There are so many things people told me about becoming a parent, or being a parent, that I really didn’t believe until I actually was a parent. Now that I have crossed that line, I have found that I should have taken more seriously the advice and warnings given to me by those who had been there.
One of those things that is absolutely and universally true is that, while having a child together bonds two people for live, living with a newborn, dealing with sleep deprivation and constant worries and a completely changed life, takes one hell of a toll on a relationship.
You will come out the other side battle tested, and while you’re knee-deep in the madness, here are 15 pieces of very good advice on how to make sure you have each other to come back to when things slow down.
15. Learn to love the quickie.
“A few days ago, Rob was really up for it. And for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. So this morning, it was like, he was awake, I was awake, and we just needed to do it… People can have impromptu, healthy sexual experiences with one another without anyone feeling taken advantage of.
We have a very healthy sex life, but sometimes it’s a struggle, to just actually have sex with our schedules. It can feel a little bit like ships in the night. In all seriousness, we did, at once, hire a cleaner, because it freed me up and Robert to have more time and energy for one another.” – Rob and Louise Westra
14. Don’t be afraid to use a schedule – for everything.
“It’s going to sound kind of funny, but we use a couple of apps, like Trello, for example. We use some project management and budgeting apps to make sure that we are communicating with each other, and we kept track of what all we had going on.
We also try not to get into a rut, do the same thing, and go to the same restaurant. We really try to do different things. It’s actually on a Trello card — all of our date ideas.” – Alex Ippoliti
13. Summon the energy for date nights.
“To do that, I would do more work. I would take her out and turn her on. I’d figure out who was coming to town that she might like or that we’d both like. We’d figure out an experience we hadn’t done before and still make sure that those date nights happened and that we had fun times together, as a couple, without kids.” – Charlie Myers
12. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
“The whole experience has been a great lesson for me in learning how to really surrender and ask for so much more help than I’ve ever asked for in my life.
Whether that’s calling in grandmas, grandpas, or friends and community members who had mentioned that they’d be willing to cook for us or asking each other, really, for time and space to go for a walk or to go somewhere by ourselves for a night. It’s really been a humbling experience.
All of the favors I’ve ever saved up in my life from any person — I cashed them over this last year and a half. It’s been the hardest time and biggest challenge and the most unstable time in our lives. So, it’s been a great lesson in calling in all the troops.” – Andrew and Flow Belinsky
11. The little things will get you through it.
“Expressing love to each other, being kind to each other, doing the little things that aren’t sex or necessarily what we think of when we think of a passionate relationship, those minute by minute and hour by hour things set the stage for [good sex,].
It’s not just about going through our day of craziness and laying down in bed at night and just jumping right into it. The stage is set all day long. Through our conversations and our interactions of just being kind and generous with one another, we make sure that we’re maintaining that relationship all the time.” – Michael Doemner
10. Remember you’re not just parents.
“Part of our issue was internal battles that Rebecca was having about parts of her that she felt like she had lost when she became a mom. About every two weeks, she would go through this cycle of feeling like she needed to get away.
So we just started scheduling, every two weeks, even if it’s just overnight, we do something that feeds that side of her. We put things in place to remember that she’s not just a mom.” – Rebecca and Alonzo Calhoon
9. Redefine “romance.”
“What we’ve found is that supporting each other achieves the same goal of giving a gift. So if it’s cleaning the dishes or making dinner and breakfast or putting together lunches, it’s not the same as a romantic gesture, but romantic gestures evolve as you get a little bit older and you have children.
If I had any advice to give, I would say that new dads should use free time that they get to play video games — you should put yourself in the mindset that, what your wife needs right now is for you to take care of some of the things that she just can’t.” – Johnathan Kish
8. Date nights might look different, but they’re important.
“I’m a homebody. Jay likes to get out on the town. So we do schedule at-home-date nights and I am fine with that. I never have to leave the house! But of course, I want to meet his needs, too. So we have one at home, scheduled date night, once a week. There’s no compromising that.
We’re together, we rent movies, we play cards. He’s a better chef than I am, so he’ll cook me dinner. It’s just time together to sit and look at each other’s faces and talk about things that don’t revolve around work and dreams and hopes and all of those things.” – Jay and Shelly Jeffsen
7. Remember your spouse is a priority.
“I think a lot of parents make their kids their entire world. We’ve always had the theory that Austin and I are a family. Our kids will join our family and then leave.
We never want to be one of those couples that wakes up in 20 years when our kids are moved out and roll over and look at each other and say, ‘Oh. I don’t know you.’ Something we’ve been doing since Canaan started going to bed at a reasonable hour, we pick one day a week that’s a date night in our home.
We put our phones away and pick something to do — a game, or a movie, or questions to ask each other or dinner to cook together — one night a week. That’s really helped with our connection. I wish we had started doing that sooner.” – Liz and Austin Alvarez
6. The sex will return in time.
“The sleep deprivation, at least for us, did play a fairly big part in numbing our desires. When it comes down to it, you just don’t want sex as much. I’m not going to say it’s perfect, but we’ve acknowledged that we’ve entered a new stage in life and are moving from quantity to quality.
We know that if we’re too tired, it’s fine. We’ve done a lot of shit today. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is breaking down or that we’re not attracted to one another. It means we’re absolutely bloody exhausted and we need to sleep.” – Tom Furnival
5. Know when you need some space.
“I’ll stay at home with the babies while Lindsay goes to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, she’ll be at home with the kids and I’ll go work out. That’s unavoidable, but it’s good.
We’re very in tune with what the other person’s priorities are, and the other person will take over for that day: cooking, cleaning, anything. It’s really about balance and sharing.” – Ashley and Lindsey Head
4. The everyday stuff is where it’s at.
“Even in a simple gesture of, “Hey, I’m going to go wash dishes,” he’ll say, “You know what honey, I’ll go ahead and dry them for you.” That creates an intimacy right there for us. We talk about the business, and about what’s up next at the gym, like if it’s arm day, and we talk about the kids. That really brings a lot to the relationship for us, as well.” – Caitlyn Hatt
3. Co-sleeping is a commitment you need to make together or not at all.
“I think there’s something to be said about the baby being physically in your bedroom, right next to your bed. As much as I loved that, and it was a really tough couple first nights away from her, I think it really did improve the intimacy in our relationship.
Having a few hours at a time in between when she needed to be fed, where it was just the two of us, [changed everything.]” – Alyson Fenty
2. Couples therapy can be a preventative measure.
“One of the things that we did, and then dropped the ball on, but are going to start doing again, was proactively going to couple’s therapy. There were issues that we went to specifically address, but we also would go when there really weren’t issues.
We both recognize the importance of work in the relationship. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not ‘done’ just because we’re married. It’s cliche, but I think it’s true: you get out what you put in.” – Brandon Pierpoint
1. And therapy for yourself isn’t a bad idea, either.
“My relationship with my body completely changed. I physically didn’t recognize myself. I’m happy that I found a really, really great therapist that helped me through it, and that my husband was great and understanding.
You can definitely plan all you want, but your plans can be thrown out the window through the blink of an eye. We bounced back pretty well.” – Melissa Randazzo
I love all of these tips and I wish that I had heard some of them before diving into this crazy season of life head first.
It can be rough, but we’re all in this together – so let’s share more love and advice in the comments!