Have you realised lately that you have not been talking to your partner about anything but the daily life? Did you use to have lots of fun together and now you cannot remember last time you had a laugh? Have you found yourself stuck in a place you promised yourself you would never be?
Trust me, it is not just you. Many couples slide into a certain monotony after they become parents. And then it is only up them whether they allow this monotony to challenge their relationship or to slowly kill it.
In my opinion, a very important thing for parents is to have similar values, expectations and opinions about how to raise their children. Ideally, before they even become parents. Sure, these opinions can change or develop over time, but if you jump into parenthood knowing that you and your partner’s main views and values don’t match at all, it is definitely not a good starting point.
However, if this condition is met, you have a really strong building material and a potential to not let your child to come between you and your partner.
Of course, sharing the same opinions and values alone is not enough. Keeping romance in the relationship and not let boredom and frustration to sneak in once the kids are involved can be a real challenge. However, if you both are willing to work on it, having kids can be a nice refreshment of your relationship, rather than its killer.
How can you achieve it? Here are nine main points that, if followed, are in my opinion the most likely to keep your relationship in one piece.
1. Don’t put your child before your relationship
One of the most common things new parents face is that (usually) a mother puts the child in front of the relationship. Feels so natural and yet it is not.
Of course, your child is extremely important to you and the love you have for them is like no other. However, you cannot forget that your child was created by the love you have with your partner, not other way round. This means that the relationship with your partner is an anchor that holds your family together and helps your children feel secure and loved. It also gives them a life example of how a relationship should work and how they should deal with certain problems they will face later on in life.
Ideally, try and set your priorities before your child is born and make sure you follow them.
2. Get your partner involved
A lot of new mothers feel like they should look after their child day and night, since it is them who do not have to go to work in the morning. What they forget about is the fact that their job as a mum is as important and hard (if not harder) as any other job. And that both parents are in this together. And that if parents don’t work as a team, their child can easily come between them.
Sometimes it is a case of a man not being keen to help and a woman giving up on him. If it is you who does all the parenting work, tell your partner what you need a help with, explain your reasons and try and find a way that suits you both. If necessary, don’t be afraid to look for a counsellor. Keeping your anger and frustration inside you won’t make it go away.
3. Don’t leave your shared bedroom
This is a very common solution new parents reach for in the early stages. A mum does not want to disturb her partner during the night feeds, so she decides to move to the children’s room. It may be a convenient solution, but in fact it’s a silent killer of a relationship. Remember that there is a very fine line between the physical and the emotional separateness.
Of course, sometimes it is necessary to part in order to survive, especially in the early stages. Before our boys were born, Yaw and myself promised ourselves we would never sleep apart. However, we soon found out that this determination would cause for neither of us to get any sleep at all. Whether we liked it or not, we simply had to separate for a few months and deal with one baby each.
In a case like this, you need to make sure you set a time limit for how long you would stay separated and follow it.
As I mentioned in the previous point, your baby is as much your partners as it is yours, so you should never feel bad when you need to wake him if you need to. If you can survive it, he can survive it.
4. Talk about the things your kids do that make you laugh
One mum once told me that when she gets out with her husband, they have a rule to never talk about children while being out.
I understand the point and why they do it, but talk about children can be so much fun and bring you with your partner even closer. Of course, if you talk about your kids only in connection with duties and hard work, it is no fun at all and definitely something one needs a break from. But if you try and repeatedly share with your partner when and how your children made you laugh or feel proud, it can connect you on a brand new level.
5. Go out for a date at least twice a month
This applies to everyone regardless of whether they have a happy relationship or not. All the parents need to step out of the parenting world once in a while and spend some time together in a different environment. Whether it is a restaurant, or just going for a walk. Not only this is beneficial for your relationship, but also for your mind as it also needs a reboot every now and then.
6. Don’t avoid intimacy
Another common problem lot of parents deal with. Once a woman becomes a mother, her body goes through a lot of changes and it often does not look the same anymore. She often feels like she is no longer attractive and starts to avoid intimacy.
Another case – or on top of the previous one – she deals with a XXX tiredness so the last thing she desires at the end of the day is any kind of intimacy.
I understand what you go through, but in order to keep your relationship happy, you know that you cannot avoid it forever. Give yourself some time, but when you are ready, find a way that is comfortable for you to be intimate again without feeling of being pressurised in any way.
If it comes down to it, don’t be afraid to talk to you partner about your feelings and try and find a solution that fits you both. I know it can be hard to talk about intimacy, but it is even harder to live without it.
7. Do family activities together
Try and do new things as a family as often as possible. Try things you have never done before. Sign up for a bouncing course, go to a farm, have a picnic in the park, visit an interesting place,… you name it. As long as you do it together and enjoy it, it can be magical.
8. Talk and listen
Whenever you feel you are facing relationship issue, talk about it with your partner. A lot of people make a mistake to talk about their relationship problems with their friends or family instead of the person that the problem relates to the most – their partner. I know that going through a difficult conversation is not always easy, however, it is the only way to get the problem solved.
Tell your partner what bothers you and then listen to what he has to say. Do not just wait for him to finish his bit so you can keep talking. Try and really listen to what he has to say to you and give it a thought before you answer.
This easy trick makes a hell of a difference in terms of effectiveness of your conversation.
9. Don’t be afraid to get counselling
If nothing helps and you feel like your relationship is going south, do not be afraid to reach out for professional help.
Many people struggle with the stigma and feel ashamed when seeing a counsellor. But like I always say – if you have a toothache, you are not afraid to go and see the dentist, are you? The same applies to emotional pain. When you struggle in your relationship, go and see the counsellor.
Remember that they are professionals who are here to help you. Don’t feel like sharing your problems is a sign of weakness. It is rather a sign of strength because it says that you have enough courage to know that you can’t do it on your own and you have enough trust to allow someone to help.