Your tiny human has come into this world and you are left wondering how something so tiny can cause such upheaval! Your baby is born and it seems as if your entire world is turned upside down. As you transition into your new role as mother, your identity shifts and changes. Things that once came naturally may now be a struggle for you, and things that you never imagined yourself to be doing are coming as naturally as breathing. For many, this can leave us feeling confused and much similar to adolescence trying to figure out who you are again. This is called matrescence – the transition into motherhood.
With all of these changes, you may begin to notice changes in your relationships. In fact, it may feel like all of your relationships are changing: your relationship with your partner, your relationship with your family, and your relationship with your friends. In this blog I will highlight relationship changes that you may be experiencing with your partner during matrescence. As well as some tips to help you find a new balance in your relationship during this transition.
Your Relationship After Baby:
Before your baby was born, your relationship with your partner may have seemed easy. It was fun, loving, and carefree. You enjoyed date nights and cuddling on the couch. It seemed as if you could talk about anything and understand each other deeply. Perhaps your relationship wasn’t easy but you were making it work…
Then your child was born, and you seemingly find yourself frustrated with everything your partner does. Sometimes enraged. You’re just not seeing eye to eye. For many, this change can be totally uprooting.
If you are feeling some strain in your relationship with your partner after the birth of your child, you are not alone. In fact, “after having a baby 67 percent of couples see their marital satisfaction plummet” according to research by John Gottman, PHD. These statistics are astounding, meaning that the majority of couples experience marital dissatisfaction after having a baby. Let’s break this down a bit and explore some of the possible reasons for why this may be happening, and what you can do about it.
Why is this happening?
Learning the ropes of new parenthood is hard enough without having to wonder what has happened to your relationship. As you feel yourself filled with rage, you may be asking yourself how it got to this point. Just what is going on here and why is it happening to so many people?
1) Lack of sleep:
With your newborn waking up all hours of the night, both you and your partner are totally exhausted. Lack of sleep can lead you to becoming frustrated more easily. This may look like major arguments over small occurrences, like your partner forgetting to put a bottle back in the fridge.
What to do?
Perhaps one parent is waking up more frequently throughout the night with the baby. It can cause resentment and anger if one parent feels they are doing a larger share of the work. Open and honest communication about these feelings will be your first step forward.
Communication and planning are key!
Have a conversation with your partner about parenting and household responsibilities. Write down each person’s responsibilities, and make a weekly to do list. This will help minimize frustration and resentment.
Don’t assume your partner knows what to do. What might be obvious to you, may be unknown to your partner. While explaining these items on your to do list may seem like it should be unnecessary, it’s not! Having clear expectations will help both you and your partner to move forward without resentment.
2) Lack of quality time:
Date nights, concerts, museums, dinners. Before baby you and your partner may have been able to do as you wished. Now, you are lucky if you can find the time (and energy) to watch one tv show together. This lack of quality time can really take a toll on your relationship.
What to do?:
If you are lucky enough to have family support or the finances to afford a babysitter, prioritizing date night is a must. Even if you can only make a few date nights a year, it will help you to reconnect with your partner and keep the spark alive. If you don’t have any family nearby or the means for a babysitter, you might consider including baby in date night. Your local kid-friendly restaurant will do!
Make time for cuddle time. Physical touch is important even if it is just holding hands or cuddling on the couch for a few minutes.
If you are still struggling in your relationship after trying these techniques, a therapist may be able to help.
Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping those struggling with postpartum depression and birth trauma. She creates a safe place for her clients to share their stories and develop the necessary skills to thrive. Jessica specializes in treatment for children, families, and mothers.