Ask the Expert: Our baby is thriving, but our marriage is not

Although one person can change a relationship, it works best when two people are on board and working together. Photograph: Thinkstock Images

Although one person can change a relationship, it works best when two people are on board and working together. Photograph: Thinkstock Images

Tue, May 13, 2014, 01:00

Q My husband and I have a beautiful eight-month-old baby, but the problem is that my husband and I just seem to be fighting all the time. I feel alone and isolated minding the baby at home and he still expects me to do most of the housework.

I appreciate that he is under a lot of pressure at work and is worried about money but a year ago we were much more together dealing with problems.

He also complains that we have no time for each other and no time for sex. I agree with him but I feel too exhausted and certainly not up for it after a row. I know he still loves me and he is great with the baby. I just don’t want things to slip any farther between us.

A While couples often have the romantic idea that the birth of a baby will bring them closer together, the reverse is often true. In fact, research shows that the arrival of a new baby generally puts a great deal of stress on the parents’ relationship.

The baby comes with a huge list of extra tasks that have to be shared between the two parents who are often sleep-deprived and may be dealing with individual pressures, such as balancing work, feeling the baby blues, and so on.

There can be little time for many of the enjoyable things that kept couples close together, such as sex, affection and long, intimate conversations. Instead, these enjoyable activities can be replaced by daily domestic conflicts about the demands of the new baby.

So, the first thing to realise is that you are not alone. Most couples go through this adjustment, and the good news is that, if handled correctly, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Make sure to prioritise your marriage,
for your baby’s sake

Most couples neglect their relationship when the baby arrives. Understandably, the needs of the baby become the number- one priority and everything else is in second place. However, be careful of doing this long term, and not just for your own sake but also for the benefit of your baby.

Babies and children do best in the long term when the relationship between their parents is affectionate, strong and supportive.

In practical terms, children who see their parents being affectionate, kind and loving towards one another also feel loved and secure.

Also, parents whose own needs for intimacy and love are met are more available to their children and can be more attentive to their needs. There are lots of simple, practical steps that you can take that will make a difference in your relationship (even if you don’t initially feel like doing them) such as:
nHaving a daily routine of sharing news about each other’s day.

n Organising a babysitter one evening/ afternoon a week.

n Making sure to hug each evening before sleep and just before you get up.

n Scheduling sex at an agreed time.

nSitting and talking when the baby is asleep (rather than doing jobs).

Learn to fight ‘constructively’

Sharing your life with someone invariably brings you into conflict with them and these conflicts increase once a baby arrives. Frequently, as you have experienced, these conflicts explode into rows which, if unchecked, can become daily and erode the relationship.

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