Becoming a parent is one of the most significant life transitions we’ll go through. Like any big transition, the journey to parenthood can be a time of growth and connection, and it can also bring stress and uncertainty. For better or worse, most peri-partum couples experience big shifts in the way they relate to one another, and many couples can benefit from couples counseling before their new baby comes along.
Whether you choose to go it alone or seek the help of a licensed counselor, these five conversations will help you grow your connection before you meet your newest family member.
Reflect on How You Were Parented
As you bring a new human into the world, you’ll begin to reflect more on your own childhood– the good, the bad and the ugly. These memories and the emotions that come with them can be particularly intense during pregnancy and postpartum, a time when our hearts are wide open. If you can lean into the vulnerability, this time can be an amazing opportunity for intentional conversations with your partner about who you want to be as parents.
- What are your thoughts on parenting? Discuss your views on feeding (breast v bottle), sleep (Co-sleeping? Cry it out?), discipline and child care. How do you envision the role of extended family?
- Think of a time when you felt very connected to or supported by a parent. What were the circumstances? How did their words or actions help facilitate feelings of emotional safety?
- Think of a time when you felt shamed or hurt by a parent. How might that hurt or shame come up for you as you raise your child? How will you handle things differently?
2. Explore the Logistics of Child-Rearing
Most of us lead full and busy lives. Throw a newborn into the mix- and all the laundry, diapers and extra dishes that come with it- and you can start to feel spread pretty thin. Before the baby poop hits the fan, get ahead of things by sitting down with your partner and discussing how you envision running the day-to-day logistics of your household. This structure will give you something to fall back on when you’re sleep deprived and all you want to do is stare at your sweet new babe.
- Close your eyes and imagine that you’re living an ideal day in the life of new parents. What is your partner doing to keep the household running? What tasks are you no longer able or willing to do?
- What are the two most essential components to creating a space that feels restful to you, and what can you let slide if you need to? For example, maybe clean linens and vacuumed floors are essential, but you can let go of folding your laundry.
3. Communicate Your Intimacy Needs
It’s no secret that parents of newborns experience a huge shift in their intimacy, for a variety of reasons. New moms are recovering from birth, and contending with the very physical work of keeping a tiny baby alive. Doctors recommend waiting at least 6 weeks after a normal vaginal birth before having intercourse, and that timeline could be even longer during a rough recovery. On top of that, both parents will experience shifts in hormones that can impact desire. If sex is off the table, it’s important to find other ways to connect.
- How important is sex to your relationship? What are your expectations around frequency? Who tends to initiate sex more often?
- Think of a time when you felt a strong emotional connection to your partner. What were the circumstances? What words and behaviors did they demonstrate?
- Close your eyes and imagine a romantic moment with your partner (other than sex!). Describe what you see your partner doing and saying. Discuss how you can incorporate these gestures into your daily life.
4. Take the Long View
Parenthood shifts your priorities in huge ways, and even with all your efforts to connect, it can sometimes feel like your relationship takes a back seat. Before the new baby arrives, spend some time envisioning your shared future after your children leave the home. Building this vision together will help you connect the day-to-day drudge work of parenting to your shared goals.
- Close your eyes and imagine your 50th wedding anniversary. Your child gives a toast. What might they say about the family you built together?
- How do you imagine life looking once your children leave the home. What shared interests or activities would you like to engage in with your partner?
5. Tell Your Love Story
Take the time to reflect back on your journey as a couple. Think of this work as nourishment ahead of a long journey. By taking steps to fill your cup, you’ll find it easier to walk together rather than grow apart through this transformative time.
- Think about the beginning of your relationship. What drew you to your partner? What are the qualities that made you realize you could share your life with this person? When did you realize you were in love?
- Imagine that your child asks you how you met. What story will you tell them? What are your fondest memories of that time?
These conversations aren’t easy, and there’s no shame in hitting a few bumps in the road as you explore these emotionally charged and deeply personal topics. If you’re struggling to communicate effectively or find that you’re perpetually in conflict, our team of licensed counselors can help you learn tools to communicate and connect more effectively.