Talking about your fears and feelings is always important, but never more important than in the weeks leading up to birth. In an ideal world, starting early means that once the bub has arrived, and maybe one or two more, you have the language to express your frustrations and fears. You’ll know that you can raise this difficult subject without creating difficult conflict. I stress the word language as this is the key to reigniting passion and communicating effectively. I teach word for word scripts from the Imago based therapy system in my course Reignite Your Relationship and in my couples therapy practice.
In therapy with thousands of couples, I see that the most common fear is of that of the unknown – in this case, what is life and our partnership going to be like with a third, fourth or fifth person in the relationship?
There are expectations – usually unrealistic – and there are ideas of the areas which might cause problems, and the most common of those revolves around intimacy. One couple who came to me because as they entered the house with new baby in arms, he said to her, ‘This isn’t going to change anything, right?’ She was shocked, and he wasn’t even sure what he meant. It turned out he was afraid of being jealous of the baby, and guess what? – he was. He had been the centre of her attention for three years and now he thought he wouldn’t ever be again. Some frank and safe discussion in the Imago format that I taught them, helped enormously to discuss both their expectations and fears.
In many couples, a new baby is like an affair…
After the first child, many people feel like they’ve lost interest in sex and don’t feel like themselves anymore. Your new love (the baby) has left you tired and unmotivated. It can be very hard to be part of a threesome – all the rules of the game change. At its core, both you and your partner are falling in love with someone else – your baby. It’s like you’re both having an affair with the same person, and because of it, your sexual connection can falter. Here’s the process I recommend to my clients.
Accept the change in identities…
Accept that things have changed, permanently and in the long run, for the better. Parenting is incredibly hard and despite warnings about the changes to your lives you can never imagine how and to what extent before you have that delightful beautiful bundle in your arms. You will have less sex, less sleep and different priorities, but the rewards are unimaginable.
The shift from husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend to mum and dad is the biggest factor couples face when adjusting to life as parents. Men and women have a hard time integrating sexual identities with parental identities. At the beginning of the relationship, a man views his partner as a mate—a sexual being, so to speak. After a woman becomes a mother, her main focus becomes her child, and both the man and the woman may have a hard time reconciling her new identity as mother and mate. This is where a therapist can help.
Make a reservation for regular intimacy…
You’ll need to schedule sex. Left to itself, the libido can take a while to recover from the trauma of birth and having a new baby. Doctors will recommend a 6 week recovery time, but if the birth was normal and circumstances allow, 3 or 4 weeks is often enough. If there was a difficult birth, stitches or other problems, it can be two months, but at some point one or other of you needs to say, ‘I’m beginning to feel the need or desire for sex again, can we schedule it in?’.
This doesn’t necessarily mean having sex at bedtime, in fact one of the joys of having a baby in the house is that routine times are completely different. You can feel most relaxed in the morning after the first feed, as the sun is coming up. Or in the afternoon, while baby is sleeping. But expressing your need and seeing your partner attempt to meet it is loving in itself.
Lack of sleep is the passion killer…
Don’t underestimate the effect of sleep loss on libido. You may find that both of you have no interest in physical sex but have overwhelming feelings of love towards this other person with whom you share this new creature. You are joined for life now, whatever happens in the future you will always be a co-parent. This person has gifted you the baby into your life, and these thoughts can be acknowledged as a different form of intimacy and love.
Having less sleep is a true passion-killer, and having sex can induce the most restful sleep so its hard to know which comes first.
Early expert advice can save your relationship…
Engage a therapist or learn new relationship behaviours via a course or a book early to help you navigate problems later. Don’t assume that you are going to be the 1% of couples who sail through pregnancy birth and early parenting without a problem. There are experts in relationships and parenting who can give you very good pointers which can pre-empt problems and help you with tools to deal with them. Other than Imago Relationship Therapists, Attachment Parenting groups are strongly recommended for explaining what baby needs from you, how to deliver it and how to nurture your adult relationship at the same time.
Relationships skills can be learned…
Learning to live with someone and to be a partner in life is not a small skill. Much of our behaviour in relationships is what we learned from our parent’s relationship, and if that wasn’t good then the modelling we received wasn’t good. But knowing how to be in a relationship, and how to show up as a human being, how to connect and how to deepen into feelings, how to share yourself while still keeping your integrity and not losing yourself – these are all things that we need to learn and can indeed be taught. I’ve seen first hand the positive impact of what love coaching and relationship education can have on couples at any stage of their relationship. Workshops or online courses, if you prefer a more private education setting, can be so helpful, particularly if they are respectful of your privacy and don’t require you to ‘share with the group’.
In my course and workshops I specifically teach these relationship saving skills:
✔︎ COMMUNICATION. How you speak can make or break your relationship. Learn word-for-word scripts that will become the knight in shining armour your relationship desperately needs.
✔︎ CONFLICT RESOLUTION. Discover the cycle of love and learn how to identify where you are so you can proactively resolve problems before they arise.
✔︎ RELATIONSHIP VISION. Find out how identify what you want, ask for it, and actually get it
✔︎ INTIMACY. How to breathe life into your flat-lining relationship on track no matter how much stress and exhaustion life throws at you.
✔︎ PRESERVATION. Learn the signs that you are accidentally pushing love away, and how to stop the self-sabotage.
The Gift of Communication: I’d like to give you the gift of having safe and effective conversations with your partner by teaching you the Imago dialogue technique. This video lesson is from the Reignite Your Relationship Course I created for RESCU Me Academy.
Follow this link to receive your download for this free video lesson.
ABOUT: Annie Gurton holds a Masters in Psychotherapy from Nottingham Trent University, is an Advanced Imago Therapy practitioner, Registered Supervisor for Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, and an experienced couples counselor based in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. You can learn more about the Reignite Your Relationship course for RESCU Me Academy here.
Reignite Your Relationship course based on the Imago Therapy techniques
by marriage experts Dr Helen La Kelly Hunt and Dr Harville Hendrix.