Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Intimacy with your Partner after Baby?Why does it feel so different? So difficult?

Marital satisfaction, according to research from the Journal of Marriage and Family, takes quite a plunge after baby makes three. The physical and emotional challenges of being a new parent, coupled with the new responsibility of 24/7 care of your new baby often leaves your primary relationship with your spouse/partner sorely unattended to.

It’s a common myth that having a baby will bring a couple closer together. What can you do when you find this to be alarmingly not the case???

Well, we've turned to Julie Wright and her husband Scott L. Johnson to help address this problem. Julie is an MFT, Psychotherapist and leader of Mommy & Me classes here at the Pump Station & Nurtury™ and Scott is an MFT and a Psychotherapist who specializes in couple’s therapy. Seeing a real need for attention to this critical issue and combining their respective areas of expertise, Julie and Scott will be leading our upcoming Sizzling Hot Topics focused on “Reconnecting with your Partner after the Birth of your Baby”. Using a mindful approach, Julie and Scott explain that romance after baby takes planning (get out your Blackberries) and a lot of talking!

As a guest blogger this week – Julie shares some highlights from her class:

by Julie Wright, MFT

In my Mommy & Me classes I explore with my moms – what we call the “Myths of Motherhood”. Inevitably, the topic veers to and settles on these moms' concerns regarding “connectedness” in their marriages. It shocks me to see how this is such a common issue among so many mothers. Here are some important things to be aware of as you find yourself to be one of these moms who is feeling such a strain on her relationship:
  1. You are not alone! Many couples have these same problems. Relationships are hard – communication is critical!
  2. You are tired, you are exhausted and you feel burnt out. Another “little person” is not a “little” workload – caring for a child is a tremendous drain on you, your spouse and your relationship. As exhausted as you both are – you must work that much harder.
  3. As new parents, the division of labor has become more noticeable – i.e. money maker vs. home maker. Time management issues become that much harder to handle. Often the mother struggles to release control of baby care and baby care styles differ. As parents you feel less confident in your ability to know what to do at any given moment.
  4. The baby arrives, your relationship has lost its “luster” – you sense a “state of emergency” This heightened state of discomfort gives you both the opportunity to finally do the work necessary to move toward the intimacy we all crave.
  5. Don’t panic! You have enough pressure in your life as it is.
  6. Being aware of these issues and being willing to talk openly about them is an enormous first step. Knowing you are not alone can open the door to choosing a new way of being with your spouse/partner.
  7. Talk to your spouse/partner! Communicate, talk, share, discuss, empathize, listen and learn more about each other's needs and desires.
  8. Make time for each other! You’re probably spending a great deal of time tracking when your baby eats, poops and sleeps – do your best to fit your partner/spouse into that schedule.
  9. Take out that Blackberry and schedule Date Night's with your partner! Yes, you may feel guilty about taking time away from your baby – but you must realize: it is critical – you need to give your relationship every possible chance of survival – this is the most essential gift you can give to your child!

Hopefully, my suggestions will help to bring you and your spouse/partner closer together. I think it is important that I also note – sometimes there are issues you may have had as a couple before having a baby – these will not be solved by having a baby – but instead can be amplified and your levels of frustration in dealing with these issues will only increase. Raising a couple’s awareness of these issues opens the doors for the two people to actually talk about their problems. Sometimes these issues are best addressed in couple’s therapy. It is important that you and your spouse/partner are open to different options in order to insure the happiness of your new family.