Rebuild Your Relationship

Rebuild Your Relationship

Your Family Cornerstone

Rebuilding your relationship around your baby is the basic challenge new parents face. Two-thirds of couples report their relationship suffered, with one-third reporting theirs was reinforced. You can join the latter group if you make it a priority. With mom focused on her baby, if you don’t take the lead, it may not get done.

To help you strengthen yours, Base Camp starts with Agenda for Starting a Family and Invest in Your Relationship in Getting Ready for A Baby, guidance for preemptively addressing common landmines (e.g., sleep) and relationship issues before junior arrives. Here we provide strategies for after your baby arrives, and we follow with Courting a New Mom and Making Love Again. 

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All this because your relationship is the cornerstone of your new family. If it’s working, you both get out more than you put in, which is how fusion works. A poor one does the opposite.

Mom’s care too; here is one’s take:

“How can we work as a team ... how will we figure out caring for the baby, balancing life and work, balancing our relationship with each other, our friends, alone time for him and alone time for me? How will we figure it out together?”

“What I want most is some practical tips on how to work together, how to be patient with each other, how to be humble and vulnerable with each other that neither of us knows what to do, and how to maintain grace with each other as we try our best to be the best parents to our baby and the best spouse to each other during this crazy adventure.” - New Mom

Consider Your Separate Circumstances

You and mom have had different trajectories (She’s Crazy, Your Stupid) (link), are starting parenthood with different mindsets (Mommy Brain & Daddy Brain) Link, and your minds develop different strengths (New Dad & Mom Minds) link that can produce either collaboration or conflict.

New moms may feel trapped in a new all-consuming life and virtually chained to the baby, flabby, etc. Life is not a bed of roses for you either. Understanding each other’s new reality is the first step towards building a new life together.

Talk & Build A Team

Your baby needs you and mom working together. You and mom do too. The natural conflict generated by your sleep-deprived, too-much-to-do early months as a family get in the way. Your marriage has reached a crossroads, and it can deteriorate, or it can get stronger and richer. The solution is simple but may be hard to do: talk.

The Massive Benefits of Team Work

Trust, appreciation, collaboration, tag teaming, communication, synergy, efficiency, working out problems, sharing the load, a common vision for your family, backing each other up, a positive attitude, attention to each other’s needs, optimism for the future, balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, she feels supported, has lower stress, is happier, thinks of you in positive terms, looks forward to your time together, a stronger bond with your baby and feeling like a family.

Not all days, of course, but with commitment and some luck, most days. Whatever you put into building a team is worth it.

Be Proactive Before Your Baby Arrives

Talk and get on the same page, preferably before the monkey wrench thrown into your love life shows up. A good place to start is our Agenda for Starting a Family link and Invest in your Relationship (link). 

Discuss how you might work out sleeping (link to sleeping) after your baby arrives. Talk about each of you having a four-hour block to be “off duty” on everything each week; this is more for her. Talk about maintaining your romance; this is more for you. This is how you build a parenting team.

Common Obstacles to Team Work 

Here are ones you can anticipate and then get beyond by just talking:

  • Biology drives mom to be super-attached to her baby, which can make dad feel like he’s on the outside looking in. 
  • Mom may resent dad because she feels like the baby hasn’t impacted his life as much as hers. 
  • Dad will feel like he’s not appreciated for his contribution.
  • Due to lack of sleep, nerves will be frayed and patience with each other will be in short supply.
  • You’ll both have less couple time to build up positive “money in the bank” in your relationship, which is what keeps it strong and helps you weather the adjustment.
  • Both of you can become dissatisfied but not know how to change it.

Whatever the issue is, just talk to start getting it handled.

Turn Your Differences into Strengths

Many elements factor into how we parent: our family experience as a child, personality, culture, religion, temperament and whether we are dads or moms. It makes sense that you and your partner have different parenting styles, which can be great for raising well-rounded kids. 

Unless you end up fighting, which precludes mom and dad balancing each other out. Maybe arguing over mom’s addiction to stress-inducing, clickbait nonsense on the internet, and perhaps dad’s aversion to keeping the kitchen sparkly clean. 

The karma of parenting is that our children tend to adopt the best of ourselves. Yet as parents, we tend to focus on negative factors in each other. To lead with respect for each other, pick out one good thing that you would like your child to get from mom, and ask her to do the same for you. Another gold medal opportunity.

fighting mom

Argue Constructively 

A trick to pull off when tired and angry. Be prepared to handle the fights and snipes without wimping out or going overboard and get to a fix. We googled all the advice on the web, tossed it, and came up with these ground rules for new parents. Think of these like boxing rules except there are two winners (3 counting your baby). Prizes include getting an issue off your chest, a solution to a problem, resuming your teamwork, and making up and kissing (or more).

Ground Rules for Arguing

This may take a few attempts to get it right, but when you do, you both will know how to work your issues out. Nation’s call these summits, a nicer term than fight. 

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  1. Say “I love you, we should talk,” and set a time for your summit. If a fight erupts, call “time out” and arrange a time when neither of you are angry or tired.
  2. Have an objective in mind. Try writing it down. “Winning” is not an option.
  3. State one issue honestly and clearly; if your exchange wanders, get back to the one issue.
  4. One person talks first and the other listens, then switch.
  5. Say “I feel …” vs. “you …” to avoid blame that triggers your partner’s anger.
  6. Listen to what your partner says, then say what you heard and ask “Did I get it right?” Ask questions to clarify issues.  
  7. Be respectful, dial it down, and if one of you gets angry, take a 10-minute break to regroup.
  8. Concentrate on your objective; don’t let your own anger derail your summit. 
  9. Kiss and make up. The objective is to get back to romance (link).
  10. Follow up with a productive way to address the real problem, as she sees it. Otherwise, any kiss and makeup phase will be short lived.

These are general ground rules; adjust as you see fit.

Fights Can Have Value

An angry confrontation between tired, stressed new parents can enable both to vent festering frustrations and clear the air. You can learn from it. Scheduling a summit may work better at that point.

Who Will Step Forward? 

She is focused on the baby (link to What’s on Her Mind/Mommy Brain chart) and a summit may be her last priority. For many of us men, talking about our feelings and relationship is not our strength; maybe you too. Perhaps she took the lead on your relationship pre-baby. Time to man up, as it can take balls.

The best time to plan a summit is when you are ticked off at each other, maybe both stressed, stewing, sullen, and silent except for the sniping. 

Write Her an Invitation; Here Is A Draft 

If talking it over is tough due to anger, try this approach: 

Dear (Sweet Heart),  

With a new baby, we have a lot more on our plates; especially you. Our issues get in the way of the happy family we both want, and I would like to talk with you about one: (state the issue) _______________________________

Please let me know your response

  • OK. Time that works: ______________________________
  • I would prefer to discuss: ___________________________
  • F#ck off
  • Go live with your mother

Love,

(me)

Sort Out Your Issues

This is your big issue to do list. Couples who split up income production, household and baby care responsibilities fairly eliminate conflict over who does what, are more productive, and save energy for things they like to do together. 

Bringing Home the Bacon

There are more options today, but perhaps not for you two. See Work Options (Link).

Daycare

Factor in the costs of the second salary: Daycare, transport to work, baby formula (if mom stops breastfeeding), lunches, parking, and higher taxes. 

Home Workload 

The most common surprise among new parents is how much work there is. Make a list of chores; add work hours and commute time.

Family Finances

See Finance (coming soon)

Be A Couple

With your plates beyond full, this is easy to ignore, but it’s the best investment in your family.

Engage in Adult Conversation

For the first few months, the baby is the main topic of your discussions: Mom is mostly talking to the baby, or talking about the baby. Help her expand her horizons by asking her about anything other than the baby (current events, her pre-baby interests, what’s going on with friends, etc.).

Eat Together

As simple as it sounds, it’s a great way to reconnect. Prepare a nice dinner together. 

Exercise Together 

A mom who gets regular exercise is a happier mom. Getting exercise together by walking (or jogging or bike riding) with your baby is a particularly great idea; it gets you out of the house, your baby enjoys it, and it provides an opportunity to talk.

Go to Bed Together

Just having a little window of private time goes a long way. You can use it to chat, snuggle, or whatever else feels right.

Touch

She has a lot of physical contact with a demanding baby and may not want any more at first. Take it slow and give her a back rub, foot rub, some hugs, and warm up to spooning. Avoid anything indicating an interest in sex before she is ready because it will delay sex. 

Bring Out the List

Remember the list of the things you like to do together that you made before the baby arrived? It is time to bring it out, pick one of the items and do it. Just spending a little time talking about the activities you enjoyed will remind her of the good times that were special to you both. 

gerbils

Tips: How We Work Together

Listen to those who worked it out:

Resolving Conflict

“There was a lot of tension in our house. We were getting really snippy with each other, and we finally just said, ‘Here’s the deal: This is what you need from me and this is what I need from you.’ When communication breaks down, there are all kinds of problems. So if you have something to say, say it in a nice, non-threatening way. Preferably when she’s had a little bit of sleep. Because teamwork really comes from communicating.”  — New Dad

“Make sure you don’t lose your connection with your partner. Make sure you keep them close to you and have that support system. If you don’t, it is really hard, and it will put a strain on your relationship and make it harder with the baby, too. Make sure you maintain that closeness.” —New Mom

Time Alone

“We each find time over the weekend to get out alone. This achieves two goals. 1. The person who leaves gets a break and opportunity to do something for him/herself. 2. The person staying gets special one on one time with the little one.” - New Dad

“We break up the weekends into our own times. That really works for us, because it’s really clear guidelines. Like, I know I have bedtime, or he does, so I can go to the gym. Also, bath time is his thing, he gets in the tub with her.” — New Mom

Sharing the Load

“Ever since the baby was born, my husband did the bedtime routine. I would come home after work and need to handle dinner but after that, I was free to relax while he focused on dinner clean up and bedtime. Approaching it as a team helped immensely.” —New Mom

“Schedule time to each be on duty with the baby. Knowing that you have a little time off to sleep, or even do things around the house gives you a sense of control over a small portion of your day. —New Mom

 “Whoever makes dinner doesn’t clean up. Whoever does the laundry doesn’t take out the trash. If one parent bathes the child, the other one lotion and put the pajamas on. I am in charge for the morning routine of getting us ready and out the door. My spouse is in charge of giving the last bottle and putting the baby to bed.” —New Mom

“Have a system in place for nights. Stay flexible in case one of you feels more up for it, or has to be a fully functioning human being at work the next day.” -New Dad

Reeling Mom In 

“He said he didn’t want me to feel like I needed to be supermom. He told me not to cook dinner every night and that if I needed to go for a walk alone in the evenings to clear my head to do that.” —New Mom

Making the Big Decisions

“I liked living near the beach, but we moved (inland) to reduce my commute as well as our mortgage payment so Mary doesn’t have to go back to work for a while.” — New Dad

He Just Sat With Me

“Sometimes he would just sit with me and talk about stuff when I was breastfeeding her. Having him take the time to keep me company and get me anything if I needed it definitely made me feel like it wasn’t just all on me.” —New Mom

Questions?/Contributions

If you can’t find what you need in Base Camp, you can ask here. 

You can also offer your advice for the next guys. Like on:

  • How you worked out the workload with mom
  • How you handled the arguments