There’s no doubt that having a child can turn a marriage into complete chaos, leaving both you and your partner feeling helpless at times. But what I know for certain, after 33 years of marriage and raising our son, is: You can prosper emotionally and spiritually as a couple and a family when the desire and effort are there.
Here are 15 tips to help you navigate your way through this amazing journey of building your family:
1. Remember, you’re the parents.
Family and friends will lend advice along the way but this is your child. You know your child better than anyone. Stay on the same page with each other when deciding what’s best for your child and your relationship will thrive.
2. Cheer each other on.
There is a learning curve during this new phase of your life—as a couple, as parents, and as yourself. Place patience and encouragement at the top of your list.
3. Show mutual respect.
You’re both doing the best you know how. Your partner will continue to strive to give you his or her best when you encourage rather than ridicule for their mistakes or lack of confidence.
4. Explore your differences.
This doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong. It simply means there’s more than one way to do things. This is yet another opportunity to learn from each other and take the very best of what you each have to offer as parents.
5. Eliminate score keeping.
The “who puts in more effort” game has no winners. All contributions are important. Ask for more help if you need it, but ask with love and gratitude rather than from anger and expectation.
6. Reveal your greatest fears.
All parents have fears. You might not have experienced those fears before having children and the fears can surprise you. Unrevealed fears are potentially a major cause of tension in your relationship.
7. Honor your partner’s fears.
The fear is still there even if you see no logical reason for your partner’s fear. The more you listen with compassion and ask questions, the more your partner will share and the sooner the fear can be eliminated or lessened with your support.
8. Treat your partner as an equal parent.
A “since I’m home more with our child, my decisions hold more weight” attitude will only push your partner away and create a rift between the two of you. Consider all choices so you both feel equally valued.
9. Seek to understand new behaviors.
Having a child can reveal things about your partner you never saw before. Discuss any new behaviors that are causing friction to learn what’s creating this behavior.
10. Focus on the strengths first.
Remind your partner of all the things they do well as a parent if they’re struggling with a baby issue. Then ask your partner if they would like some input or prefer working through it alone.
11. Express your concerns to each other.
Mom, if you no longer feel sexy or desirable, it’s critical you share this with your partner. Let him help you find your sexiness again. Dad, if you still find your partner attractive but seeing her in the role of mother interferes with your ability to reach out sexually, tell her so she knows you still think she’s beautiful. Let her show you she’s more than just a mother.
12. Do it now, anyway.
You’re headed for disaster if you wait to have sex until you’re perky again. Push through being tired and just go for it! When you do, you’ll sleep more soundly in your lover’s arms.
13. Keep your bedroom your sanctuary.
It’s so important to have a space that reminds you that you’re not just parents—you’re lovers AND best friends.
14. Watch your child together as he or she sleeps.
You are the only people in the universe who could have given life to this person. Knowing how much you love your little miracle, tell each other how grateful you are to have found one another and formed this family.
15. Lighten up.
The more you laugh the more loving you’ll feel. Laugh at each other. Laugh at yourself. Share it with your partner when you can find the humor underneath the stress.