9 simple ways I’ve learned to keep the spark alive. They are incredibly easy to implement.
Having a baby can be a disaster for your love relationship. Studies show that two-thirds of couples experience a big drop in their overall relationship happiness within the first three years of a baby's life. You may feel stuck more than at any time in your life. But it’s not too late to find out how simple, tiny things can make a difference.
Parenthood is a tough transition and endurance test
Becoming a parent is a tough transition from a great romantic relationship with passion and excitement to a threesome with a baby who’s absorbing all your attention. As a young mother, I experience a lot of joy, but at the same time, it’s an intense and distracting stage of my life. To be honest, it may even be the most difficult and challenging time I’ve ever been through with my partner. Parenthood pushes you to the edge and is an endurance test for your love relationship. Indeed, in Germany, 40% of break-ups occur in the first year after the baby is born.
Having a baby can be a disaster for the partnership
In one of his studies, marriage expert, researcher, and author of the well-known book ‘And baby makes three,’ John Gottman, found that two-thirds of couples found that within the first three years of a baby’s life experience a big drop in their overall relationship satisfaction and happiness. The majority felt having a baby was a disaster for their partnership. Some even saw their partner as an enemy.
That was an interesting insight in itself, but Gottman and his colleagues wanted to go one step further. They explored one-third of couples who did well. These couples did not experience a downturn in satisfaction and sailed smoothly through this tough transition. He used the knowledge he gleaned and established a workshop for those couples whose relationship went off track.
A relationship is like a sailing ship. Someday you will face the turbulence. That day, work on a plan to overcome it, instead of planning to quit it. Savvy Bedi
Bringing Baby Home
After attending a two-day workshop called ‘Bringing Baby Home (BBH),’ 77% of the couples whose relationship had gone off track were able to reverse the drop in satisfaction and reduce hostility. That was a big impact on such formerly frustrated parents. Moreover, the researchers saw a big impact on the babies too. The babies whose parents took the workshop smiled and laughed more and even learned complex language earlier.
What do happier couples do? What can I learn from them?
What did the couples who sailed smoothly through the transition from the start do differently to maintain their relationship? John Gottman refers to the book ‘The Normal Bar’ by researchers Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz, and James Witte. They made the most extensive survey of romantic relationships and asked 70,000 people in 24 countries. Their goal was to find out what couples who were satisfied with their relationship were doing differently.
According to their findings, there are 9 things necessary to build a satisfying love relationship:
- Say ‘I love you to your partner every day and really mean it.
- Kiss your partner passionately for no reason at all.
- Make cuddling together with a priority.
- Make sex life a priority and not the last item of a long to-do list. Talk comfortably about sex.
- Give surprise romantic gifts.
- Have (weekly) romantic dates and take romantic vacations together.
- Be affectionate to your partner in public, for instance, by holding hands. This can be the most intimate thing to do with your partner.
- Keep being playful and have fun together.
- Stay good friends.
Satisfied couples vs. ‘crunch time parents’
Overall, these nine points show that happier couples are more mindful about turning towards one another and giving one another their full attention.
Meanwhile, we ‘crunch time parents’ find ourselves folding our third load of laundry, still exhausted and sour from an argument about who was supposed to it and whose idea it was to have (this many) children in the first place. I’ll be honest: Oftentimes, all I want, with every fiber of my being, is peace and to go to sleep. No more and no less.
Especially in the first months with a baby, sleep has priority. And I’m not alone in thinking that. Often I hear from other exhausted mothers that if they could choose between sleep and spending a romantic time with their partner, they’d choose to sleep. I can 100% relate to this, but I try to remind myself that it’s the greatest gift to be in a loving relationship. Furthermore, it’s the biggest gift for our child as well. A loving partnership can make your baby feel secure, nurture its development, and even improve the bond you have with your baby.
Create moments of reconnection
For the past few months, my husband and I have been talking at the kitchen table in the evenings about our relationship. About how we can strengthen our relationship again and pick up on the things that connected us before our son was born, and kept the engine of our relationship running.
We decided, therefore, that getting away from the baby and having a long drive, just the two of us, or going on a hike and climbing mountains together would be essential in this regard. We’re working on our connection and are checking in with one another emotionally instead of fighting. But it does take time and commitment to create romantic moments of reconnection. As far as we’re concerned, this commitment has forced us to work things out and come out better on the other side.
- If you have the feeling your relationship is boring, has become routine, or you’re missing that sense of unity, I recommend learning from the happier couples as described above.
- Think about what you could adopt to make your relationship happier.
- If you don’t give your relationship the things it needs, it will dry out.
- Remember, even simple tiny moments and gestures can make a difference.
To great friends, a great sex life, and great lovers for a lifetime🥰.