Bringing a newborn home is a joyous, stressful, life-changing event—so it's no surprise that many couples find themselves running into relationship problems and arguing after having a baby. And if you find yourself in that boat, you're definitely not alone. Here's a roundup of some of the ways marriage changes after baby, and what you can do to keep your relationship strong.
1. The change is unavoidable—and often unspeakable
"If someone tells you that their marriage didn't change, they're not being honest with you. When you go from just you and your spouse to you, your spouse and a baby, things will change. Change isn't a bad thing—at least not always." — jiffymama616
Sound familiar? Remember when you thought baby was going to fit neatly into your old life without having to change a thing? Nope, not happening.
How to deal
Once you have a baby, you become painfully aware that your life now revolves around this little helpless being who needs you—and who despite having a pretty simple existence (eating, sleeping, pooping) needs round-the-clock care and undivided attention. Consider your world officially rocked—your relationship included. Accept it, and go with it!
2. You might hate your partner a little bit
"I was so hormonal and crazy from breastfeeding, and my husband had a hard time because he didn't know how to help." — busymama113
Maybe hate is a strong word, but you might find yourself snapping at your partner a whole lot more than you used to. You might resent them a little for going to work while you're home on leave, you might despise the way they fasten a diaper or mix a bottle or wash the whites.
How to deal
Here’s the good news: This does not mean you're headed for divorce. Some people call those early mood swings—likely a result of hormonal changes and sleep deprivation—the " baby blues." And they're normal, as long as they don't escalate into postpartum depression. Your hormones will eventually balance out—but you've also got to make up your mind to snap out of your bad mood. For advice on dealing with the baby blues (and with hating your partner because of them), head here.
3. You don't nurture your relationship the way you know you should
"We didn't really talk about how things were going to change once we had a baby. Sure, we talked about diapers and day care and discipline and stuff like that. My husband travels for a living, so when he would come home, he would want 100 percent of my attention, but he had to wait or try to talk over a crying baby and, now, chatty toddler. That was hard for both of us. Mostly our challenges came from not having the time and attention for each other like we did before." — lilmama514
If you had time to write a to-do list, there would be about 242 things on it—for a single day. So suffice it to say, a lot of stuff simply isn't going to get done. And way below the cutoff is "quality time" with your partner. Everyone will tell you to plan a date night, but you probably won't (and if you do, you might not enjoy it because your breasts are uncomfortably engorged or you might be worried about your sitter not knowing how to deal with baby's colic).
How to deal
There's something innate that bonds a woman and her baby, but a little time away from baby can do big things for your sanity. Remind yourself that you really should get away, even just for a little bit, and spend time with your partner, just the two of you. Everyone's right: It is good for your relationship. If it's hard now, just keep telling yourself to do it. Over time, it will get easier to tear yourself away from baby.
It's also important to openly talk to your partner about your emotional needs. Research shows that the single largest predictor of marital happiness is how you respond to your partner's "emotional calls"—aka your attempts to connect with each other. Marriage counseling can be a wonderful way to boost that connection (and it's not just for unsatisfied couples!).
4. Sex has probably become a distant memory
"Sex was not on the top of our list." — multiplemama3
Such a cliche, we know. But, at least temporarily, your sex life has probably taken a nosedive. You had to wait about six weeks after giving birth before having sex. And frankly, once you got the go-ahead from your doctor, you may not have actually felt ready to do it yet (yes, it may hurt—it won't be torture, but your body's been through a lot, and it will take time to get back to normal). Tack on exhaustion, stress, mood swings, potential dryness (down there) from breastfeeding and lack of romance with your partner, and it could be months before you’re in the mood.
How to deal
Of course, you don't want to rush yourself if you're not ready, but you also want to communicate to your partner what's going on so they don’t think the lack of intimacy is their fault—or that it's going to be like this forever. (And definitely don't let it be like this forever—you both could use some good sex, are we right?)
5. You love your baby more than your partner
"Once we had our baby, we were a little distant from each other. It obviously hurt my husband's feelings—we were mostly distant because all I wanted to do was be around the baby. So he made me sit down and he lectured me about how we are still married and our relationship is just as important." — jojosmama
It goes without saying that you love your baby more than anything—and to some extent, that may include your partner. (Well, maybe you don’t love baby more, just differently.) But you may not have predicted that, at least for a little while, you would practically forget that your partner exists.
How to deal
Try not to let it get in between you. Remember, you’re both crazy about baby, and there's no reason either of you should hurt each other's feelings because of it—if anything, use your shared love for baby to grow even closer.
6. Niceties have gone out the window
"It has caused a lot of friction between us. We've bickered much more than we used to. I don't want to use the term fight, because to me, that means yelling and feelings being hurt. We just snap at each other more easily." — happymama789
How to deal
From time to time, try to say "please" and "thank you," and maybe even use those pet names you used to call each other. Go out of your way to show a little kindness—it’ll go a long way. Need some extra help? There are now apps out there—like Lasting—that ask you some questions to get to know your relationship, and then map out a program to improve your communication and conflict skills and weave healthy habits and romantic rituals into your daily lives.
7. There's no such thing as downtime
"The time we used to have for each other, where I would lie on the couch with my husband for two hours at night, is gone. Now that time is spent cleaning up, prepping things for the next day (bottles, outfits) and doing household chores." — mysarahjane6
Okay, so we mentioned how your routine would change, but there are some things you used to do that were the foundation of your relationship: Watch trashy reality TV together, play Rock Band, read novels in bed and then switch when you were done. All that cool, fun, intimate stuff is gone—at least for now, while you have zero time to waste.
How to deal
You've got to challenge yourselves to bond while emptying the diaper pail and cleaning mashed sweet potatoes out of the high chair's crevices. Not sexy, but if you think about it, it's kind of sweet that you two are in this together.
8. Despite all that tough stuff, you have a new bond
"The first year, our relationship was good and bad. Bad because we were sleep deprived and, well, both my husband and I are grumpy without sleep. But our baby makes us happy. Our children make us laugh, smile and worry like we never had before, but it brings us closer together." — bettysbabes5
How to deal
Yes, there will be ups and downs, but something about having created a life together—and taking care of that life as a team—will bond you two in a whole new way. You may run into some bumps in the road, but you'll also likely look at your partner singing to baby in the middle of the night, or teaching her to play patty-cake, and fall in love with them all over again. Think of early parenthood as boot camp. If you guys can make it through this, you'll be prepared to make it through almost anything.
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Updated November 2017