Relationships and Communication

You’ve taken on a new and important job – parenting. It’s a time of learning and adjustment to this new reality of parenthood.

Everyone responds in different ways to the changes that parenthood brings. It’s important for you and your partner to talk about things like how the family chores will be shared, finances, and how you will cope with the changes in your life and relationships

Strategies to Build and Maintain a Strong Relationship

  • Make time for one another. Plan times when you can be alone together without the baby. If possible, arrange for childcare every couple of weeks so that the two of you can go out alone at a time of day when baby is most settled e.g maybe have a ‘date morning’ instead of a ‘date night’ if your baby is more fussy in the evening.
  • Grab brief moments to connect. When your baby is sleeping or feeding, sit together and take a few minutes to talk about your day and spend time together.
  • Show affection. A kiss when your partner comes in the door, a hug as you walk by each other, holding hands while watching TV and telling your partner what you love and appreciate about them, are ways to show affection.
  • Make time for yourself. Make sure that each of you gets time alone to relax and renew.
  • Simplify the household expectations. Prioritize and simplify household chores so that there is more individual and couple time e.g. make easier meals, use a grocery delivery service, hire a dog walker.
  • Recognize that there is no one right way of doing things when caring for baby. Everyone develops their own ways and, as long as safety isn’t a concern, it is okay if your partner does things differently than you.
  • Be specific about your needs. Rather than expecting your partner to know what is wrong and what will help, ask for what you need. For example, saying: “It would really help me if you would bath the baby tonight” gives much more useful information to your partner than “You never help me.”
  • Plan family time. Spend time doing activities with your partner and baby that can also allow you time to connect with each other e.g. going for a walk with the baby, watching a movie at a ‘baby-friendly’ showing, going out to a child friendly café when baby is most settled.


Communication Strategies

When you have conflicts or problems as a couple, it is a good idea to have positive communication strategies to help you work through them, this can then strengthen your relationship.

  • Decide on a specific time and place to talk about any conflicts you may be having. Trying to resolve things when you are upset is usually unsuccessful. The best time may be when your baby is sleeping. Reduce distraction (turn off the TV and put away phones). Tackle only one or two problems at any one time.
  • Define the problem clearly and positively. Avoid criticism, defensiveness, contempt and ignoring/walking away. For example, saying “I know work has been stressful for you lately, but I would really appreciate having a short break from caring for the baby when you get home”, recognizes your partner’s challenges while at the same time addresses your needs. This is much more effective than saying “You never help!”
  • Try to stay focused on the here and now. Do not bring up old issues when you are trying to problem solve.
  • Use “I” Messages. This helps you take ownership of your own feelings and prevents blaming the other person for the problem. Be clear about what you want to focus on. e.g.  “I feel..”,  “I need..” rather than “You never…”, You always…”
  • Try to share responsibility for the problem. Put aside feelings you may have, that the other person is the cause of the problem. Listen carefully to one another.
  • Let each person completely state his or her thoughts. Avoid interrupting one another then check with the other person to be sure you understood what he or she said. Restate what you think they said in your own words.
  • After acknowledging each other’s feelings, together think of as many possible solutions as you can. Don’t criticize each other’s ideas. Gather as many solutions as possible.
  • Think of what would happen if you used each of the alternatives. Together decide which alternative is most likely to succeed.
  • Carry out the plan you agree on. Later evaluate whether or not is working. If not, choose another solution.
  • Acknowledge the efforts you both made in problem-solving. For example ” I know this is hard for us, but I’m glad we were able to work together to figure this out”.




Relationship Intimacy

In most intimate relationships, pregnancy and the birth of a baby can have a big impact on their sexual relationship and intimacy.

Intimacy may be impacted by:
•    The shift of focus to include the presence of the baby in the relationship or space
•    Worries about the timing of the birth, the effect on careers, and independence
•    Worries about managing finances
•    Lifestyle changes necessary to support the new family members
•    Having less time for self
•    Unexpressed fears of the unknown or what is expected of their new roles

After birth, new parents may:
•    Feel more vulnerable and tired and in need of extra support
•    Have a need to talk about the birth experience
•    Be less or more interested in sex than before the pregnancy
•    Have changes in self-confidence due to altered body shape
•    Be concerned about how their partner views their postpartum body
•    Experience conflict in role expectations as both parent and sexual partner
•    Be worried about becoming pregnant again

Partners may:
•     Feel left out as friends and relatives offer advice and support to the birthing parent rather than turning to them
•     Feel not as connected to the baby
•     Be less or more interested in sex than previously
•     Experience conflict in role expectations as both parent and sexual partner
•     Be concerned about their partner’s postpartum body shape and how they may feel about themselves
•     Be worried about their partner becoming pregnant again

Coping strategies to deal with changes in physical intimacy include:

•    Be open about sexual needs to avoid misunderstanding
•    Talk to each other about your feelings, positive or negative
•    Plan ahead about what form of birth control to use, both short term and long term
•    Discuss long-term plans for family size

Physical intimacy doesn’t always have to include intercourse. Until you are ready, explore different ways to show intimacy that don’t involve intercourse (e.g. take a bath together, massage, cuddle).
Intimacy Issues
Sometimes a lack of interest in physical intimacy is a reflection of other issues in the relationship that need to be addressed. These may include common areas of potential relationship conflict (e.g. financial worries, division of household chores, feelings of isolation)
Strategies to address these issues may include:
 •    Talking about what is important in the relationship:
  • how much time they want to spend together
  • how they will share household tasks
  • what are their hopes for their new family
  • what rituals or traditions are important to them

•    Preparing a budget together and getting financial counselling if needed
•    Attending parenting classes together
•    Talking to other couples about their experiences


Family Violence

A new baby means major changes in your life. For some people, these changes can lead to conflict and sometimes to domestic abuse. Abuse is any behaviour used to control someone else by:

  • Pushing, shoving, slapping, punching
  • Threatening to hurt or kill them, their children, or their family pets
  • Damaging their possessions
  • Forcing them to have sex
  • Refusing to talk to them or criticizing them constantly
  • Not giving them money or controlling their money
  • Limiting their contact with friends or family, their children, or a family pet

Abuse often occurs in a cycle. It can begin with tension and verbal abuse, move to physical abuse, and then end with the abuser asking to be forgiven and saying it won’t happen again. This cycle usually repeats itself.

If someone is abusing you:

  • Talk to someone (e.g. a friend, a family member, a public health nurse, or other support person)
  • Call the police and tell them you are in danger
  • Go to your doctor or to Emergency. Tell the healthcare provider how you got hurt. Ask them to write a report.
  • Call your local emergency shelter – anytime day or night. You and your children will be safe there

For information and support:

All types of abuse are against the law. You don’t deserve to be abused, its not your fault.

Safety Plans

  • Keep emergency numbers with you
  • Be ready to leave quickly (keep cash, important documents, and keys in a safe place where you can get to them)
  • Make a plan for your children’s safety
  • Change travel routes and routines
  • Let people know you are not feeling safe. Call a shelter for more safety advice