See original column written in the Current in Geist by clicking here:

Healthy families begin with healthy relationships. When children are born, they immediately need help. They require consistent and constant care and attention. Most parents ask the same question, “What do we do now?”

John Gottman states that the greatest gift a couple can give their baby is a loving relationship – not between parent and child, but between mother and father. So what is true when babies come into our lives?

  1. Both parents work harder, but both feel underappreciated.
  2. During the first year, the frequency and intensity of relationship conflicts increase.
  3. Moms usually become very involved with their babies. Due to fatigue, they have less to offer their partners emotionally.
  4. Both parents undergo major changes in their own identities – values may change, goals in life, etc.

The quality of the parent-child bonding largely depends on the quality of the couple satisfaction. So how do couples maintain intimacy in the midst of added stress, irritability, emotional exhaustion, and increased conflict? Below are four practical ways to focus on intimacy:

1. Soften how you begin a discussion

  • You can accomplish this by:
  • Stating how you feel
  • Describing the problem in a neutral, non-blaming way.
  • Say what you need or what you do not need.

2. Accept influence from each other

  • Ask questions to understand the other’s viewpoint
  • Restate it – ask open-ended questions

3. Calm down by self-soothing

  • Take a break – create a nonverbal cue to use to indicate that you need a break (no rude gestures)
  • Commit to give each other a break even if one does not need one.
  • Set a time to return to talk

4. Compromise

  • Define a positive need. What will make you feel safe?
  • Define areas of flexibility. When and how you and your partner get what you need.
  • Set a temporary compromise.
  • How will you maintain intimacy when baby comes?

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