Intimacy: While sex can be a battlefield after babies are born, we can limit the impact of differing desires, first, by understanding that hormonal shifts in women post-birth, especially those who breastfeed, can lower sex drives. So let's add patience and compassion to our sexual expectations. It's also important to stay intimate, even without full-on sex. Don't short-change quick connections: a loving look, a tender touch, a kind word and, if you can swing it, some degree of sexual intimacy. Before your baby arrives, discuss how you want to be with each other if intimacy/sex becomes a challenge.
Choice: Though we're not usually taught how to communicate, turns out there's a slew of choices we can make about how to begin conversations, especially those about touchy subjects. Since nine out of ten conversations end how they begin, consider starting chats gently: don't blame; speak from an "I" place and avoid the word "you"; try the I'm-not-a-know-it-all mode, by using less adamant phrases, like "I'm not sure..." or "My best guess is..."; and get curious before making suggestions by asking open-ended questions (those that begin with "what" or "how").
Endurance: Turns out, 70% of relationship issues are ongoing; meaning, they won't ever go away. (Yes, you read that correctly!) In the absence of resolution, the goal is to identify recurrent problems, avoid them, or resolve them quickly without dragging in toxins. Before babies arrive, spend time listing what you and your spouse consider your enduring, recurrent problems and, together, brainstorm suggestions for how to avoid them, and how to limit their longevity if they make an appearance.
If it isn't obvious, I could write an article about each of these techniques and it's likely I will! So if you're feeling daunted, not to worry. It takes PRACTICE to integrate new ways of communicating into our relationships, just as it takes practice to navigate the learning curve of becoming parents.
As long as we remember patience and compassion for ourselves, for our spouses, and for the relationships we craft together, we're on the right path.
And if you suspect that these approaches remain useful after your baby's first year – or for couples without kids – you're primed to give your relationship the attention it needs and deserves, now and in the future.
Rhona Berens, PhD, CPCC is a professional Relationship coach and founder of Parent Alliance®, a resource for expectant couples and parents with young children who are committed to ensuring their relationships thrive after they have kids. Rhona received her training from the Coaches Training Institute and the Center for Right Relationship and is accrediated by The International Coach Federation. She is mom to a pre-schooler and will be welcoming her second child this summer. From her office in Los Angeles, Rhona coaches couples across North America.
Copyright © Rhona Berens. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.