FWP: Relationship Advice for a New Parent
PROBLEM: Dear Swaddle Team, not to be a cliche, but I’ve got a 4-month-old, and it has taken major tolls on my marriage. I don’t think we’re struggling with anything unusual — no sleep, no sex, no getting out of the house — but I’m not sure what to do to make it better. Is this just something we’ve got to ‘go through’? Do you have any relationship advice for the newly parented?
KB: Oh, dear reader, haven’t you seen the stats that say divorce rates are highest in the first year of being new parents? Parenthood, especially in the early days, is one of the most stressful experiences for a marriage. Whether it’s mismatched expectations about childcare responsibilities, or just the lack of sleep, free time, and fun, it’s a lot to dump onto a romantic relationship.
It’s completely normal for nerves to be frayed and patience to be thin. But, there’s also a silver lining: This is completely normal, everyone goes through it, and it does get easier. Babies don’t stay babies forever, and by the time they’re three, you should mostly have your adult life back. Unless you decide to have another one…
SB: Dear reader, like you suspected and KB confirmed, this is all completely normal, although we feel you on the zombie life and sex drought. That being said how you manage this time can make or break how you resurface as a couple when your kid gets older. It’s really important to feel like you’re in it together, so think about what that looks like and talk to your partner about it.
If too much resentment festers, that’s the really toxic part. Understanding and supporting each other in a time like this can also make your relationship stronger when you emerge from the new baby pressure cooker phase. Don’t worry, in a few months your kid will be sleeping better, have more of a routine and be a little more predictable so you and your husband can plan some time to reconnect. Hang in until then!
LG: You seem to be having a rough time; all my hugs to you! I’ll just echo what’s come before, but from what I have observed, the ‘in it together’ attitude is really important. There’s a reason, presumably, you two became partners.
Take time to consider what your partner might be feeling, and what they contribute. Also take time to really identify your own feelings and frustrations. (Mental load is a common if intangible problem; this might help you articulate it, if it sounds like what you’re struggling with.) Talk to each other, and if nothing changes, then talk to a marriage counselor — it’s not a step of relationship failure, it’s a step of relationship health to keep your troubles from getting to the point of failure. Good luck to you both as you get through this difficult adjustment!
MM: Like these ladies say, you’re not alone, this is a common experience for new parents, I’m told. The best thing to do – even though sleepless nights and a wailing baby can’t make it easy – is talk it out. Like SB said, don’t let the resentment fester. You do have to live through this, but I hear it only gets better from here. So good luck, and hang in there!
RT: As KB said, “babies don’t stay babies forever,” and that’s the moral of the story. But just like you have to prep three months for your final exams, or spend six months planning a two day wedding, parenting newborns is also another hard phase that every procreating adult has to go through. So, mutually understanding this as couple is highly necessary right now.
I think what you guys should focus on, is not being social or having sex, but rather always finding ways to take turns to have solo hours off and maintain individual sanity. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to be the perfect couple right now but rather fixate on being their for each other. That’s what’s going to solidify your relationship in the long run. If you do get a night off, get some rest and a quick spoon because your bundle of “joy” will be up any minute. Good luck and stay strong!