Relationship goals for new parents
Taking time to check how satisfied you both are can make you even stronger as a couple
Uphill, downhill or stay as you were?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows that satisfaction with relationships dips when a baby comes along. In your early days as a couple you may have found it easy to stay on top of it – to constantly refresh, reinvent and reaffirm your relationship. You’ll remember what it was that first drew you together, and keep doing it! But once you formalise your relationship with a civil partnership or wedding or just telling everyone your partner is The One, some people take their foot off the gas.
You’re settled together, so why do you need to make efforts anymore? And once a baby appears this assumption you never have to revisit your promises to each other or take efforts with each other can intensify. You may hope you won’t dip, but is staying as you are almost as bad as finding you go downhill? What can you do to keep on growing together and pointing that satisfaction up, not down?
Make efforts. Parents over the years often say and think “When the children start school…in secondary school…have left home …we’ll get together again.” Putting things on the backburner can seem sensible since you have so much to do with a baby, a child, a teenager. But the sad fact is that put it off and on the day you try to resurrect your partnership, you may find there is little or nothing left.
So, don’t let go. Put each other first as often as you can. Have a date night every week. Once the child(ren) is/are in bed, concentrate on each other. If you have to discuss something about your child, set aside a time to do so, but spend the rest of the night on adult to adult, personal chat. Get your parents or other relatives or close friends onside to babysit (you can offer to reciprocate another time).
Instead of waiting until your twilight years, when your bucket list suddenly feels relevant because you’re feeling your mortality, make a wish list now. Write your own, ask your partner to do so too and talk them over. You may find you agree on some, give each new ideas and by idea-storming come up with a whole new list as well. Prioritise your list – what things do you really, really want and might be able to do now? Which can you schedule for another time – months or even years in the future? How can you keep those ideas alive and remind each other to go back to them, and carry them out? If they cost money or time, support each other in having a fair share or in budgeting or saving so you can do them at some time.
Discuss both personal development – the things you want to do for yourself – and shared goals – the experiences you want and need to do together to strengthen your bond. Both are vital and both should be allowed for. Don’t feel you are being selfish in saying “I need this!” as long as you both get a fair crack of the whip. And don’t feel you are short-changing your child to take money and time for yourselves. Children flourish best when their parents are happy, love and cherish each other and have a strong relationship. Doing your thing every now and then assures this.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers