about how much you can enjoy family life when you and your partner work through your communication issues. But it can be difficult to see through the patterns you have already established and recognize there is a better alternative. Even though it has such a negative effect on your family dynamic, continuing to bicker and argue with your partner can feel more familiar and comfortable than putting in the effort to change the way you relate.

It takes a lot of conscious effort to change the way you talk with your partner, especially when both of you are under a new kind of stress you’ve never dealt with. It can seem intimidating to make these necessary changes, but there are some simple things you and your partner can start doing today that will improve your communication and your outlook on parenthood.

Here are some exact steps to get you and your partner talking in a healthy way:

Step 1) Set Aside 15 Minutes Each Day

When adjusting to a new baby at home it can be really difficult to find even just a few moments of solitude. But it’s important to make an effort to prioritize connection in your relationship even more now that it’s not just the two of you.

A first step is to set aside just a small amount of time to talk to one another. This could be a quick coffee break in the morning before baby wakes up or just a simple catch up conversation in the evening after baby goes to bed.

Here at Opening the Doors Psychotherapy, I’ll often have clients hold hands for a few moments while they talk just to help firm up their connection.

Step 2) Make Sure to Emphasize Non-Baby Topics

Once the two of you have found a way to incorporate a few minutes to talk into your new routine, it’s important to try to avoid only talking about the baby. It can be easy to fall into the trap of discussing logistics of your day or what new things the baby did but remember you had things in common before baby came along as well.

Focusing on just the two of you will keep your bond strong and help you be a couple instead of just parents. When client schedule a session with me, I often help them steer the conversation to more adult and steer clear of baby-related topics.

Step 3) Listen to Each Other

One of the biggest causes for disconnection and arguments for new parents is that they forget to actually listen to each other. There is a difference between hearing what your partner is saying and actually making meaning out of the words they are using.

As you and your partner spend more time investing in the conversations you are having, be sure to make an effort to truly interpret what they are saying. Here at Opening The Doors, couples practice empathic listening which helps them hear and honor what both partners are saying.

Step 4) Understand Different Perspectives

Like I mentioned before, nothing will highlight the differences in you and your partner’s value systems like bringing home a new baby. After you have learned to empathically listen to your partner, you might not always like everything you hear. It’s important to be mindful of any harsh or generalized ideas you might hold and to avoid criticizing your partner. When you and your loved one schedule a session with Opening the Doors Psychotherapy we will work together to understand your unique value systems and talk about them in healthy ways so you can put the details together to write a new story about your relationship that makes you both happy.

Your Next Steps

Reveling in the joys of parenthood without being overcome by the stress is entirely possible. Especially if you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to discussing problems and adjusting to your new lifestyle. You absolutely can have a relationship that focuses on the good in your lives and handles the stressful times in a healthy appropriate way. And Opening the Doors Psychotherapy can help.

To start communicating about all the good parenthood has brought you, schedule a session with Opening the Doors Psychotherapy today at (347) 884-7316.


Until the next Opening the Doors post.

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