Relationships

Relationship Advice for Parents

A couple of months into being a father I began to ask myself a question…why did I feel so distant from my girlfriend? Was it because our son was so high needs? Was being a parent more important to us now? Is this just what happens to couples after they’ve had a baby? For a long time I believed that the answer to the last question was YES. Perhaps this is just the consequence of having a baby. That you would spend the rest of your days tired and unable to function like a normal couple. Baby comes first, everything else just has to suffer for it. This mindset led me to stick my head in the sand and accept the fact that nothing else mattered but to be a good father to my son and nothing else. But what about the real reason that my son was brought into the world in the first place? He was made because I had fallen for an amazing girl that I wanted to spend my life with. Together we had created a life with the plan to be a proper family. I wasn’t about to forget that.

Hopefully sharing my experiences will help other couples to get their relationships back on track after having a child. I’m going to be sharing a few tips that we have tried that has really made a difference.

Couple Time

We all remember the good old days when your time together consisted of lounging around watching crappy films and cuddling up on the sofa. Yeah, these days are well and truly in the past. When you have a child, time alone together is extremely rare, and when it does finally come, you are far too exhausted to do anything anyway. My job in a nursery means that I am out for long periods and only come home at 7pm. I would come in from work, exhausted from a long day of looking after everybody else’s children, to spend some quality time with my own child. I’d make the most of the time I had with him, up until his bedtime which was when my girlfriend Amy would go to bed as well. For 4 days a week this is how my daily routine went. Spending all my time as a dad, but zero time as a boyfriend. Not surprisingly, things went downhill quick. We stopped communicating, stopped making the effort with each other and we both became pretty miserable.

The hardest part was sitting down together and admitting to each other that things weren’t right. Its exactly the same as when a drug taker needs help. The hardest part is admitting that they have a problem, so that the necessary actions can be put into place to make a change. We both knew that we couldn’t carry on like this. Something had to give. Our solution was very simple. We needed to make time for each other, which was easier said than done. Our first change was to set our son Austin a regular time to go to bed. We started putting him to bed at 8pm every night so that there was time for us to spend some quality time together just as a couple. Just eating a meal in peace and having a cuddle together worked wonders for our relationship. We finally had chance to tell each other about our day and actually enjoy each other’s company.

Intimacy

Now every single person in a relationship has gone through the ‘dry patch’. It just happens. When you have children however, the ‘dry patch’ ends up turning into the ‘Sahara desert patch’. This is completely normal. It’s inevitable that when you have a baby, the level of intimacy can be difficult to maintain. There are things that we did however that brought back that spark. Firstly, we started making use of the support system we had around us to actually go out on a date. For the first time, we packed Austin a bag and dropped him off with his grandparents for the evening. It wasn’t easy leaving him there. Not because we didn’t think Amy’s parents weren’t capable of looking after him, but because we were worried that leaving him with somebody else made us terrible parents that abandoned their child. It was what we needed though, a night to get dressed up, have a few drinks and eat some nice food without any distraction. I took Amy to a nice little local restaurant. We talked, we laughed and we held each other’s hand as we walked back to the car. Things that we hadn’t done in a long time. It was a nice reminder of how we felt about each other, and that having a child shouldn’t get in the way of being a couple.

Pick Your Fights Wisely

When couples come through the ‘honeymoon’ stage of the relationship, its inevitable that little pointless arguments start to creep in. Disagreements about who’s left the toilet seat up (that’s me), who’s left a pile of clothes on the bedroom floor (me again) and who’s turn it is to have control over the TV (never me!) When you have a child however, these things just aren’t important anymore. Amy and I probably secretly drive each other mental at times, but when you have a baby in front of you smiling for the first time or reaching out for his favourite toy, it’s irrelevant. If as a couple you have a problem, fix it. Doesn’t matter what is it, or how long it takes to sort it out, just fix it. Learning to live with your partner’s bad habits is just part of being a parent. You’ve made a child with each other at this stage so your bed is well and truly made, time to lie in it.

Making any relationship work takes effort and commitment. Far too many couples give up on each other at the first sign of trouble. It’s the easy option. When you add a child into the mix, it becomes 10 times harder. There are over 2 million single parents in the UK, that makes up nearly a quarter of families with children. That’s a shocking statistic. I firmly believe that a large amount of that comes down to relationships breaking down because life gets hard when you have a child. Too many couples give up on each other because children become their sole focus. It’s just as important to be a couple as it is to be parents. This is something that I’ve learnt myself, and I won’t ever take Amy for granted.

To Recap

  • Put your child to bed earlier and enjoy some quality romantic time together watching crime shows and talking about bowel movements (that’s what we do these days)
  • Find a babysitter, go out on a date. It doesn’t make you bad parents!
  • Be honest with each other, if something isn’t working, talk about it.
  • Don’t give up when it gets hard, who wants an easy life anyway, not me!

I’d love to hear about your relationship stories after having kids. Let me know how you solved your problems in the comments section.

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