04 Aug Becoming a new Dad: Caring for your relationship with your partner
After the initial excitement of meeting your new baby, you often experience a period of feeling exhausted, tense and even stunned, once the day-to-day routines of caring for a newborn become a reality.
Everyone will tell you, and it’s absolutely true, that no one can prepare you for the changes your new baby will bring to your life, which includes your relationship with your partner. Most couples feel a sense of closeness at first, as they share all the excitement and happiness of their new baby. As the weeks go by, and your baby starts to go through unsettled patches, it can get tough, especially as regular external work, child care and daily routines return to normal.
In addition, those inevitable sleepless nights during the first three months take a toll on you, and everyone can get grumpy and irritable. Relationships during this period can get a little strained because you are tired and neither of you have much time to relax. Even if you’ve always had a good relationship, this period can be bumpy and completely unexpected.
After your first baby is born, relationship roles change, usually more than you expect. During this period, your partner is transitioning into motherhood so her emotional energy and attention shifts from solely focusing on your couple relationship to focusing on your baby and learning how to be a mother. She is also relying a lot more on you for support, and you may not get as much support from her as you usually might. Which, of course, does not cancel out your need for support and understanding, after you have had a stressful or busy day.
Your intimate relationship may also take time to re-establish. Your partner needs your patience and understanding after your baby’s birth. It is important to wait for the postnatal check at six weeks before having sex. Not only is your partner’s body undergoing many physical changes, but she is also breastfeeding, carrying, holding and caring for your baby all day, which can make her feel emotionally exhausted by physical contact. All these feelings will go away – it’s just a matter of being patient. Talking about your feelings and the changes that have occurred in your relationship will help you both to develop a better understanding of this experience for each other.
It is a tricky situation, but you are certainly not alone. Most couples go through this period and there are ways to manage.
Navigating the changes
Couples have found these ideas helpful:
- Keep reminding yourself and your partner that you will get through these early months together. These first three months are difficult, but they don’t last forever and they will end. Even though it may not seem like it, it will get better and
- Talk and listen to each Find out what each of you are thinking and feeling, so resentments and anger don’t build up.
- Recognise that the emotional and relationship upheaval occurring is because you and your partner are undergoing major life adjustments, such as:
- Becoming a dad and mum, which are individual changes
- Becoming a parenting couple, which is a relationship change.
- Both of these are major life changes. It takes time to adjust to them, especially in the first three months. Usually, after three months, you start to settle down and grow accustomed to your new
- Discuss your ideas about how to parent. You and your partner will have your own ideas and may want to do some things differently. This is a good time to discuss it and understand each other’s point of view
- Prepare yourself with lots of information about parenting. Attend your local Child and Family Health service, parenting centres and parenting programs, or visit your
- Read up on the internet – plenty of worthwhile sites can provide advice and information, and there is a range of trusted father
- Sometimes, men are more goal-oriented and practical. You could help out your partner by helping to establish a flexible routine, remaining patient and kind, and helping to maintain a consistent approach, when your partner is exhausted and unable to focus after a long day with the
If none of these ideas work and your couple relationship does become troubled, it’s worthwhile trying some couple counselling. You can find counsellors through the Australian Counselling Association or Relationships Australia.
It’s never too late to look for help. Filled with sensible, reassuring advice, the new Tresillian Book The First Three Months aims to help parents understand the reality of life with a newborn.
This extract has been taken from Tresillian’s The First Three Months (HarperCollins Publishers RRP$34.99) available now online direct from Tresillian or from your local bookshop. Part of the proceeds of this book go to Tresillian, Australia’s largest early parenting organisation providing advice and guidance to thousands of families over 100 years.