When a new baby comes home, it can truly wreak havoc on a relationship – even one that was previously solid. Research done by the Gottman Institute shows that 2/3 of couples report significant decline in satisfaction up to three years of having a baby. Being happy often takes a backseat to just surviving! Yet, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to know what may be short term "baby blues" and what may be a more significant issue with a longer lasting effect on your partnership. Here a 5 signs that couples counseling could be beneficial to both your relationship and your own happiness:
You don't talk to each other anymore (or when you do, it's often negative)
Once communication deteriorates, it can be really challenging to get back on track. Sometimes not talking is just the tip of the iceberg. Negative communication - anything that makes one or both partners feel shamed, judged or insecure - can cause long term discourse over time and lead to divorce. A counselor or marriage coach can be really beneficial in helping you learn positive communication strategies, discuss big issues and connect again. You can take steps on your own as well. Scheduling a daily "stress reducing conversation" with one another can also open the path to rekindling your relationship. Take 15-20 minutes each day to focus on each other, be affectionate, hug, smile and just enjoy each other.
Affection - you either aren't feeling it or aren't getting it
Marriage is the ultimate two way street - and a new baby can be like a train crashing through. If you aren't affectionate or getting the affection you desire during this stage of parenthood, then it's very likely that your partner feels the same way. If you're hoping that your partner will become more affectionate, you'll have to do the same. Take time to flirt, touch and be playful with your partner. Share your feelings about the affection, or lack of, and brainstorm with your partner ways that you could be more affectionate to each other. If things still don't improve or if there may be an underlying reason for the decrease in affection, then a counselor can help you identify, discuss and work through those issues together.
You're keeping secrets or being unfaithful
This is a no-brainer, but if you feel you can no longer be honest, are thinking of having an affair, or have had one already, then that's a big sign that you're not happy and desire something different. Spend some time thinking about what is missing and discussing it with your partner now. While it is possible to work through an affair and preserve the marriage, it is far more prudent to seek help before it happens.
You've got the blues - or suspect you are suffering from depression
According to research, couples counseling has shown to be as effective - if not more than - psychopharmacological treatment for depression. Marital issues have been strongly correlated to depression in both men and women, and thus improving a marriage can also improve symptoms of depression and raise levels of both individual and couple happiness.
All long term relationships will experience difficulty at some point. Couples counseling provides the opportunity for growth and change. Solid relationships are necessary for long term happiness of both partners, but this is especially true during pregnancy and after a new baby arrives. If you suspect your relationship could use a few tweaks, be sure to check out our services page here.
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Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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