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Some of the experiences that come with being a new parent can make you feel even more deeply connected as a couple. But caring for babies and children can also put new strains on your relationship. Open communication can help you get through the tough times.
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How your relationship might change

Most couples experience relationship changes when they become parents.

You and your partner might feel surprised at your new creation and the sense of love that can sneak out and grab you. You might feel a new and different level of connection between you. But you might also experience some strains, even if these weren’t part of your relationship before becoming parents.

Less sleep, less time to talk, less time to spend together – these things can all take their toll on your relationship while you care for your new baby.

These changes and strains might mean you disagree more often or that things don’t quite feel right. Also, you might not have the energy to sort problems out when they arise.

Open communication helps keep things on track and helps you both come to terms with these changes. It can strengthen your relationship with your partner, as well as with friends and relatives.

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Relationship tips for parents

Listen to each other
Good listening is the most important communication skill you have. Good listening can help you understand an issue from your partner’s point of view, and put you in touch with how he or she feels about it.

  • You can show you’re really listening by stopping what you’re doing when your partner wants to talk, and by paying full attention to your partner’s words and body language.
  • Encourage your partner to talk by asking open-ended questions, such as ‘What do you think about … ’. These questions can encourage more discussion about the issue. You can also check whether you’ve understood by restating your partner’s comments in your own words. 
  • If you’re thinking about what to say next, you’re not really listening. Instead, try to focus your attention on what your partner is saying (maybe jotting a note if you’re afraid you’ll forget something important).
For more information, you might like to read our article on listening and why it’s important.

Tell your partner how you feel
Your partner is not a mind reader!  When you talk about your frustrations and fears, your happiness and joys, it might make it easier for your partner to know what you’re going through.

‘I’ statements are easier to listen to than ‘you’ statements, which can seem like criticisms. So when you talk, you could say things like, ‘I feel a bit lonely when we spend less time together’. This might be better than, ‘You don’t make any time for us anymore’. 

It can be hard to slot in discussions between nappy changes – you might find it helps to set aside time to talk. When you are ready, perhaps organise a babysitter and spend an evening together somewhere you both enjoy.

You can find more information and tips in our article on talking and why it's important.

Accept the changes
You can look at your relationship as being in a new phase, rather than off-track, and you can talk about what the new phase means to you both.

If you’re finding that spending time together is more difficult, try planning time for the two of you.

It might also help to read our tips on accepting each other’s viewpoint.

Managing conflict
Differences in opinion will come up as you go through changes – talking about these can help you both understand each other’s perspective. It’s okay to disagree. 

It can help to relieve tension if you accept the different points while explaining your own. You can use the tips on listening above to find out what your partner means rather than counter-attacking. 

When you’re making decisions together, aim for ones that are OK for both of you.

Our article on managing conflict might help you work through any differences between you.

Staying close now you’re parents
Simple things like asking your partner about the day (‘What was good?’ ‘What wasn’t so good?’) can help you keep in touch.

Small gestures that show your partner that you care can also do the trick. This might be just a cup of tea or offering your partner a sleep-in when tiredness sets in.

Having a sex life
Believe it or not, most couples do get their sexual relationship back on track. Putting more time into talking and spending time together can make you feel closer, and this helps your sex life.

If you’re feeling too tired or too distracted to even think about sex, try talking to your partner about how you feel. Just like time together, sex might also need a bit of scheduling.

You might like to read our article on having sex again for ideas and information about how to re-establish intimacy after your baby arrives.

Taking control of your relationship
You can do this by talking honestly about the changes taking place in your lives. This might mean talking about how you feel about your new roles, and what you see these roles as being.

Having children often brings up issues from your own childhood. Discussing these together can help you both to understand how they might influence what you do and say as parents.

If things are getting tough, it might be worth seeking support. You could speak with your doctor, or look into your local directory for adult counselling services.
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  • Last Updated 09-02-2011
  • Last Reviewed 04-05-2006
  • Gottman, J.M. (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically based marital therapy. New York: Norton.

    Halford, W.K. (2001).  Brief therapy for couples. New York: Guilford Press.

    Jacobson, N.S., & Christensen, A. (1996). Acceptance and change in couple therapy: A therapist’s guide to transforming relationships. New York: Norton.

    Pacey, S. (2004). Couples and the first baby: Responding to new parents’ sexual and relationship problems. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 29(3), 223-248.