Love, Lindsay

'After Our First Baby, My Husband And I Have Been Arguing A Lot. How Can We Be More Patient And Loving?'

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. 

Dear Lindsay, 

My husband and I are at odds with one another at the moment. Our lives are really full, and we are both stretched very thin. As a result, we are arguing all the time. We have a 7-month-old baby (read: no sleep), we are renovating a house and living in a studio apartment, we have two dogs, I just started a new full-time job, his schedule is always changing since he is an artist and college professor, we run a gallery together, and on top of that, I was recently diagnosed with postpartum depression. How can we take a step back and be more patient and loving with one another? 

Thanks, 

Kelly

First I'd like to start with a disclaimer that I have never been married, nor have I had a child. Because I can't necessarily relate to what you're going through, I enlisted the help of someone who can — Dr. John W. Jacobs, M.D., a psychiatrist and author in New York City who specializes in helping married couples navigate parenthood. 

"When your plates are full and you are feeling overwhelmed, it is a very dangerous time for couples," he explained. "Just having a new baby is sometimes enough to cause extreme stress in a couple. Stress is almost always transformed into tension and conflict between spouses." In stressful situations, he notes, partners look to each other for relief and encouragement, but because you're so busy putting all your time and effort into caring for a new baby, neither of you may have enough "reserve energy" to spend any extra positivity on each other. That doesn't make you bad spouses, just human ones. 

But like your baby's next bowel movement, this too shall pass.

"Now is the time to just hang in there and reassure each other that you know you are going through a very tough time, that things will get better, and you will get through this together," Jacobs adds. "Instead of distancing, try reassuring each other, try hugging for a minute or more. Remind each other that you love each other and appreciate all that each other is doing, even if it feels like it is never enough." 

One tried and true way to do this is by challenging yourself and your husband to only speak kindly to each other for a week. A PopSugar writer underwent this experiment with her husband, and it made a noticeably positive difference in her relationship. While it's certainly no magic trick to reset your relationship, and may not work exactly as it did for her, it's certainly worth a shot. 

With this in mind, Jacobs encourages you to take the first step in the new direction of your relationship. "If your husband can't do this for you, you do it for him. You start the process," he explains. "Men often feel left out and much less important after a baby is born. Reassure him he is still the main squeeze in your life." Perhaps you can involve him in a childcare activity you've previously done alone. 

As you said, on top of all the normal marital ups and downs, you've been recently diagnosed with postpartum depression. Though I've never experienced it, my mom has — with me. So if there's one thing I do understand about it, it's how heavy and all-consuming it can feel. 

Being able to name why you may feel anxious and sad can be helpful — and even empowering — to managing it. Postpartum depression is something you have, not who you are, and I think that's important to remember. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms — approximately 600,000 women in just the United States. So you're not alone — both in your marriage and the grand scheme of motherhood. 

Jacobs believes it's essential for you to get proper treatment for your postpartum depression, whether that includes therapy, medication, or both, depending on its severity and longevity. And because you're not alone, there are tons of other women ready and willing to welcome you into online support groups for postpartum depression. Sharing your parenting ups and downs with others outside the relationship, in a way that feels safe and secure to you, will also help take some of the pressure off your romantic relationship. 

While your husband may do his best to be supportive and understanding, he can only do so much. We can't be all things to our significant others, nor can they do that for us. This is why talking to a therapist and other moms working through the same difficulties can help you individually, but cal also put you in a positive mindset you can take back to your marriage. 

Then, when your baby is all grown up, you can send them the bill for the all-inclusive, two-week couples cruise you two will more than deserve by that point. 

Love, Lindsay 

If you thought all that was TL (too long) and DR (didn't read), check out my quick tip video:

If you liked this article, you'll love submitting to and reading Love, Lindsay. And if you didn't, my name is Jenny, and I'll be your cruise director... 

Cover image via Unsplash

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