Love, Lindsay

'How Do My Partner And I Keep The Romance Alive While Managing The Stress Of Caring For A New Baby?'

All your relationship questions answered — right here, right now.

Lindsay here, A Plus's resident relationship guru/columnist. While I may not know everything, I do know a lil something about love and our seemingly endless pursuit of it. Having written dozens of A Plus articles about dating, relationships, and sex, I'm ready and willing to investigate all of your romantically-inclined questions (submit here!) — because I've asked them myself. What I hope to bring to A Plus's readers is a sex-positive, body-positive, and most importantly, you-positive perspective on modern love. Consider Love, Lindsay your digital Cupid. 

Hi Lindsay, 

My husband and I haven't had time for dates or romance for months, nearly a year after having our first child. We are a happy couple, but we've just been so exhausted, and I've been hormonally unbalanced after the baby, that it's just not happening, and I'm worried about it. So I guess the question is, is this unhealthy? How do you combat that lack of romance and overly-stressed situation so that it doesn't hurt your relationship long-term?

Thanks, Leslie

Hi Leslie,

Though it's expected to have less romantic alone time during the first year of having a child, it's still important to make time for emotional intimacy with your partner during this busy, exhausting period. 

"Having a child is the most stressful and impactful time in a couple's relationship. While it deepens the bond to your partner in a way that is immeasurable, suddenly there is a third 'love' in the dyad, and it is a huge disruption,"Andrea Cornell, LMFT and founder of Andrea Cornell, Marriage and Family Therapy P.C., tells A Plus. "Being prepared for that feeling is important because it is absolutely NORMAL. Some relationships suffer more than others, but talking about what to do, planning for this feeling of having time and attention apart, is the key to making it through the transformation of a new baby." 

As you and partner experience all these changes, it's possible to maintain a romantic relationship by simply focusing on the little moments you do have together. Something as seemingly small as holding hands, or a peck on the cheek, can help couples reignite that spark that may have dimmed while you've been busy with the new baby.

"Romance will take effort. It is not inherent to have a baby and then feel relaxed and sexy," Cornell says. "Couples need time to adjust, and they often need some initial space while a woman's body is adjusting postpartum and they are both exhausted." She encourages couples to go "back to basics," like kissing and hand-holding, as well as to find new, creative ways to show each other affection and attraction. 

Real "romance," in my humbl-ish opinion, doesn't necessarily require a whole date night out on the town or a weekend getaway (though if you have a babysitter at the ready, take full advantage of your time off!). Even if the only time you have for romance is seconds between diaper changes and feeding times, you can still connect with a quick back rub, a head scratch, or even a love tap, just to show the other person you're thinking about and appreciate them. You may even be able to find a new, perhaps deeper kind of romance in family-centered activities, like cuddling together with your new baby. 

Sometimes, just talking about your love for one another, reminiscing about the special moments in your relationship, and sharing your hopes for the future can help create a strong foundation of romantic intimacy that may only increase in importance as your child grows older and, eventually, out of your home. 

And while you're having these heart-to-hearts, Cornell believes you should take time to "give yourselves credit for going through one of the biggest adjustments you can make together." Even if, "it feels like you are bickering more, hanging on to negative feelings for days on end, feeling overall resentful and angry with one another ... it's OK to ask for help and actually show how much you care about your relationship, giving it a priority of being tended to." 

...Right?! 
...Right?!  Giphy

Besides finding romance in the small moments, a big part of surviving these new, stressful situations as a couple is to forgive each other for whatever mistakes may happen along the way — and that includes forgoing a night of romance for a night of well-deserved sleep. You'll both make mistakes in your relationship and your childrearing, but it's how you react to those mistakes that really matters and will impact your relationship in the long-term. 

Think about it like this: you're going to be kissing your child's "boo-boos" now and for years to come, so you need to remember to kiss your partner's "boo-boos" as well — and I mean that literally, too. When you don't have a ton of time to reignite that spark, sometimes stealing a surprise kiss can do more for your relationship than you might think. Just because your parents now doesn't mean you can't take a moment or two to pretend your teenagers again, butterflies in your stomach and all. 

Ultimately, Cornell explains, "If it feels awkward, exhausting, unnatural, and uphill to maintain your relationship and day-to-day life, remember that all of that is normal." And, not to mention, it's temporary. This stage in your relationship is just that — a stage. So while you'll need to make some romantic adjustments in the short-term, take heart that they won't last forever, and that your relationship is forever evolving. 

Love, Lindsay 

Cover image via  Hrecheniuk Oleksii I Shutterstock

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