When baby makes three, even the best relationships can be put to the test.
From balancing new responsibilities to managing life on less sleep, couples in the thick of parenthood sometimes have to learn new and creative ways of communicating and connecting.
I asked some couples with kids what their best advice would be for new parents. Here are some of their best responses:
"Communication is everything."
Talk to each other-regularly-about anything and everything.
You may not have as much time to touch base as you used to, but communication between the two of you is more important now than ever.
Problems need to be ironed out. Family issues need to be discussed. Schedules need to be synched. And most importantly, at least a few lighthearted moments need to be shared. Laughter is great medicine!
Communication is like a muscle: if it doesn't get used regularly, it can get out of shape. So flex that muscle on the good days, and it will make communication easier on the hard days, too.
"Don't hold grudges."
You're going to get annoyed with each other sometimes. Hey, it happens.
But talking it out is like disinfecting a wound. If you don't do it, the wound can start to fester-and then you're in real trouble.
No, we don't need to bring up absolutely everything that bothers us about a person. But if it's serious enough that it's causing resentment, bring it up and do your best to work it out. Not only is this a good idea for us, but for our kids, too.
Children are far more astute than we give them credit for, and many little ones can pick up tension in a room fairly quickly. If the air is regularly thick with tension, they're going to be impacted, too.
So talk things out whenever you can. And if you need help doing so, there is no shame in couples counseling. Many happy couples I know say a session here and there is a healthy part of their relationship maintenance, like getting an oil change.
"Don't assume. Never assume!"
You know what they say about assuming, don't you? I won't go into the details, but let's just say it's not good and involves one's posterior.
On those particularly challenging days, our perspectives on everything can darken, and it can be easy to make some assumptions about why your partner didn't reply to your texts today, or hasn't asked what you want to do for your birthday next week. "He can't be bothered to reply." "She's obviously forgotten my birthday entirely!"
Again, this comes down to good communication. If you want clarification, just ask for it: "By the way, why didn't you reply to my texts today?" or "I was thinking about what I want to do for my birthday next week. Do you have any ideas?"
"Spending time together doesn't have to be a fancy night out."
It's easy to forget what it's like to be just the two of you, alone, with no small people to take care of. It's often the first thing to go after we become parents. "We just don't have time right now." "We don't want to leave the baby with someone else."
But this special time is important to any relationship-especially one that deals with the many stresses associated with living together and raising a family.
Thankfully, while evenings out are nice, they aren't the only way to enjoy each other's company. A bottle of wine, a blanket on the living room floor, some candles, takeout and a movie can make a perfect date night right at home. No babysitter required!
Sure, a hungry baby or a thirsty three-year-old might interrupt you once or twice, but if you can manage a couple of hours together and remember why you fell in love in the first place, the night has served its purpose.
"Your kids will learn about relationships by watching the two of you."
This, in itself, is a very good reason to make your relationship as healthy as it can be.
Model love. Model support. Model good communication. If your children see you fight, let them also see you making up.
Remember: relationships don't have to be perfect to be good. They just have to involve two devoted people and a whole lot of love. It's a great lesson to teach our children through example.
Image credits: User Unsplash via Pixabay