Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash
Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

Staying Connected After Having Children

Question

We were prepared for the birth of our first child but now, a year later, we realize that we weren’t prepared for all of the adjustments we would have to make and how it would negatively impact our marriage.  Is this normal?  What can we do to nurture our son and our marriage?

Answer

One of the best ways you can nurture your son is to nurture your marriage.

Couples spend a lot of time and money preparing for the arrival of the baby and virtually no time preparing for the significant emotional and relational adjustments they will be forced to make once the baby arrives.

There is a lot of research that documents the potentially negative impact of having a baby.  John Gottman, Ph.D., found that 67% of couples see their marital satisfaction plummet after having a baby.  In fact, over 25 different studies in the past 20 years finds that marital quality takes a dive with a baby’s birth.

The joyous occasion of a baby’s birth creates changes that can become a marital minefield—decreased couple time, less sleep, a redefinition of roles and expectations, more financial pressures, more conflict, changing expectations for sex.  In the midst of these and other pressures it’s easy for emotional distance to develop.

The first step is to acknowledge both the blessing and the very real challenges in having a baby.  A new child forces you to redefine who you are as individuals, as a couple and as a family so you must make time to talk about your roles and expectations.

You have to MAKE time to be a couple.  You won’t “find” the time—you’ll have to make the time and make it a priority.  There is no substitute for spending time together where you just have fun and where you address the issues that you are facing.

Many couples find that taking long walks together is one great first step.  Find other couples with babies and take turns watching each other’s kids so that you can enjoy regular date nights.  Attend a marriage enrichment event and learn some new ways to communicate and manage conflict.

I know it can sound cliché but spend time in prayer together.  Look up the “One Another’s” that Paul shares in the his letters and talk about how you can practice those in your daily life.  Read I Corinthians 13 in different translations and share what God tells you about how you can better love your spouse.

Babies can make romance a bit more challenging, to say the least, so make time to talk about what this new chapter in your love-life might look like.  It may be challenging for a while but I’ve had many couples tell me that God used the increased intimacy they experienced in working through the challenges of becoming parents to actually increase their communication, trust, sense of safety, intimacy, and the quality of their love-life.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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