For every woman, pregnancy is a time of staggering upheaval – physical, mental and emotional. Intense joys can be followed by crashing lows, and your baby will become your foremost concern, especially as your due date draws closer.
If you’re in a relationship, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is a crucial period for yourself and your partner. Whilst it’s both easy and natural for your pregnancy take center stage at this time, it’s important to sustain your relationship outside of the baby. This may take some effort… but it’s worth it!
Remember, once the baby’s born, your lives will be turned upside down and romance may well play second fiddle for a while. Use this time to nurture your relationship, and give you and your partner the best possible foundation for the roller coaster months (and years) ahead.
#1 Promise To Communicate
We so often expect our partners to be mind-readers. When you’re pregnant, this can happen more often than not. Your raging hormones can leave you overly-emotional and difficult to talk to. Your partner is likely to feel baffled or hurt, and may react by shutting down, getting defensive, or worst of all, by ignoring the situation completely.
Right from the outset, make a firm promise to each other that you will communicate (out loud!) how you’re feeling, especially when those feelings threaten to overwhelm. Bottling things up is dangerous and bad for your stress levels.
And don’t forget that he’s experiencing upheaval, too. “You can’t possibly understand!” is an unfair gibe, and will only cause distress. Although he may not be in your skin, he’s running a gamut of conflicting emotions himself, and needs your understanding as much as you need his.
If you’re upset, avoid placing blame. Just state how you feel and what will help you feel better. Encourage your partner to open up, too. Don’t be shy about expressing your needs, however irrational they seem. Regular communication is key to keeping your connection strong, and will help continue the collaborative relationship necessary for parenting.
#2 Keep Intimacy Going
Go on date nights and have regular sex. Yes, we’ve all heard it many times! And when you’re bloated, cranky and exhausted, it may be the last thing you want to hear.
However, being intimate is a habit, just like any other, and once abandoned, you may struggle to bring it back. Intimacy stimulates oxytocin, the so-called “bonding hormone”, which is as crucial to your well-being in a relationship as it is to your contractions in labor!
Remember that intimacy doesn’t always have to mean sex, as wonderful as that is. Just be loving, whenever you can. Cuddle up to watch a film, or send an affectionate message – small gestures are just as powerful when it comes to strengthening your bond.
#3 Have An Adventure Together
Whether it’s a romantic getaway, or just exploring a new part of town, planning something new and fun together will take your mind off the baby and on each other – if only for a while.
#4 Organize Your Finances
Nothing strains a relationship between partners more predictably than financial worries. Having a child is an enormous responsibility, and looming costs such as childcare or the implications of maternity leave can seem terrifying.
Just remember at all times that you are a team! Sit down together to plan your budget, down to the last detail. Be entirely forthright and realistic about your necessary outgoings, and don’t spend money without the agreement of the other.
Recognize ways you can save when your child is a baby – second-hand clothes, gifts, etc. – and set up a savings plan to help cover the bigger costs when your child is older (e.g., college tuition). Take it one step at a time, and always keep each other in the loop.
#5 Don’t Leave Him Out!
Are you getting the lion’s share of attention? This is entirely understandable. You’re the one carrying the baby, and all eyes are focused on your belly. The dad-to-be can often feel somewhat sidelined, so be aware and try to keep him involved at every step.
This means more than just bringing him along to ultrasounds – include him in your baby shower, get him to touch your belly… even talk to it, if he likes! Ask him about his hopes and dreams for the baby, and share your own.
Above all, try to remember that this is such a special, unique time for both of you. It goes so much faster than you realize. Challenges notwithstanding, this is a wonderful time to deepen your bond and forge a relationship that’s stronger than ever before.
Harriet Pappenheim, LCSW, BCD, has over 30 years’ experience in relationship and couple therapy. She is a founding therapist of Park Avenue Relationship Consultants (PARC), a group of expertly trained clinicians based in New York City, specializing in couple therapy, family therapy and marriage counseling. She is the author of For Richer For Poorer: Keeping Your Marriage Happy When She’s Making More Money , as well as a publisher of numerous scientific papers on psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and couple therapy. She has also been featured on national radio, Good Morning America and the Today Show. You can contact Harriet on 212.289.0295, or via the PARC website.
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