Somewhere between changing yet another poop explosion and enduring weeks of very little sleep comes a moment when you realize just how unsexy your relationship has become. As you look longingly at your lingerie drawer, you’re finding it hard to imagine buying that lacy thong and demi cup set (a matching set!), let alone putting it on. And, as you look at yourself in the mirror in your giant “period underwear,” you wonder how it’s possible that your gut could possibly exceed your boobs in girth, and that your partner could still find you sexy.
The truth is, raising children and especially getting through the early days of baby, will, in the end, cement your relationship bond beyond anything else. In the meantime, no matter how hard it is to stay awake past 8:30 -there are moments you have to– maybe for the first time in your relationship–work hard at digging each other again. Enter Jean Fitzpatrick LP, a relationship therapist in midtown Manhattan (peep her here at therapistnyc.com) who works with new parents on a daily basis. Here she helps us chart a marriage survival guide to help you recall those early heady days of dating, long after giving birth.
Step One: Recognize That You Are Not Alone
“This is a tough time for most couples, and negative feelings you may have are not a sign that you married the wrong person,” says Jean. “The birth of a baby is an indescribable joyful event for partners, but it brings new stressors into your relationship that you need to learn to navigate.
Step Two: Parent, But Make It Business
Jean suggests to set up a weekly “business meeting” to raise concerns about sharing chores and tasks related to the baby and household. “Avoid having mom be the “chief executive parent” with dad reporting to her or ‘helping,’” she says. “Neither partner is usually happy with that arrangement because mom feels stuck with the mental labor of organizing parenting and household, and dad often feels judged. Instead make a list of chores and divide them, with each partner fully responsible for his or her assigned tasks. Make daily check-ins and weekly meetings a habit.”
Step Three: Amazon That Sh*t
“Use your resources to offload non-human tasks — cleaning, errands, food prep — so that you can focus on each other and the baby,” says Jean. “When family and friends offer to help, assign them a task. Set up automated lists online to make grocery shopping and baby supplies ordering easy.
Step Four: Mandatory Date Night
“That way you won’t need to keep reinventing the wheel,” Jean says. “Schedule a weekly or biweekly date night with a regular plan for babysitting. Set aside twenty minutes every evening for low-key couple time, just a quiet chat or cuddle.”
Step Five: Look To Community
Jean suggests building a network of other families. “Plan casual get-togethers — a potluck or pizza — with other young families, and keep these simple,” she says. “You’re building your support system, giving your kids playmates, and giving yourselves a chance to see each other in a more adult social setting.”
Step Six: Quit The GOSSIP
“Often new dads poll their buddies to find out whether any of them have a sex life after kids and then worry that those days are behind them,” says Jean. “It’s more productive to put that time into sharing chores, showing affection, and making sure both you and your spouse get time to relax.”
Step Seven: Give It TIME
“When you feel as though you’re barely coping with the demands of baby and work, it’s tempting to let your marriage coast,” Jean says. “But the time and care you put into nurturing your relationship will make you both happier and will help keep your busy home humming.”
AND LASTLY: “Dads don’t ‘help.’ Once you decide how to share the work, each partner takes full responsibility for his or her tasks.”