If you’re feeling overwhelmed about nurturing your partner relationship while caring for your new baby, you’re not the only one. Scheduling an occasional date night isn’t always as easy as it seems, and dedicating so much of yourselves to your new baby can make it feel like there’s nothing left to give to your relationship at the end of the day. When you’re sleep-deprived, recovering from birth, fumbling over your baby’s routines, keeping up with other responsibilities outside of parenting, and navigating your new identities as parents…it can honestly feel like there’s no more time or energy left for intimacy and connection.
Here are seven ways to stay connected with your partner during the postpartum period:
1. Root for Each Other
Regardless of how many baby books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, it’s likely that you and your partner will struggle with self-doubt and question whether you’re doing a “good enough” job in the postpartum period. You might be more critical of yourselves than you usually are or struggle to feel genuinely confident as you adjust to your new roles as parents, which can feel isolating and discouraging. Be your partner’s biggest fan by telling them what you value about their parenting approaches, complimenting them when they handle a tough parenting moment well, reminding them of their strengths, commenting on special things they do with your baby, and celebrating their parenting “wins” no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Intentionally cheering each other on can improve self-esteem and confidence, which can positively impact the overall atmosphere of your relationship.
2. Use Your Time Spent Apart as an Opportunity to Bond
Chances are you and your partner are not getting as much quality time in the postpartum period as you’re used to and most of your conversations or interactions revolve around sleep schedules, feeding routines, baby milestones, and childcare. It might seem unusual to view your time spent apart as an opportunity to bond, but it can be a source of connection. When you miss your partner or wish you were together, tell them. Send them messages or pictures when something reminds you of them. When you find yourself randomly thinking of them, let them know. Tell them stories about what you did throughout your day and include all the seemingly “useless” details. Share your highs and lows from each day, highlighting any enjoyable or challenging moments you had. Keeping each other updated about your day-to-day activities can help you feel more involved in each other’s lives and discover new things about each other you may have otherwise not had the chance to learn.
3. Prioritize Each Other’s Self-Care
A significant source of disconnection in the postpartum period is thinking that your partner prioritizes their self-care over yours, or simply doesn’t recognize your need for self-care. During a season of life where you’re both desperate for a chance to decompress, it can sometimes feel like everyone’s out for themselves. You might find yourselves in a pattern of “keeping score” – focusing on who’s more tired, who changed more diapers, who had more breaks throughout the day, etc. Try viewing self-care as a collaboration (vs. an independent goal) by recognizing how your individual self-care impacts your ability to show up for one another. Validate each other’s need to relax after a long day and try not to compare who had it worse. Make a point to check in and see when one of you is struggling more than usual, or when one of you has more capacity than usual to step up and help. Reflect on how your partner’s level of support impacts your overall wellness, and vice versa. Recognizing and prioritizing each other’s need to take breaks can serve as a reminder that you genuinely want each other to feel good and are committed to helping each other accomplish that.
4. Be Willing to Talk About Your Physical Relationship
There are a lot of factors that impact your physical relationship and sexual intimacy in the postpartum period (like sleep deprivation, physical recovery after birth, hormonal changes, increased stress, less spontaneity, overstimulation, etc.), and you might find that all of this makes your new sex life as parents seem, well, not so sexy anymore. Be willing to express the specific ways your physical relationship has changed since becoming parents, talk about (and be patient with) postpartum body changes that may be impacting your physical intimacy, share new needs or expectations regarding sex, openly share what turns you on and off, and explore other ways to nurture your physical intimacy outside of sex (like flirting or connecting through non-sexual touch). Having open and honest communication about the changes to your physical relationship during the postpartum period can help to build your emotional intimacy and foster a more profound sense of trust.
5. Express Love & Appreciation (Even When You’re Frustrated)
With so much trial and error in learning about new parenthood and newborn care, you might find yourselves looking at one another with a sense of “tunnel vision,” only noticing or commenting on the things about each other that bother you. Your patience with each other can start to dwindle while your frustrations rise, and you may sometimes feel unloved or unappreciated. It’s not fun to feel this way, but it does happen. Get familiar with what makes your partner feel loved and use that insight to express appreciation whenever possible, even when you’re frustrated with them. Consider saying things you know they need to hear, like “I’m so proud of you” or “I want you to know how much you mean to me.” Do something thoughtful for them, like finishing one of their household chores or picking up their favorite treat at the store. Take a moment to pause and give them your undivided attention by putting your phone down when you find a rare moment alone, or by stopping for a kiss or hug as you pass by each other. Making an effort to express love and appreciation in the ways you each need can help you both to feel seen, significant, and cared for.
6. Find Humor in the Chaos
The postpartum period is understandably a stressful time for you and your partner and it can be hard to keep a positive attitude with each other when mistakes are made, arguments are had, quality time is down, and sleep is…well, you know. You might feel stressed to the point of feeling constantly defensive or irritable, struggling to be lighthearted with each other, or finding that simple conversations suddenly turn into conflict. Find ways to bond over humor through things like sharing funny stories about harmless parenting mistakes you made (without making one of you the butt of the joke of course), imitating silly noises or facial expressions that your baby makes, or letting yourselves laugh about the absurd things you never thought would happen to you after becoming parents (like wearing two different shoes to work or putting your keys in the freezer). Bonding over a shared sense of humor in the chaos of new parenthood can help to diffuse tension in your day-to-day life and create a sense of playfulness within your relationship.
7. Look at Things Through Your Partner’s Eyes
Even though you and your partner are navigating the same postpartum lifestyle adjustments, you’re not having the same exact experience. After all, you are separate people with unique thoughts and emotions, which means you will perceive things in different ways. Many new parents sense a lack of compassion in the postpartum period because their partners don’t seem to understand (or maybe even notice) their unique experiences. Spend some time reflecting on the changes your partner may be dealing with that you aren’t directly experiencing, and consider what it must feel like to be in their shoes. Think about their identity exploration, work/home balance, career shifts, friendship/family dynamics, physical recovery, sleep deprivation, sensory overload, breastfeeding/pumping, body image, financial stressors, pressure to provide, etc. Reflecting on how your partner’s life has changed separately from yours can give you a deeper understanding of why they’re showing up differently in your relationship, strengthen your ability to be empathetic with them, and help you hold space for them when they need it most.
While the postpartum period is tough on connection and intimacy, you can find ways to nurture your relationship through open communication, empathy, and solidarity. Remember that this season of life is temporary, and consider sharing these ideas with your partner to work through it together.
Content shared is not equivalent to and should not be used as a substitute for mental health treatment. This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.