The stork brings babies. But where do these unexpected marriage problems come from? Sometime after your bundle of joy’s arrival, you might notice there are wrinkles in the dynamic duo you established long before baby made three. Yes, there’s the baby bliss — the cuddles and coos and tiny perfect toes that make you go gaga. But then there’s a flip side — this tiny person comes with tons of needs that leave little time for much else.
“Imagine a stranger who’s moved in and declared herself part of your family,” says Beth Friedberg, a licensed clinical social worker and associate director of the Modern Family Center.
“What if that stranger insisted on sleeping between you, needed you to eat at different times, to sleep only when she slept and insisted you drop everything to tend to her?” Rather than just worry about it happening, go ahead and “assume nearly every element of your relationship will change and prepare to change with it,” she advises.
Here are the top 10 marriage problems new parents face and how to tackle them so your Team Family ends up on top:
1. The Anger Escalator
The first few times you get up to tend to your baby in the middle of the night, it’s annoying but you handle it. “But by the 20th time, your frustration has risen and you’re about to explode. You end up having a reaction that’s out of proportion to the incident. Get yourself down to the bottom of your anger escalator so you react appropriately in the moment without exploding at your partner or the baby.
2. Sweating Small Stuff
“A good way to not sweat the small stuff is to get clear about what’s worth getting sweaty over,” says Friedberg. “Then when stuff comes up you can identify if it’s sweat-worthy. Know what you really care about, sweat when you need to and change your list every few months.”
“Communication and planning are key,” says Friedberg. “Agree on a philosophy, quiet the other voices and ideas and work on being a consistent parenting team.”
4. Annoying In-Laws
“When it comes to babies and children, there simply cannot be too many people to love them!” says Friedberg. If you don’t get along with your in-laws, let them watch the baby while you two head out to a movie. Or leave your spouse with his parents while you have brunch with your besties.
5. No Alone Time
The first thing that goes is your intimate time together. The good news is, even if you can’t book a sitter or your parents once a week, a baby has to sleep some time. Babies quickly get on a schedule. Prioritize each other and play a board game, snuggle or lock yourselves in the bedroom. The dishes can wait.
6. Money Woes
“In times of stress, how you spend quickly comes to represent family commitment, priorities and values,” says Friedberg. Make a plan and a budget, including room for each spouse to have their own expenses and occasional indulgence, whether it’s a latte, a spin class or the latest gadget.
7. Division of Labour
Just when you’ve got your routine down about who does what, along comes baby giving you a world of new responsibilities. Some couples divide everything 50-50 — equal feedings, equal changing of poopy diapers. While keeping score sounds reasonable, it’s not practical. Better to define roles so each player knows what to tackle. Plan what you can. Wing what you can’t. Talk often!
8. Stressful Times
Spoiler alert — You’re going to experience moments when you both have absolutely no idea what to do. During those times when things hit you that you never planned on, do your best and laugh about it — or at least realize that you’ll probably laugh about it some day. “Some of the most stressful moments are actually material for great comedy,” says Friedberg. Remind each other that someday you’ll use this moment to embarrass your son at his wedding.
9. Dealing with Change
Your baby’s schedule will change often and unpredictably. Roll with it! “We all fear change, but the truth is when it comes to having children, we cannot stop change — we can only respond to it with flexibility, humor and a willingness to grow into a new lifestyle as parents,” notes Friedberg.
10. Sleep Deprivation
A feeding every two to four hours might be good for a baby, but it’s brutal on parents. You will be sleep deprived. You’ll forget your manners. You’ll forget to shower. But here’s good news — you’re so tired, have so much going on and your baby is changing so quickly every day that you won’t remember much more than just the happy highlights of the chaotic first year.
Getting through the marriage changes that come after baby takes time and patience, but the effort is worth the occasional struggle. You and your partner can face it together and come out with a stronger marriage in the end!