There are plenty of preparatory tasks to check off your to-do list during your 40 weeks of pregnancy: create your baby registry, put the finishing touches on the nursery, and pack your bag for the big day, for example. But what about your relationship? Is it ready for baby?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, two-thirds of couples become significantly less happy in their marriages after the first baby arrives. Whether you blame sleep deprivation or the constant demands of your infant, the hard truth is your relationship will be subject to an overwhelming amount of stress. But that doesn’t mean you need to resign yourself to 18 years of lackluster love. Your nine months of baby-baking offer a perfect opportunity to prepare your relationship for postbaby success.
Building your bond
Take steps now to strengthen your connection and develop your relationship’s defense against the demands of parenthood.
Talk it out
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: The key to a healthy relationship is communication—and there isn’t a time when this rings more true than when you’re readying yourselves to become parents. As you endure the physical changes of pregnancy and you both encounter the emotional anticipation of the events ahead, share what you’re feeling in conversation. Voicing worries and fears—and hopes and dreams—will help ensure you’re both in tune with one another. You can support and reassure each other and get on the same page about important issues. Opening the lines of communication before baby arrives will help you keep them open after your new family member debuts.
Take a babymoon
What couple wouldn’t want to partake in one last self-indulgent trip before their bundle arrives? Taking a babymoon is a great way to prepare your relationship for a newborn. It allows you time to connect with your partner without being distracted by baby names or nursery themes. Spending this time together is essential, and you’ll treasure these last moments as a family of two fondly.
Schedule regular checkups
To avoid getting off track in the communication department, make a point to check in with each other often. You schedule regular visits with your OB to check on the progress of your baby—why not have a standing appointment to assess your relationship? Whether it’s once a week or once a month, make it a priority to sit down with your partner and discuss how things are going. This is your opportunity to openly share compliments, voice concerns, and chat about anything on your mind. The regular sessions will increase awareness of your own needs as well as your partner’s, and they will encourage both of you to intentionally partake in growing your relationship.
Learn to share
An extra family member means more laundry and dishes and less time and energy to take care of them. Prior to baby’s arrival, divvy up the chores. Decide who will be in charge of the cleaning and who will head up the cooking. Assigning and agreeing upon duties in advance will alleviate tension when a hungry baby is added to the mix and help make sure neither partner feels he or she is doing more than the other.
Plan a date
Before your baby is born, schedule a date night for six to eight weeks after your due date. Make a reservation at your favorite restaurant or get tickets to a show you’ve been dying to see, then go ahead and line up child care for the evening. (New grandparents are usually ultra eager to spend some extra time with their grandbaby.) When you’re knee-deep in diapers and exhausted from late-night feedings, planning a romantic evening will be the last thing on your mind. But when your prearranged night off arrives, you’ll be happy to relax and unwind without any fuss.
Keeping the momentum
Familiarize yourself with a few keep-the-spark-alive tactics for moms and dads so you’re prepped for success when you find yourself in new parenting territory.
Vow to celebrate together
The first time your sprout rolls over, spreads that heart-melting smile, or lets out a tiny giggle, acknowledge it. Swap high-fives, embrace in prideful hugs, or exchange beaming glances that say That’s our kid! Take time out of your busy days to admire the perfect little life you’ve created. Whether you clink coffee mugs at the breakfast table or open a bottle of champagne with dinner, share your joy with each other and bask in the simple delights of your newly formed family unit.
Promise to pat each other on the back
Being a parent is hard work and having a newborn is particularly challenging. All too often, we’re quick to point out what our partner is doing wrong. But when your hubby magically soothes your fussy baby or rushes to change a diaper in the middle of the night, tell him what a great dad he is. Offer compliments freely. It’ll boost his confidence in the parenting arena and will encourage him to be actively involved.
Agree to ease up
Let’s face it: You’ll never be perfect, and neither will your partner. Novice parents are bound to make mistakes along the way. So when one of you has difficulty swaddling or forgets to buy formula on the way home from work, don’t sweat it. You’re both still new at this—cut each other some slack. It’ll make everyone’s lives better in the long run.
Know you’ll need to be spontaneous
Eat. Play. Sleep. Repeat. A baby’s day-in-and-day-out routine can become monotonous once the novelty wears off. Every once in a while, you’ll need to mix it up—especially for the sake of your relationship. If you feel like you’re slipping into a romance rut, spice things up by doing something out of the norm. Make breakfast in bed, go to the drive-in, take an impromptu road trip—get creative! Breaking from your regular routine can provide renewed energy in you and your partner.
Remember to do what you love
Before you had your baby, you had a life. You had passions, dreams and hobbies. Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean your goals have to change. Continue doing what you love. If you are happy in other areas of your life, your relationship will benefit. You’ll be a balanced, happier person and those feelings will transfer to your partner and your baby.