Your Partnership

One of the best ways you can take care of your baby is to take care of your relationship with your partner. The potential spin-offs are fantastic

On the whole, relaxed couples end up with better-adjusted children, and with easier babies. And if your baby is challenging or difficult in the early months, you’ll cope much better if you have a strong relationship.

When a couple’s relationship is honest and strong, having a baby often brings them closer together. When the partnership is shaky special steps need to be taken, or the baby may drive them apart. If you’ve split up, don’t give up. Your baby needs a close and positive relationship with both you and her mother, and you’ll need to work together to make this a reality. Most of our suggestions below for making relationships work apply equally to separated couples too.

Taking care of your relationship means:

  • Before the birth, take time together to think about the massive changes to come. Deal with issues such as feeling you’ve been ‘rushed into’ becoming a dad, or you don’t think you’ll make a good father. Certainly what’s done is done, but if you need to protest or talk it through, now’s your chance. Strong feelings of anger or fear show how seriously you are taking all this.

If becoming a father seems unappealing – take a close look at why and maybe call one of the anonymous helplines available if you can’t talk it through with your partner.

  • After the birth, make sure both partners feel the division of day to day chores is fair and keep reviewing this; expectations may change as reality hits you both.
  • Spend time together – as a couple, and as a ‘family’.
  • Give each other real breaks (for example, letting the other regularly ‘sleep in’ or go out).
  • Listen to a partner who behaves resentfully or angrily.
  • Say how you feel in a non-blaming way.
  • Don’t respond ‘tit for tat’ to hurtful comments, or withdraw; negotiate and compromise.
  • When problems carry on, ask your GP about counselling.

Since successful couple relationships are those that manage change, you don’t want to get out of step with each other. The more caring for your baby becomes a team effort, the more each of you is likely to adjust to parenthood at the same rate, and the less potential there is for conflict. Try not to live in separate worlds – sharing the baby care will help you feel ‘in touch’ with each other. However, since it’s normal for mothers to be ‘Top Parents’, some may feel displaced and angry if you try to be involved. These feelings must be expressed and negotiated. Help your partner to find other ways of feeling successful and valued.

Sex can be another big issue, here are some facts:

  • For a while, your partner may be reluctant to have penetrative sex or even sex of any kind. This doesn’t mean you now revolt her. Childbirth can be a very painful experience, and her physical discomfort could last for several weeks, if not months.
  • Low sex desire after birth probably has less to do with hormones than with exhaustion – so don’t worry if you experience it too.
  • Low sexual desire often results from suppressed anger; when a person – man or woman – holds on to angry feelings, they often lose touch with sexual feelings.
  • Low sexual desire can also result from feeling unattractive – and lots of new mothers feel fat and unattractive. Depression, too, can lead to low sexual desire.

Although some couples have good, or even great sex throughout the pregnancy, others lose interest or lead separate sex lives. And since our society tells us that ‘real’ men have sex all the time, new fathers can feel threatened if they’re not getting any, and even worse if they don’t want any (and many fathers do go off sex).

Even when one of you doesn’t want sex together, you both still need intimacy. Keep cuddling and kissing and having good chats, without this having to lead to sex. Sex, when it does happen, can be a bonus.

Tips from other fathers:

  • During your working hours, keep in contact with your partner, and get home when you say you will; she may well be counting the minutes.
  • Remember, the father with the best sex lives are often the men whose partners get a lot of sleep.
  • Although your partner may not want sex, she may welcome a cuddle. Recognise the difference between the two.