My then fiancé and I used to sit entwined, eating off each other’s plate, while people watching at restaurants. We see couples who interacted with their kids, but never with each other. Not a single glance passed between them throughout the entire meal. I told my then fiancé, never let that be us.
Fast forward several years later, our beautiful and very demanding (and stubborn, and loud, and hyperactive) baby was born. Our relationship crumbled under the stress of parenthood. We became those “other” couples.
People do not talk about the toll of parenthood on relationship. Media portrays lovey dovey couples with their offsprings. But deteriotarion of relationships after kids is real. And raw. And hard. As real as postpartum depression. As real as breastfeeding difficulties.
My husband and I are still finding our way back. It is a long arduous journey. Here are tips I wish we had taken more seriously, and sooner.
- ALL relationships take work. Yes, even with the right person. Complacency has no place in any relationships. Both parties have to be committed. If one person shoulders this responsibility, resentment builds up very quickly.
- If you love your partner, you need to show him/her. Your partner is not a mind reader. Action speaks louder than words, and words are very cheap.
- Make your relationship a priority. This is the person you had a child with, shares a bed with, knows all your secrets and hopefully will take care of you someday. Why would you take this person for granted? Alas, lots of relationship fail because of that.
- Do not let anything fester. Nip it in the bud. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. It is so hard to pick up the pieces.
- Before the arrival of your first child, set expectation with each other to keep the relationship alive. Make your expectation realistic and specific. For eg. I expect a date every month and I expect you to plan it.
- Keep your promises. Do not use words to placate. Use words only if you are ready to act on them. Breaking promises over and over is the quickest way to lose trust and respect.
- Be consistent with your effort. That way it does not come across as an obligation when you do something because he/she complained.
- It takes a village to raise a child. It is especially true when it comes to the viability of your relationship. Figure out how you both can get a break together, away from your child.
- Go on a real date. Plan it. Ask each other out. Dress up and look dashing for each other. Do not talk about your child at all. Talk about each other. Gossip. Hold hands. Giggle. Or at least try. And keep trying.
- Be persistently affectionate, even if you get the brush off initially.
- Touch everyday. This can be a conscious effort instead of a spontaneous act when two person are preoccupied and busy. Have a REAL kiss, passionate hug, shoulder squeeze etc. every.single.day.
- Take the time to learn how your partner feel loved. Some people feel loved when they get gifts. Some people feel loved through words. Some people are physical. Some like to see effort. There is a great book by Gary D. Chapman titled “The 5 love languages”.
- If your partner tells you he/she feels neglected, all warning bells should go off. It is hard to have the courage to admit that, so yes, they mean it. You need to step up. Take charge. Someone has to or you are going to lose this relationship for good.
- Romance. A little romance, done consistently, goes a long way. It builds resilience in your relationship so you can weather storms. Being romantic is what differentiates your partner from a friend. Step out of your comfort zone. Not many people are born Romeo and Juliet. If you do not experiment, you will never learn.
- Talk openly about your relationship, both good and bad.
- Help each other. Relationship is not always 50/50, and that is okay and healthy! But do not let it go to the extreme where one person is overburdened and stretched too thin. That is unfair.
- Keep the fun alive. Boring is the killer of relationship. A fun thing a day, keeps divorce away.
- Be kind, even when you do not feel like it. Fake it until you make it.
- Show appreciation. Thank yous are easy and impactful.
- Sex. Everything is better after sex.
A relationship stands a chance unless one of you decides to give up. Sometimes, it takes one person to make the extra effort to bring out the love again. And love, is like waves, it keeps crashing in. Our wedding officiant told us that.
May the odds be ever in your (and my) favor!