Stay Connected as New Parents
Navigating a major life change – like becoming parents – requires adjustment in almost every area of life. Intimacy and arousal are often casualties of a baby’s assault on parents’ sleep and energy, making it hard for couples to maintain closeness and connection at a time when they need it most.
Although this is a common problem, it is not one to be taken lightly or to be avoided, as the negative effects of spousal disconnection can mount quickly. Here are a few ideas to help you stay connected as new parents.
It is normal to be tired
First, remind yourself that just because you are tired doesn’t mean that you are doomed to a parenthood of disconnection, celibacy, or – worse – divorce. You are instead faced with a developmental challenge that you and your spouse need to solve together. Try hard not to get discouraged – it isn’t personal and it is solvable.
Talk to each other when you’re awake
Arrange a time to talk with your spouse when you know you will be relatively rested, fresh, and clear-headed. Do not take on this conversation when one of you feels jilted and over-worked because the other is tired. Remember that feeling tired and rejected are terrible mindsets to be in when you embark on such an important topic as your relationship. Instead, pick a time the next day to talk and don your best listening and problem-solving hats.
Get out your calendars
Look at your schedules: If nighttime after the kids are in bed isn’t working, note 30-60 minute time blocks during the week where you both have energy, the children are occupied or sleeping, and you could grab some privacy. Where and when are they? Highlight them and consider carefully whether intimacy could work during those windows. If there are complications, how could they be solved? Where are the windows for privacy? Are there times of the day or week when your child naps? Recognize the sanctity of these time windows, and see how you can work your responsibilities in such a way that you all could be together during those times. Sexual intimacy requires energy and focus, and in some cases a schedule. Find the time and grab it.
If you cannot see any available windows, then get creative. Could you get a babysitter for a morning outing? Or for an afternoon? Could you wake up earlier than your child does? On the weekend, could the more fatigued partner take a nap while the more energetic partner parents? This might provide critical energy for time together after your child is in bed. Remember that this is about energy and time management as much as anything else.
Have fun and feel closer
Once you have a schedule, stick to it, and stay focused on your goals to have fun and reconnect. Resist interruptions or temptations to spend the time doing other things together. While there are very few activities between you that cannot be done when a child is around, physical intimacy is one of them. So use those precious windows of privacy wisely and save other activities to do in your child’s company. Chances are that once you reconnect, you will immediately feel better individually as well as closer to each other as a couple.
Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, has carefully studied the neuro-chemical experience of love, and has demonstrated the cascade of attachment hormones oxytocin and vasopressin that are released through sexual intimacy. Because these hormones are involved when we feel close and connected to our mates, they are believed to be foundational to attachment and love. Studies repeatedly reinforce intimacy’s importance to physical and relationship health, giving even more reason to connect.
So get out the calendar, make it happen, and enjoy each other. Pretty soon, your new “date” routine will be a snap.