When preparing for parenthood, we hear people talk about nutrition, fitness, finance, and other elements of our lives that will change dramatically. But the one area that should top the list of priorities is your relationship. If you are in a committed relationship and planning to conceive, strengthening and "baby-proofing" your bond should be at the top of your list of things to do before your world gets rocked by a baby.
The year after childbirth is one of the most stressful times in a relationship. The change is dramatic, whether you already have children or not. There is an increase in housework, expenses, and expectations, on top of less sleep, fluctuating hormones and a complete change in lifestyle, all while balancing jobs or other demands outside of the home. Pregnancy itself is consumed with many changes, emotionally and physically. Once baby arrives, a couple's relationship will change significantly.
Researchers have studied the impact children have on a relationship, and the results are conclusive. Relationships suffer once children enter the picture. When comparing couples without children to couples with, it was found that the rate of decline for relationship satisfaction was nearly double for their childless counterparts. When the pregnancy is unplanned, the negative impact is even greater.
It is understandable, considering how society paints such a glossy picture of the happy couple with their bright, glowing baby. However, the reality can be very different. While there are moments of bliss, there are also a myriad of other moments that can look very messy.
While babies are usually treated as the most important member of the family, the truth is that your whole family will benefit if your relationship maintains that position. Here are the four most important things to remember and start implementing today to have peace in your home when baby arrives.
Value One Another
How we treat each other as a couple will be the greatest determining factor in how your child treats their parents growing up. Treating each other with kindness, respect, appreciation, and understanding is a way to model healthy relationships to your children. Take a few moments to let your partner know how you appreciate them, thank them for doing basic tasks or handling complicated chores. Touch and physical affection, like hugs and shoulder rubs, or a squeeze of their hands while making eye contact are also simple but oh-so-magical ways to let them know you care.
Speak your Needs
Men especially will agree that one of the most frustrating aspects of their relationship is not knowing what their partner wants or needs. But this goes for either partner. It takes a certain level of self-awareness to know what you need and to be able to ask for it. Do not make the mistake of thinking they should already know what you need. That is an unfair expectation that will let you down every time. If you struggle knowing your needs, the next one is for you.
How well do you know yourself? Can you look inside and see where you are feeling vulnerable, need support, feel triggered, or have needs going unmet, including (and especially) under stressful circumstances? If no, then now if a perfect time to focus on yourself. Having needs is not wrong. It's human. What is wrong about having needs is expecting others to know what they are without you telling them. Listen, I get it. I was raised in the kind of home where emotions where seen as "messy" and "inconvenient". If this is the situation with your partner before the baby is in the picture, it will only compound once they arrive. Have the difficult conversations. Take up space. First with yourself, through meditation, journaling, coaching, therapy, support groups, retreats, or however else speaks to you. The value of this cannot be emphasized enough!
The way we speak to each other matters immensely in the way the message is received. People need to feel appreciated and respected in order to stay committed in any situation, but especially in relationships with all the demands of a baby. The way your newborn communicates will be with harsh cries and grunts, which can create stress trying to decode their needs. You have access to a wide range of vocabulary to express yourself. Notice not only what you are saying, but how you are saying it. Beyond how you speak, also notice how well you can listen. Practice slowing down and really hearing one another, repeating back what you hear and checking for resonance. When you have less stress in your relationship, your baby will soothe easier, sleep better, and likely have easier time digesting. And they will grow up naturally learning to speak kindly and with respect for others.
Taking these steps to make your relationship baby-proof will dramatically improve your relationship's resiliency once baby is in the picture. If you are considering that you are already doing these to some degree, double it. Make your relationship the biggest priority in your baby's life and welcome them into a home that has been built on a strong and solid foundation. You are doing amazing work! Thank you for showing up consciously today for a peaceful future generation.