In the early years of parenthood, it can be hard to hold onto a sense of who you used to be, particularly as a partner and a lover. But it’s not just your relationship with the baby that needs work – your couple relationship needs nurturing too.
It can be helpful for new parents to think about clues and cues. New parents quickly learn to pick up the clues their baby gives them about how they are feeling. These clues act as cues to their needs. In a similar way, thinking about the clues your partner may be trying to send can be helpful for a better understanding of how they are feeling.
Men and women tend to adjust to the parenting role at different rates, so it’s important not to assume that your partner is always feeling in the same place as you at the same time.
Some things that can help you both as new parents:
- Make time to talk to each other, particularly at times when neither of you is feeling angry or resentful about who does what.
- Make sure the roles you both have feel like choices. It’s easy to fall into roles after having a baby, so check in from time to time and make sure you’re both comfortable with what you’re doing.
- Try to appreciate each other and the different changes each of you are going through.
- Try not to criticize too much – although it can feel difficult to avoid this at times, judging, accusing and criticizing will not help the situation.
- Focus on the positive things your partner does and keep reminding and encouraging them.
- Turn to somebody – when things are tough and you can’t talk to your partner, turn to trusted friends or family who can give unbiased support. Building friendships with people in similar situations may also help, as can talking to a trusted GP, midwife or health visitor, or someone from your faith community. Many of these people are used to talking to couples having a hard time.
- Find time for yourselves and each other: as individuals, give each other a break and try to ease the tension; as a family, take care of the baby together sometimes; and as a couple, go out together like you did before the baby. Things like this can help to keep you talking.