Having a new baby turns your life upside down. You’re dealing with having a new, tiny human that’s suddenly your responsibility to keep alive, your daily routine has shifted dramatically and everything is suddenly different.
However, what we often don't consider is how having a new baby will affect our relationship with our other half. We’re so focused on getting through the pregnancy, birth and immediate aftermath of it all, that we don’t think about what might happen to our relationship.
When two becomes three, it becomes an uneven number, so how can we maintain a healthy relationship as new parents when life has been turned on its head? Below, I share four key ways that helped me to keep the communication and love strong during the transition from just the two of us to a new family of three.
Make a Plan
If your little one is yet to arrive, consider having some discussions ahead of time about how you'll cope with different situations. How will you handle things like cooking and the housework? How can you support each other with the lack of sleep? Are there discussions about financial arrangements that it would be best to organise before all the chaos and sleep deprivation ensues?
Having these big conversations may seem unromantic and take the magic away from the excitement of the baby arriving, but communication around these issues can be helpful in the long run and it will be one less thing for you both to worry about when your baby comes home.
Use Non-Violent Communcation
Psychologist Marshall Rosenberg has nailed the art of asking for what you want, while still keeping the peace. In his book Non-violent Communication he sets out the frame-work he created that allows people to express their needs and make requests without judgement or blame. If you follow the rules of non-violent communication (NVC), he says you’ll find it easier to ask for what you want, and you’ve got a better chance of getting it.
If you want to avoid bickering with your partner, check out these four steps and below. Here, I'm using the example of a classic house tidying request:
Step 1: Make an observation: 'I noticed you left your clothes on the bathroom floor'
Step 2: State how you feel: 'I feel overwhelmed'
Step 3: State your needs: 'I need more help with the house so I can rest'
Step 4: Make a request: 'Would you be willing to put your clothes in the dirty clothes basket in future?'
Using these four steps can help to get your needs met without triggering the other person's defensiveness.
Carve Out Time for Yourself
Like the old saying goes, when you take time for yourself, you have more to give. We all need time to recharge our batteries and there will be different ways we do this. For some it could be yoga and a nap, and for others it could be watching a good film or seeing friends. Whatever it is, respecting each other's needs and having time to recharge is important as new parents.
If you feel like you need some space to recharge, why not ask your partner or a family member to take care of the baby while you have a nap, take a bath or go out for a solo walk. You'll return to the relationship feeling as though you've filled up your own cup and have more to give, not just to yourself and your baby, but to your partner too.
Consider a Weekly 'Team Meeting'
A big bone of contention in my relationship is when I make requests or raise issues with my partner when he's tired, working or busy doing something else. We all need to be receptive to our partner’s needs but timing is important. Having a new baby can be stressful so, in-between baths, bedtime and feeds, finding time to talk and share concerns can be limited.
Our communication is much more effective when we set time aside to discuss grievances, make plans and requests, and iron out issues. It can stop either partner feeling accosted and, instead, they're in a much more receptive headspace to discuss issues. It's not very sexy, but the team meeting (complete with itinerary!) works incredibly well for us. Why not try it and see how you get on?
Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist, coach and mentor at www.calmer-you.com and the host of The Calmer You Podcast. She specialises in helping people calm stress and anxiety and feel more confident. She's the author of two books published by Penguin, the best selling The Anxiety Solution and ‘The Confidence Solution'. Find her on Instagram @ChloeBrotheridge.