How exciting! You have new baby and you’re settling in at home. You have instructions to resume sexual activity when it feels right to you, and with all the emotions you’re experiencing, that is actually the last thing on your mind. In control are overwhelm, joy, disappointment in the birth or how you’re feeling about it, extreme exhaustion, physical recovery, hormonal chaos, isolation, deep love, anxiety that you’re doing it wrong, more joy, frustration, confusion…the list could go on and on, couldn’t it?
The huge transition to parenthood requires a lot of patience and compassion, and for partners to lean on each other in entirely new ways as they both adjust to this major (and joyful) life shift. Two thirds of new parents will experience deep relationship dissatisfaction by the time their little one is 3, and one of the keys to success and avoiding falling into this is to spend some time growing and maintaining the intimacy between you, even when S-E-X is not necessarily back on the table.
Here’s some simple things you can do:
1) Indulge in some touching. At your birth, you may have been encouraged to engage in some skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, to give them all sorts of bonding and health benefits. You can continue to do this at home, with your new baby and each other.
Touching in general, and especially intimate (unclothed) touch, makes all sorts of good things happen in your body; endorphins and the bonding hormone oxytocin are released, stress hormones are lowered, and your blood pressure and heart rate are lowered.
As you finally fall asleep or grab a nap, snuggle up together - it’s even great to just find 10 minutes to do this. Indulge in some family nap time or jump in the shower together for some getting-clean closeness. Touch each other as you go through your days - even a shoulder squeeze as you pass in the kitchen counts.
2) Try a 6-second kiss at least once a day. Think of you how you greet your partner when you have been apart; is it an “I’m in here!” or a quick hello at the door? If you spend 6 seconds a day connecting with a kiss, you will get all the benefits of intimate touch (listed above), your children (no matter how young) will see that you prioritize your relationship and will always support them (seriously!), and hello? Who doesn’t like to kiss?
3) Keep getting to know each other. Keep getting to know each other. Remember when you first met your partner and there was nothing you didn't want to know about them? You were a sponge soaking them up. In the hubbub of being new parents, you will more than likely resort to quick and efficient check-ins with each other:
“How was your day?”…”It was long. How was yours?”…
For a new parent, who is adjusting to a thousand different things, this question is almost laughable; their day could have ranged from tear-filled frustration to unmitigated glee when the baby FINALLY fell asleep and they were able to have a shower. I invite you to keep getting know each other and validating the experiences you’re having. Yes, it takes a little more time, but it’s really worth it to maintain your friendship in the midst of all this change, and when you continue to connect this way, it actually creates more intimacy between you. Here are some examples of things you can talk about - take a few minutes each day to connect:
4) Celebrate each other. Celebrate each other. This is all about noticing what you see and pointing it out, and is also just indulging in some admiration for your lovely mate at they navigate a Whole New World with you. Here are some examples:
Notice when your partner does something useful for the family - makes dinner, folds the laundry, pays the bills, or goes to get groceries. These are all things that need to be done, and would likely just get done but expressing some gratitude goes a long way.
Point out how your partner is with your little one; maybe they’re pulling out silly voices and really playing with your baby, or maybe you’re seeing a tenderness in your spouse that you’ve never seen before. See them as a parent and point out when they’re doing a great job.
5) Give yourselves permission to not like it at all. There is a lot of expectation from media and TV shows and even our families that we are going to immediately be completely In Love with our babies. While you will feel a pull of responsibility to care for their every need, you may not fall in love immediately and you may not even like your new role. It’s okay to miss the way things used to be, and it’s okay to take some time to adjust. The key is to lean into your partner and be with each other at whatever stage of this you are in. Recognize that you are like a small gang; you have each other’s backs, and you are a Team in the face of this tiny little dictator who has joined your family.
By focusing on maintaining intimacy in the very early stages of parenthood, we build a foundation for adjusting as you move ahead. If intimacy is fostered, then it makes resuming sexual activity a natural step, and all babies benefit from parents who are intimately connected and taking care of their relationship.
Good luck! Please comment below to tell us how you’re managing to find a few seconds each day to remain close with your partner.
By Tara Caffelle
Tara is a Certified Professional Coach and Bringing Baby Home Instructor for the John Gottman Institute. She works with parents of new babies to create and sustain rock-star intimate relationships, and helps individuals to design and thrive with all the moving parts of their lives. You can find more about Tara on her website at www.TaraCaffelle.com and as of June 1, you’ll be able to listen to her speak about all things relationship on her weekly radio show with the Contact Talk Radio Network.