I often hear parents express that their relationship with one another is just not the same anymore or they wonder if they made a mistake in choosing each other after kids. So many changes are happening at once. The focus suddenly transitions from caring for ourselves and the relationship with our partner to focusing on sustaining a child. We make sure that our children have adequate sleep, a well-balanced meal, nap times, optimal stimulation for brain development, and so much more, only to do it all over again throughout the day and week.
Although there is so much joy in welcoming a new child into the family, we can neglect the grief involved in losing who we were as individuals and as a couple before kids. Consequently, we understandably wonder, “will things ever be good again between us?” The good news is that there is an “us” again after kids. Although the “us” we might be searching to find might not be the one we were before kids, the “us” that is emerging is there if we intentionally take the time to nurture it. Here are a few ways to reconnect with your partner, even again after kids:
1. Set an Intentional Time.
Set an intentional time to meaningfully connect consistently, even if that means it is 30-minutes once a week. Honor that time as if it is the most important thing. During that time check-in with each other. Commit to no phones and no distractions. Talk to each other! Here are some conversation ideas…
Share what you are grateful for about each other.
Share about what’s been bringing you joy and what has been stressful.
Talk about the things you miss about your relationship before kids, and experiences you’d like to have together again (make a list and commit to trying to do them).
Ask how you can support your partner this week.
Are there any parts within you that are grieving right now and needs care?
Express the parts about parenthood you are enjoying and not enjoying.
Communicate your needs and express what would be helpful (instead of simply pointing out what isn’t helpful).
Share about your dreams apart from being a parent – dreams for yourself and your partnership.
2. Physical Affection
Commit to some form of physical affection at least once a week (if not more). This can be an extended hug, holding hands, massage, a kiss, and sex with both people’s consent. I know many mothers in particular often describe their experience of having low libido, not wanting to have sex, or not even wanting to be touched near their chest or birth canal. It is very normal. It’s important to remember that a mother’s body has gone through huge changes that can often feel traumatic and exhausting birthing and sustaining a child.
The body often needs time to experience safety and pleasure again gradually. Sometimes, identifying a place to touch that doesn’t activate negative feelings is a good starting place, then you can gradually increase that time. Touching, without the expectation of sex, is a good place to begin.
3. Enjoy Yourselves.
Get your favorite take-out or dessert delivered, especially during this pandemic, and enjoy yourselves after the kids go down to sleep. Give yourselves permission to enjoy activities as people — and not just parents.
4. Step Away From the Kids.
Consider asking someone you trust to watch the kids while they nap during the day, even if it’s for one hour, or for a weekend so you can do something you both enjoy — without having to worry about caring for your child. Get a meal together or grab a drink at your favorite place. Again, try intentionally connecting with each other using meaningful conversations. Set boundaries around not talking about “business” or “housekeeping” during this time.
5. Hang Out Together.
If you both enjoy an activity that can be enjoyed at home, do it together! Whether it is a movie, a show, or game night, it doesn’t always have to be deep, meaningful conversations. It can be as simple as enjoying each other’s company without the split attention of having to care for your child at the same time.
So much of relationships are about being intentional in staying connected even when life gets busy, exhausting, and overwhelming. We can easily get sidetracked by the little humans we care for that we can neglect the needs of our relationships. Give yourself compassion to make mistakes and be human in your process, and know that the “us” can be nurtured again so that it can have an important place in your life. It might just look different this time — but it’s just right for what is needed during this season of your lives.