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How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship Post-Baby

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The arrival of a new baby is one of the greatest joys and blessings a person can experience. However, with great joy comes great responsibility. The new dynamics a baby brings can change our daily life and our relationship with our partners.

In Episode 4, Season 2 of our 40 Weeks to Forever Podcast, we invited Dr. Tracy Dalgleish to give us tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship with our partner post-baby.

Dr. Tracy Dagleish, C.Psych, is a psychologist from Ottawa, Ontario, with over 15 years of experience working with women and couples. She is also the owner of Integrated Wellness: a mental health clinic that provides assessment and treatment services for various emotional, cognitive, or behavioural issues, as well as couples and sex therapy.

She hosts 'I’m Not Your Shrink,' a podcast designed for women. Dr. Tracy also contributes to popular media sites, including Motherly Huffington Post, Psych Central, Circle Around, and Bustle.

Keep reading to learn a few tips on how to navigate this new phase of life.

Respect

Even though it may sound like a cliché, respect is the foundation of a healthy couple and a strong family. We should treat each other the way we would like to be treated. Understanding and compassion go a long way.

Before the baby arrives, it may be helpful for couples to spend some time trying to better understand each other's points of view. Sharing your expectations and asking for the signs we should be looking for to know when your partner is struggling will ease the moment’s tension. Couples must be intentional and have compassion for each other during this new phase in life.

Fair Treatment and Support

Always keep in mind that you are a TEAM. Each person experiences the moments differently. Build an understanding of what it is like to be your partner. Create a space where you can both share your feelings without arguing or talking over each other.

Mothers go through many physical and emotional changes, plus have a new baby that needs them almost 24/7. This can lead to exhaustion and create a growing resentment.

Resentment is a complex emotion that tells us we have unmet needs. Dr. Tracy says, “It is essential we are aware of this emotion and that we deal with it because if we don’t, it will erode our relationship.”

Communication with your partner is vital. Resentment also comes from choices. In the initial stage of motherhood, moms don’t always feel they have a choice, and the pressure is always on them to take care of the new baby and do all the chores. Sharing these feelings and responsibilities with our partners and becoming a team is essential.

Find wiggle room and set expectations at a fair value for ourselves and our partners. Many moms feel they need complete control of every detail, so they inevitably end up feeling like they are over-performing all the time (which leads to their partners underperforming). With communication and support, allow your partner to grow and build a healthy relationship with their child.

Build Understanding

Role sharing is important to the success of a partnership. Dr. Tracy shared Eve Rodsky’s CPE method (from her book Fair Play). Couples should have a shared “To Do” list and team up to get things done. This list should have the following three elements.

  1. Conceptualization 
  2. Planning 
  3. Execution

Couples need to be on the same page and define the roles, chores, and routines of the household. This may require moms to relinquish some control so all the planning and execution won't fall solely on their plate. Delegating and letting your partner grow and work with you will help reduce the risk of you feeling like everything is one-sided.

To build understanding, couples should agree and identify the non-negotiables. Everyone comes from a different background and has a different upbringing. It is important to share thoughts, activities, and roles for the upbringing of your children — this is not a one-time conversation but a series of talks. Try not to argue about who is right; rather find a way to coexist. Score the topics and rate which are non-negotiable and negotiable.

Also try to have empathy. We must accept that only some issues will be resolved. Try to understand how your partner sees the world. We should walk around in each other's shoes to find common ground and effective communication as a couple. Issues will continue to happen, some will be resolved one step at a time.

Intimacy

Postpartum intimacy makes mothers desire closeness from their partners. It is a part of birth processing and emotional recovery. Do not put pressure on intimacy, even if your OB-GYN gives you the clear. Reassure your partner you still desire them and have an open conversation to find other ways to create intimacy.

When the time comes and both of you are ready, try setting time apart or scheduling intimacy. Some people will challenge this recommendation, as it may appear boring, but let’s be honest, when do we save time for intimacy? With all the events happening around us, we tend to put it at the bottom of our list. Making time to be together as new parents will be difficult, especially with a newborn interrupting frequently. Setting a specific time will help you focus on building emotional and physical intimacy.

Final Thoughts

Being new parents, whether it is your first time or not, will always shake up your routines and create changes in your household. Remember that a family is a team and working together will yield benefits. Open communication with your partner, where feelings can be shared openly and candidly, will help you grow strong and learn about each other.

Sharing responsibilities and delegating tasks to other household members will avoid resentment. Motherhood is beautiful, but at times it can feel like you are riding a roller coaster with lots of emotional highs and lows. A healthy family and a strong relationship will help to level the ride.

*This information was taken from our 40 Weeks to Forever - Season 2, Episode 4: The Mental Load of Motherhood
Guest: Dr. Tracy Dagleish