Why do marriages get out of sync after you become parents? Marriage after Baby can be quarrelsome and fragile. But every day can be Valentine’s, if you learn to babyproof your relationship.
Here, we round up a list of common grouses and ask Chan Hon Shek and Lai Fung Ling, senior counsellors at Touch Family Services for tips to strengthen your marriage.
Wife says: He expects me to do all the chores and night feedings.
Husband says: But she is on maternity leave!
MAKE IT WORK You need to understand that your husband isn’t giving excuses – he is indeed tired after work. But he should also empathise with you – you’re recovering from childbirth and are coping with the demands of breastfeeding. You’re tired, as well.
“Being on maternity leave doesn’t mean that the household and baby duties should fall entirely on the new mum. Husbands still need to share some responsibilities,” Hon Shek says. “This is part of building a home together.”
In most instances, the wife will tend to be less demanding when she sees that her husband is doing chores, he adds. And instead of fuming silently, Fung Ling advises that you tell Hubby what you need help with. Try not to criticise the way he does the chores and thank him after they’re completed.
Remember, conflicts occur because both of you have different expectations, she says. Talk it out. Being clear about your needs prevents and eases tensions.
(Also read: How to get your husband be more involved with baby)
Wife says: Why aren’t you talking to me?
Husband says: Why are you always so angry and impatient now?
MAKE IT WORK Don’t get defensive now. When these questions crop up, it is important for both of you to take a step back and understand each other’s viewpoint, advises Hon Shek.
If you feel that Hubby is less loving now, make an effort to self-reflect. Perhaps it’s true that you’ve been too emotional after having a baby, says Fung Ling.
And husbands, have you been bringing negative emotions home from your stressful work environment?
Again, communication is key in helping your other half understand what you need.
Wife says: He sabotages Baby’s meals and nap times.
Husband says: When I try to help, she says everything I do is wrong!
MAKE IT WORK Your childhood experiences may lead to differences in how you want to bring up your kid, say the counsellors. Ideally, you should work them out before Baby is born. One useful way is to attend parenting workshops.
When you have disagreements, seek advice from a trusted friend – who doesn’t take sides – to help defuse tensions, suggests Hon Shek.
Don’t use an accusatory tone or criticise the way your hubby carries out chores or baby duties, even if they are not done in a manner you prefer, says Fung Ling.
“As long the tasks are completed and do not harm Baby, you should accept it. Give encouraging remarks or suggestions on how it can be done better when he completes it,” she adds.
(Also read: 10 things every new mum should remember)
Wife says: Who’s in the mood for sex?!
Husband says: She has eyes only for the little one.
MAKE IT WORK Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is vital for a strong and happy marriage. Hon Shek has this advice for men: the first step to getting some loving is to lessen your wife’s physical load as much as possible. If she’s overwhelmed by new-mummy duties, think about how you can help with the chores.
For example, plan ahead and prepare all the equipment required for Baby’s next feed. This can free up time, help your wife to relax and in turn, get her in the mood, he says.
Women should also remember that they don’t just have one role – that of a new mum, adds Fung Ling. She is still a wife, a daughter, a sister, a daughter-in-law and a friend, too.
Accept help from your family and friends to help babysit the little one, and make time for your hubby, says Fung Ling.
Wife says: Keep your hands off my tummy. How about we switch off the lights?
Husband says: Err… what’s wrong?
MAKE IT WORK It’s natural for a new mum to feel unattractive in the first few months after birth. Her body has undergone many physical changes, Fung Ling explains.
Men, now’s not the time to stint on expressions of love and affirmation, Hon Shek says. “Verbally affirm her, touch and kiss her. Tell her that she is beautiful, she is a wonderful mother and that you love her… Such words of affirmation are very powerful and can help put a smile on her face,” he suggests.
(Also read: Saggy belly skin after giving birth: What you can do)
Husband says: Let’s go on a date – just you and I.
Wife says: But who’s going to look after Baby?
MAKE IT WORK Applaud your husband’s initiative to ask you out for a date. But a smart man will ensure that his wife’s concerns – such as the housework and reliable childcare arrangements – are sorted out before date night, says Hon Shek.“If not, your wife may be worried and you won’t be able to enjoy your date,” he adds.
Don’t be overambitious. Start with short dates and progressively increase the frequency and length. Adjust to a routine that works for both of you, Fung Ling says.
If you can’t head out, be creative. For instance, after Baby goes to bed, snuggle up on the sofa and catch a late-night movie, Hon Shek suggests.
(Also read: First date night without your baby)
Wife says: I’m thinking of becoming a stay-at-home mum.
Husband says: But you spend so much!
MAKE IT WORK Before you quit your job, sit down and look at your finances together to figure out if this is a feasible decision. Explore other options as well, such as taking unpaid leave, doing part-time work and cutting down on certain expenses, the counsellors advise.
“It is not unusual for the husband to feel worried when the wife first brings this topic up,” Fung Ling shares. “But look at it positively. Not everyone is willing to give up their career for the children.”