Here’s something a lot of people don’t talk about when it comes to giving birth: the challenges that follow for many, many parents when it comes to the relationship between the two of you. Not only are you both exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally, but no matter how much work you’ve done preparing for the arrival of this new little life, the odds are that there is still SO much you didn’t prepare for.
I know for me and M, the six months following baby A’s arrival was full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Becoming a parent changes the way the two of you interact in so many ways: gone are those easy, breezy late night date nights or lazy Sunday mornings lounging in bed until noon, and instead your days are filled with baby snugs from a little human who needs you more than anyone on the planet.
And while that is absolutely amazing, it’s also a super important time to remember to continue to work on your relationship with your partner so that the two of you can model for this little one what a healthy relationship looks like.
Note: Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products that I personally love and believe in. Full disclaimer here.
So if you’re struggling out there with your relationship with your spouse postpartum, guess what: you’re not alone! Relationship problems after a new baby arrives are common. Relationships are HARD y’all, and making one work takes active effort. I’ve long believed that love a choice, and somedays it feels harder than others to make the choice to treat your spouse with love (like when hubby shrinks all of the new baby clothes). And you know what? That’s perfectly ok too. What matters is that you’re willing to put in the work to continue to make your relationship thrive.
When I was in college I was lucky enough to take a seminar on love. It was an incredible semester filled with powerful books on all different types of love, including marriage. The most valuable thing I learned about was “The 5 Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman.If you haven’t read the book I highly recommend you check it out! The ideas are simple and conveyed with clarity and humor, making the book not only practical, but also easy to relate to. You can snag a copy for under $10 on Amazon HERE.
In a nutshell, through years as a pastor and marriage counselor, Chapman came to the conclusion that all of us express and receive love through one of five languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. He argues that while each of speak all of these languages to at least some degree, an individual will usually speak one primary language.
So what does this mean?
Basically, what the book says is that people feel most loved in different ways, and if your spouse or partner isn’t showing you love in that particular way, you might not feel as loved despite your partner’s best efforts.
For example: if your love language is Words of Affirmation, and your partner hates texting, and isn’t big on cards, and despite your requests he doesn’t leave you sweet notes, you might feel like he doesn’t care. This might leave your partner feeling super frustrated, as what makes him feel the most love are Acts of Service, and he’s been trying his hardest to take care of the laundry for you, or tackle the cat litter, because those acts would make HIM feel loved.
Learning our love languages has been incredibly valuable to our relationship for the start, as we quickly learned we speak different ones! While M is big on Quality Time and Physical Touch, I feel most loved by Words of Affirmation (big surprise, right??). It’s also important to note that your love languages can change! I noticed after having baby A that Gifts stopped being my secondary love language, and Acts of Service had quickly replaced it (am I the only one who swoons when your hubs unloads the clean dishes, or tackles the dirty diaper laundry??).
Before going further, I recommend both you and your partner take the 5 Love Languages test. You can easily find out your love languages here through the 5 Love Languages website completely for free! Taking the test on their website will give you access to a simple breakdown of the love languages, but for more in depth information the book is really fantastic (and you can easily order it here).
So how can you use the concepts outline in The 5 Love Languages to help strengthen your relationship postpartum? I’ve taken a few minutes to write down a few specific examples for relationships after baby, but there are so many more than this!
Words of Affirmation: Take a minute each day to verbally tell your partner that you love him, and try to think of one thing that you love about him specifically that day. Not super comfortable expressing yourself verbally? Try leaving little notes of love in unexpected places, texting them something sweet, or grabbing a funny card at the grocery store.
Quality Time: Carving out special time for just the two of you after baby is so incredibly important, but quality time can sometimes be hard to come by. See if you and your partner can create a standing “decompress” time each day: after you put the little one(s) down, sit down with your partner without the phone or tv and spend 20 minutes just talking and connecting.
Struggling to do this consistently? Quality time can also include watching your favorite Netflix show together, going on a walk, or even eating a meal just the two of you.
Receiving Gifts: This doesn’t have to be extravagant! It can be as simple as snagging some of their favorite food at the grocery store (aka wine!), picking up flowers on the way home, or gifting a special mommy or daddy gift (like this super sweet one).
Acts of Service: Making dinner or cleaning the dishes, bringing your spouse coffee in bed, handling the poopy diapers, or letting your partner sleep in or take an extra long hot shower all count of acts of service. Also guaranteed to make her weak in the knees: taking her car to get detailed (goodbye old spilled milk and crushed cheerios!), asking to take care of the grocery shopping, or giving her a full day off mom duty.
Physical Touch: I can speak from experience that your wife is in PAIN after childbirth, and our bodies take a hot minute to stop feeling like we got hit be a car. Foot rubs and back massages can go far for the postpartum momma, but ladies don’t forget about your partner too! If your partner craves physical touch, first remember to not push yourself to do something you’re not ready for. It’s ok for it to take a while for you to feel ready to be intimate, and that’s ok!
Holding hands, having a quality snuggle in bed before getting up to take care of the baby, or event a great hug can make your partner feel loved and appreciated.
Remember: for many of us, little acts of service and selflessness go far during the ups and downs of navigating the postpartum period, regardless of what our primary love language is.
How can you continue to strengthen your relationship?
A friend told me early on about this great acronym that I want to pass on to all of you: PHASE.
PAUSE: Pause before speaking in anger. When you’re tired and stressed it’s easy for emotions to run high. Take a deep breath and count to 5.
HAVE GRACE: Give yourself some grace when you lose your cool, or feel frustrated about not getting everything on your to-do list done.
ACCEPT HELP: Remember that your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you need help, let them know! It’s also ok to let your friends and family help you, and it’s good for your mental health to not feel like you need to take everything on yourself. Let them watch you little one for a date night, or come over to help you finally get all of those loads of laundry put away.
STAY CONNECTED: Check in with your partner regularly. Take a few minutes each evening to ask your partner about their day, how they’re feeling, or how you can help them the next day. Communicate your thoughts and feelings for yourself around each of those areas too.
And, ENJOY! Remember that life is full of seasons, and this is one of them. The nights are long, but the days go faster than we think. With your commitment to each other and the health of your relationship you can make it through this season with your tiny ones, and have a stronger relationship to show for it.
I hope these ideas have helped you think of ways you can strengthen your personal relationship with your partner! Would love for you to share any great ones you’ve come up with, and know that I’m sending you so much love as you navigate this challenging time. Remember: you’re not alone!