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New parent struggling to keep your relationship alive? Don't worry, you're not the only one

Having a baby is a stressful experience that challenges even the best of relationships. When it comes to staying connected, small loving gestures mean everything.

Tony Moore

NEW LIFE IS always a time of great joy and wonder.

The sheer miracle that is life never fails to leave me almost speechless. It is something we must never take for granted.

Most couples long for a child. But when it arrives and the new family goes home, couples can often face new challenges in their relationships.

Preconceived ideas about family

Most couples feel they can avoid these challenges by judicious planning. Some couples choose to have a baby to celebrate their stability or to strengthen their relationship.

They think that a baby will bring them closer together, and that life after childbirth will be a time of tenderness, intimacy and maturity.

These sentiments are echoed very often in our pre-marriage course questionnaires.

However, having a baby is a stressful experience that challenges even the best of relationships.

Most of us haven’t the faintest clue how challenging bringing a new baby into our home can be.

We, of course, get lots of advice from a wide range of sources but at 3am, when the baby is still awake, who can help?

Feeling alone

It is at these times new parents, especially, feel so alone. Even the most solid relationships come under the most severe pressure at this time.

A combination of utter exhaustion, worry and frustration can cause tempers to fray.

The majority feel overwhelmed at the amount of work that is involved in looking after their child. Many women report not feeling supported or understood by their partners.

Of course, there are those reading this piece that never experienced any great problem and things progressed very well, and if that is the case I congratulate you most sincerely.

But for those who currently are going through these issues take heart, you are not alone, and you are not doing anything wrong.

Exhaustion

Many new parents, especially mothers, will often report they feel they are going “mad”. This is just sheer tiredness and exhaustion.

The ongoing slog, dispersed with moments of heart-rending joy, can cause a distance to establish itself with the couple.

Many couples will report mood swings and times of intense frustration.

A 2010 report from the ESRI and UCD found that up to 30% of couples were likely to part after the birth of their first child.

Relationship frustrations, including sexual frustration, can boil over, leading to communication between the couple virtually ceasing.

Many men feel sidelined when a baby arrives, and struggle to cope with what they see as rejection both emotional and sexual.

All too often this feeling of rejection ends in some kind of sexual betrayal – physical or electronic/digital. By the time this happens it can be too late.

Expectations

Couple expectations in this area need to be teased out. We think we know what our partner expects of us in this area but we are sadly mistaken.

Couples need to be helped and advised about the range of emotional changes that can happen to both parties after the birth of a baby.

New parents need to be reassured their feelings are normal.

From my experience, many couples try to keep up a “good face” to their family and friends while they are struggling, financially, physically and emotionally.

Distancing ourselves from our partners at this time is counter productive. It is at this time we need to keep connected at any cost.

Small loving gestures mean everything at this time.

Our world may be turned upside down by the arrival of the baby, but with compassion and understanding on both sides our world will be turned the right way up in the not too distant future.

Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland, a not-for-profit organisation that offers confidential relationship counselling services based on ability to pay. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380, email info@relationshipsireland.com or visit www.relationshipsireland.com.

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Tony Moore

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