Reimagine your relationship: How to reorient your marriage after you become parents

Written by Brittany Bergman
Published on November 27, 2020

Becoming a parent for the first time creates a sense of emotional whiplash. Seemingly overnight, your priorities shift, your whole life is rearranged, and your identity is transformed. 

One of the areas where I felt that whiplash most acutely was in my marriage. 

Suddenly my husband and I no longer had hours of time and undivided attention to give one another. Every conversation we had seemed to revolve around the baby—her eating and pooping habits, specifically. 

I was consumed with anxiety and grief, and although I felt like I should be putting my husband first, I biologically could not. The tiny human who needed to eat every three hours, who wailed and cried all day long, required me physically and emotionally.

Who are we? I often wondered. Where did the old us go? Will we ever be the same?

Underneath all those questions was this one: 

Are we going to be okay?

If you, too, find yourself feeling dizzy and unmoored after welcoming a baby into your family, consider these three ways to reorient your marriage. (And rest assured that what you’re experiencing is normal!)

1. Grieve the past, and be grateful for what it taught you 

Whether you were married for eleven months or eleven years before you started having children, you have a shared history with your partner. It’s okay to grieve the parts of that history that feel especially inaccessible—relaxed dinners, random date nights, unbroken sleep, uninterrupted conversation.

But you don’t have to feel guilty that life doesn’t look like that right now. Consider instead what you can be grateful for about your history together. 

  • What did it teach you about communication and teamwork? 
  • What foundation did it lay for love and security? 
  • What did it reveal about your partner’s character? 

You can be grateful for the past while also grieving its loss and holding on to hope for the future.

2. Reach for each other in the present 

When well-meaning people gave me marriage advice while I was engaged to my husband, I got the impression that my relationship with him was all or nothing. I was either giving him every bit of my attention or I was failing. I was either putting him first every single minute or I was a bad wife. 

So when I suddenly had no choice but to prioritize my baby’s needs—and my own—I felt like I was doing something wrong.

I missed our easy and familiar sense of companionship, but I found that even amid the craziness of being a new parent, I could find small and simple ways to stay connected. I could make eye contact over the head of our screaming baby or hold his hand on the couch where we had collapsed to watch Netflix. I could share my worries and fears and invite him into the loneliest parts of new motherhood.

Consider some small ways you can reach for each other right now: share a private giggle about your toddler’s tantrum, reach out for a hug after a particularly hard night, or simply take five minutes before you go to bed to share the best and worst parts of your day.

These tiny moments of connection and shared joy will allow you to find each other again once the initial storm of new parenthood has passed.

3. Visualize your future

Humans thrive when they have something to look forward to—even if that imagined future may never come to pass. It’s the act of creating anticipation and possibility that grounds us in hope.

So dream big with your partner! 

  • What destination is at the top of your list for your first kid-free trip? 
  • What restaurant will you visit the first night your child spends the night at Grandma’s house? 
  • What do you envision doing as a family when your child is a toddler, a kindergartner, a high schooler? 
  • What experiences and adventures will you have? 
  • Who will you be as a family?

The first few years with children are incredibly demanding, and since it’s all we’ve ever known of parenthood, it seems like it will always be this way. But based on what I’ve heard from friends who have older children, I feel confident that it won’t. 

Kids don’t stay little forever; this season with small kids is a blip on the timeline of our marriages.

One final thing

As you envision your future together, I encourage you to reimagine your relationship. You are both fundamentally different people now. You don’t have to become the couple you were when you were dating or first married in order to have a good marriage. 

Instead, embrace who you are as people and as a couple now, and allow yourselves to keep changing and growing together.

Live perfectly imperfect

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Brittany Bergman

Brittany L. Bergman is an author who is passionate about telling stories that provide refreshment, connection, and encouragement to mothers who don’t want to lose sight of their identity. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Dan, their two children, and their rescue dog. Her first book, Expecting Wonder, is about the spiritual transformation that makes us mothers. You can connect with her on Instagram or through her email list.

Read more about Brittany

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