An unhappy marriage after baby is nothing uncommon. In fact, most married couples face a nosedive in their relationship in the first year of having their first child.
This course of events is actually nothing unexpected. After all, your life turns upside down and it’s not easy to get by in the new situation.
According to the Gottman Institute, the majority of couples are faced with stress, conflict, and lack of intimacy during the first year after the baby’s arrival. You doubt yourself and at times even despise your partner for not giving you the amount of support you want and need.
Bickering becomes a part of everyday life and you have a hard time functioning together as new parents.
Well, luckily for you, we have a cure to an unhappy marriage after baby. Here are 9 ways to fix and save your relationship.
1. Avoid the blame game
Parenting is difficult and whoever tells you otherwise is lying to you.
I know you might be surrounded by new moms and dads who pretend that everything is going great with their first baby and as if they have no doubts about raising them.
Well, they’re rarely honest. The truth is that nobody actually knows what they’re doing.
When your first child arrives, you feel completely lost. You often find yourself thinking that every move you make is utterly wrong.
All these sleepless nights take the best out of you. You’re nervous, cranky, and even anxious.
Everything seems so hard and you’re convinced that you’ll fail as a parent.
Later on, you and your partner fall into the trap of mutually blaming each other for every little mistake.
You can’t understand that they can’t handle this new role they got and you accuse them of everything you think they do wrong.
If you want to save your unhappy marriage, the first step is to stop with this blame game right away.
After all, you’re not accomplishing anything with bickering and it’s completely pointless to guilt-trip each other.
This way, you’re ruining your partner’s confidence and they’re doing the same to you. Consequently, you both end up devastated and feeling like you’re not good enough to be a decent parent.
First and foremost, don’t judge each other for not feeling happy all the time. Yes, bringing a new life to this world is the most blissful thing you can experience.
However, it’s also a cause of loads of stress.
The worst thing that can happen is that you and your partner don’t have enough understanding of each other during these tough moments. Instead, you should be one another’s biggest support.
You might have a problem because you feel like you’re competing against each other.
Who is more devoted? Who puts more effort into parenting? Who is handling the new situation better?
These and similar questions will only raise tension between you two. Remember: You’re in this together, not competing against each other.
You’re a team and the last thing you want is to become each other’s arch enemies. Please, don’t attack each other for not having enough energy, being too tired, or being anxious about your new role.
Instead, become the wind to each other’s wings. Be each other’s shoulders to cry one and don’t forget to remain best friends.
2. Accept that your life will change
Another truth is that your life will never be the same after having a baby.
Most people will only talk to you about the good sides of it – about this new type of love you never knew you could feel and all the joyful moments with your baby.
Even though this is a fact, I won’t lie to you: Being first-time parents is not all roses and rainbows.
In fact, there are parts of your life that you wouldn’t want to have changed, but it’ll happen either way.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
I’m not saying that you should lose yourself forever now that you have a baby.
Nevertheless, you basically have no other choice but to accept that your life will change. It actually has already changed and these modifications will continue to happen.
Stress, sleepless nights, worrying, and anxiety will become a part of your everyday routine for some time now.
Sadly, many new moms and dads deny the fact that this period of adaptation is so hard.
They see themselves as these new people, with new habits, preferences, and most importantly rhythm. Then they lament their sad destiny.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are sorry for becoming parents. Sometimes, you wish for your old life back and there is absolutely nothing left of it.
You’re sick and tired of sleep deprivation, you want to get drunk, and you want to spend your Sundays lying in bed, not doing anything.
The same goes for your marriage. You want to spend the entire weekend cuddling with your hubby or going on a crazy adrenaline-filled adventure without a stroller.
Some will say that you can continue doing this now that you have a child. Even though that’s not a lie, it’s a fact that your priorities have changed.
There is no more reckless behavior and no more putting yourself and your relationship first.
That is why one of the most important steps here is to start reprogramming your life in time. Accept the fact that the honeymoon phase is over and that it’s time to get to some real work.
3. Quality time together
One of the main causes of an unhappy marriage after baby is the fact that most new parents become only that: parents.
Somewhere down the line, they manage to forget that they’re still a man and woman, a husband and wife.
Don’t misunderstand me.
Nobody argues against the fact that your baby’s needs should come first. After all, he didn’t choose to come into this world and it’s your job to lead him through life the best way you can.
However, there will come a time when your child will grow up. Yes, you will always be his parents.
Nevertheless, your baby won’t need you forever as much as he does now. And once that happens, you’ll feel like your marriage has lost its purpose.
Basically, one day – and that day will come sooner than you expect – you’ll be left alone with your husband. When that happens, you’ll have no other choice but to be lovers, best friends, and partners.
However, you’ll just look at a stranger next to you.
You’ll remember that you spent all those years taking care of your child to the point where you both forgot that you’re also a married couple.
Well, in order to avoid this type of scenario, the importance of spending quality time alone with your partner cannot be forgotten.
As much as you love your new baby and don’t want to miss any moment of his childhood, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break and relaxing from time to time.
As busy you are and as challenging your new life is, I assure you that you can always find time to spend it with your significant other.
Find a babysitter or ask a family member to help you out.
Once you’re certain that your little one is in good hands, you can calmly switch your mind off for a while and enjoy yourself.
For starters, make it a habit to go out on date nights every once in a while. Turn that in a ritual the two of you are not allowed to miss, however tired and busy as you may be.
Try recreating the very start of your relationship. Flirt, tease, and seduce each other.
Do your best to reignite the spark between you two. Wake up those butterflies that have been sleeping for a while now.
4. “You” time
Even though quality family time is vital, what is also important is the time you have with yourself.
Yes, you’ve become a new mom, and many claim that this is the most beautiful role you can have in your lifetime.
However, just because you’re a parent now, it doesn’t mean you’ve ceased to exist as a woman. You’re an individual with your own needs, desires, and dreams.
Therefore, it’s perfectly normal that you crave for some personal space. That is why you always have to find time just for yourself, without anyone disturbing you.
At first, you’ll probably feel something called mommy guilt forever worrying that you’re missing out on some special moments in your baby’s life.
You even might consider yourself to be a bad mother for wanting some time apart from your family.
But trust me when I tell you that you shouldn’t be having these doubts. After all, this is a new period for you and your mental health is at stake.
Besides, your child doesn’t have much use of a mom if she’s stressed out all the time.
In fact, when you’re more relaxed and feel better about yourself, you can only be better for your entire family, including your child.
If you’re a happy woman, you’ll automatically be a happy wife and happy mother and consequently, your baby will be happier.
So, whenever you get the chance, make yourself a bubble bath, have a cuppa with your friends, read your favorite blogger’s new post, watch an episode of your favorite TV series.
Just because you’re a mother, it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue with your hobbies.
Find something that will help you relax and go with it. It will help you get rid of your negative energy and you’ll be as good as new when you go back to your baby and husband.
That said, also remember that you’re not the only one who deserves this “me” time. Your partner is also tired and stressed out.
Trust me. Even this slight separation will bring you marital satisfaction. You won’t be at each other’s necks all the time, which will bring relief to your relationship.
5. Mutual responsibility
One thing you should never forget once you get a new baby is that this is both your and your partner’s child.
You both love and care for him, but you should also have mutual responsibility and parenting goals when it comes to raising him.
The number one source of dissatisfaction and cause of an unhappy marriage after baby arrives is the fact that the entire task falls on one person, which is usually the mother.
If this is the case with your relationship, it’s normal that you won’t be satisfied with it.
You’re the one struggling with sleep deprivation, breastfeeding the baby, changing diapers, feeding, and doing all the household chores.
On the other hand, your husband only enjoys the baby, plays with him whenever he wants, and that’s where his responsibilities of a father seem to end.
This usually starts with your maternity leave. While your husband is working, you’re free to stay home with the baby all day and it’s natural that you’ll do most of the work.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the baby is your responsibility only. The worst part is that in many post-baby marriages, this practice continues even after you both go back to work.
Consequently, relationship problems arise.
The husband complains that the wife has little time for him. She is always cranky and stressed out. Basically, the woman he fell in love disappeared right in front of his eyes.
On the flip side, the wife starts feeling like a servant or slave. She doesn’t have time for herself, let alone her spouse because being a mom is hard.
When this happens, you both hold grudges and become resentful.
There is absolutely no sign of romance and you inevitably become two strangers who can’t stand each other.
This is why it’s crucial to share duties and responsibilities in time.
After all, the only thing a first time dad can’t physically do is breastfeed (although bottle feeding is a viable option for hubby to help in the nursing department, too).
He is perfectly capable of waking up at night to change the baby and to help in any other way. If it’s possible, it would be perfect if you could both take maternity and paternity leave.
6. Handling extended family members
Another issue that suddenly appears after you have your first baby is both your and your husband’s extended families. In the pre-baby period, you were probably seeing these people less often than now.
Back then, you got along just fine.
They never interfered with your life nor did they try to change your relationship dynamics.
However, research shows that all of this changes once the baby arrives.
It’s actually pretty natural that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins want to see the newborn as much as possible.
After all, this is their blood as well. They love your little one and only want what’s best for him.
However, sometimes they exaggerate and make some mistakes towards you, out of this enormous love. Often, your in-laws or parents want to dictate your parenting style.
They think they know better since they have heaps of experience, compared to you who is handling this situation for the first time ever.
When they ask to babysit, they ignore your directions and do things their own way. Also, they might become too nosy.
Also, your parents and in-laws might invade your privacy and start visiting you too often.
Consequently, this causes trouble in paradise and leaves you and your spouse little time alone with your baby.
You blame your husband for allowing too much with his parents and he does the same when your family is in question.
A lot of times you end up getting in a fight with his closest ones, which he naturally disapproves of.
Then maybe you feel like he didn’t treat your parents with the respect they deserve, so you two end up arguing about that.
The solution to this problem is setting boundaries beforehand. You and your husband are a team. You shouldn’t let anyone else interfere in your marriage and family.
Make it clear that the two of you are the only parents to this baby. You’re the ones who have all the responsibility and the ones who have the right to decide what’s best for your little one.
It would be best if you don’t argue with your husband’s family members and vice versa. Instead, if you happen to have a problem with your in-laws, ask your spouse to handle it.
After all, they will accept criticism coming from him with much more ease. If you confront them, they might take it personally, which will only deepen the tension and gap between you.
7. Financial management
Maybe you didn’t have to worry about finances that much in the pre-baby period.
However, once you become first-time parents, you suddenly have numerous new expenses, because the average cost of having a baby is not exactly small.
There is no doubt that now budgeting has become crucial.
Many married couples say that finances and family budget have become an issue and one of the causes of an unhappy marriage after baby.
Possibly, you two haven’t prepared for all of these sudden expenses ahead of time, so now you’re facing difficulties with money.
Some will say that finances have nothing to do with love.
Nevertheless, married life is not a fairytale and it’s natural that these problems will impact your relationship as well.
You might start by blaming each other for lack of money, accusing each other of spending too much or bringing unnecessary debt to the family.
Also, you become stressed due to lack of money.
There is less and less possibility of going out on date nights, traveling, or any other treats, which increases your stress levels as well.
This is especially true if you and your significant other have different spending habits. Maybe one of you is more prone to saving money while the other doesn’t know how to be frugal.
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What is crucial here is to start managing your finances together. Reach a compromise and agree on everything as a team.
Organize your bills and categorize your expenses, and I promise you that it will bring you one step closer to marital satisfaction and a happier life.
8. Healthy communication
Research shows that healthy communication is the key to every healthy relationship. Well, that can’t be more true.
The worst thing you can do for your post-baby marriage is keep things to yourself.
I’m not saying that you should talk to your partner about literally every single thought that goes through your head.
Nevertheless, you two have to be open about everything going on in your relationship – especially in the first year after the baby arrives.
Holding grudges, being resentful, giving each other the silent treatment, or expecting the other person to magically read your mind will bring you nowhere.
Whatever feelings you might have regarding your relationship problems and your newly acquired parental roles, you need to share them with your partner.
Make sure your marriage is a safe zone. There is no point in judging your spouse.
Instead, you two should have unlimited understanding for each other since you’re in this together. Don’t be scared to talk to each other about all the doubts and issues you might be having.
There will be times when you’ll feel less attractive to your significant other – hard times when you’ll question whether he still likes you, despite all the changes your body’s gone through.
When something like this happens, don’t dwell on your insecurities.
Don’t make conclusions in your head without talking to him about everything that’s been bothering you.
If you happen to notice symptoms of postpartum depression, your spouse is the first one to turn to. Don’t hide your feelings; be open about them.
On the other hand, he might feel like you’re not giving him the same amount of attention you used to. In fact, he might be even jealous of the baby for getting a lot of time, energy, and love from you.
If this happens, try walking a mile in each other’s shoes. Don’t mistake constructive criticism for attack, and don’t take everything so personally.
Talk to each other at all times.
9. Compromise parenting styles
All of us have different parenting styles. In fact, you’re not even aware of the style you’re prone to until you actually get a child of your own.
Well, the problem arises when you and your spouse have opposing parenting styles and opinions on what good parenting is.
While one of you is authoritarian, the other is permissive, so you end up not knowing in which direction to lead your baby.
You argue about every little thing regarding their upbringing.
For example, the baby cries when he’s left alone in his crib, and you want to comfort-nurse him while your husband claims it will spoil him.
The same happens with breastfeeding, food, clothes, and all other things. Simply put, your parenting methods differ.
The worst thing is that both of you think that the other person is utterly wrong.
After all, parenting style is crucial for your baby’s self-esteem, emotional intelligence, and personality in general, so you’re not ready to give in.
Well, let me tell you something. Whether you like it or not, you’ll have to ease up.
Remember that you’re both new parents with equal responsibilities and equal rights.
Therefore, for your child’s good and in order to avoid marital problems, you’ll have to find a compromise regarding your parenting strategies.
Find the middle ground and you’ll find happiness.
Even though your unhappy marriage after baby might seem like it’s doomed to fail, please don’t lose faith in its recovery.
This is just a phase you’ll get through with success if you work through it, so don’t see it as the end of the world.
In fact, it’s pretty common to feel unhappy in marriage after baby, as long as it doesn’t evolve into postpartum depression, in which case you should seek professional help.
Deep down, you know that you and your spouse share unconditional love nothing can break, let alone this nosedive.
After all, you promised to be next to each other through the good and bad days, didn’t you?
The Gottman Institute, “Bringing Baby Home Educator Training”.
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