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Health Matters

10 Tips for New Parents

July 13th, 2010

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Nurturing your relationship while caring for young children can indeed be a challenge. However, if you only focus on child-care, house chores and errands, you are risking becoming room-mates or business partners rather than lovers. Therefore, your relationship must be nurtured on a regular basis.

1. Make the relationship a top priority.

 If you have a newborn or a couple of kids at home, you may experience life as a whirlwind. You are probably just getting by every day and you may be tired or even frustrated at times. Your kids likely take first priority and then there may be other things that need your attention. So even though your relationship cannot always be a top priority, you need to make sure it is one of the top three things on your list and that, from time to time, it does take first priority.

2. Take care of yourself.

If you don’t take care of yourself you will have little energy for your partner or the relationship. It is important to set aside some private time for yourself and engage in activities that make you feel good, such as exercise or enjoying time with friends, so you are well both physically and emotionally. When you feel good about yourself you are more likely to feel good and have more energy and interest in the relationship. This is also true when you are caring for children. You have to take care of you first. And if that’s not convincing enough, did you know that lionesses feed themselves before they feed their cubs? It is true!

3. Aspire to achieve at least a 5:1 positive to negative interaction ratio.

 Dr. John Gottman from the University of Washington in Seattle has researched couples for over 30 years and has found that stable and happy couples were characterized by having at least a 5:1 positive to negative interaction ratio. For every one negative interaction such as criticism or complaint, there were at least five positive interactions, such as words of appreciation, affection or compliments. A word of caution: don’t overdo it and keep it honest. If you say things you don’t mean your partner is likely to perceive you as fake or cynical. This may result in more distance in the relationship.

4. Learn to de-escalate tense situations.

 The key to dealing with tense situations is for each partner to learn how to take turns in de-escalating it through the use of humor, taking responsibility for actions, clarifying and apologizing. If you are using humor, it should not be on your partner’s expense but yours. Self-humor is likely to de-escalate a tense situation whereas a joke on your partner’s expense is likely lead to more hard feelings and alienation. To create the feeling of mutuality and fairness in the relationship it is best if both partners share the responsibility for de-escalation.

5. Remind yourself of things you love and appreciate in each other.

Don’t assume that they know you love them or that they remember that you appreciate their great organizing skills. It is always great to hear that you do. Hearing your partner talk about you lovingly and with appreciation can give a boost to your self-esteem and is a great aphrodisiac! Again, be honest and don’t overdo it or your partner will perceive the opposite and may be put off by your efforts.

6. Spend quality and fun time together.

While it can be a challenge for new parents, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to actually spend quality, fun time together as a couple. Quality time, as opposed to spending time going over the budget, running errands or performing house-chores, is time when you two connect on an emotional level, in a positive way. Sex counts too, provided you’re both having fun and feel emotionally connected.

7. Talk about your goals and dreams.

Make the time to sit down together and take turns in telling each other your goals and dreams. When you are listening to your partner avoid dismissing, ridiculing or deeming their dreams unrealistic. It is important to listen with an open mind and with curiosity. Clarifying questions are okay, but make sure you are not cynical. You may find that you share some of your goals and dreams while others you do not, and that’s normal. Your partner will feel listened to, validated and important; all of which are great relationship-boosters.

8. Make special gestures.

Making a special gesture means that you are going out of your way to do something that your partner considers special to let them know that you’ve thought about them and that you love them. Examples are: cooking a special meal, buying their favorite wine or coffee, letting them sleep in on Sunday morning while you take care of the kids, chores, etc., giving them a foot rub. The main thing is that it is your partner who will enjoy and appreciate the gesture. Once again, the rule of reciprocity applies. Not in a tit-for-tat kind of way but making sure that it is not only one partner that makes all the gestures is important.

9. Express your love for each other in as many ways as you can think of.

Whether you are an eloquent poet or can’t put more than 2 words together on paper, your loved one doesn’t care as long as you tell them you love them on a regular basis. In the daily grind, partners may forget to express love to each other. But the practice of expressing love on a regular basis has been shown to be one of the most important building blocks of romantic relationships. Here are a few ideas: love notes, Stevie Wonders type phone calls: “I just called to say I love you”, love SMSs, voice messages, drawing a red heart on the bathroom mirror (you may use lipstick for that), one red rose with or without a note or hugging your loved one and whispering in their ear. Everyone yearns to be loved and likes to hear that they are. If you feel a bit awkward in the beginning that’s normal. Keep at it and you’ll become a natural. Your partner will thank you!

10. Touch each other affectionately, not only during sex.

One of the most common complaints I hear from couples and especially from women, is that they do not get enough affectionate touch like hugging, kissing, holding hands, cuddling or caressing, except when their partner wants to have sex. As humans, we thrive on touch and it brings us emotionally closer. If you’re only touching each other during sex you are both missing out on one of the greatest ingredients that make a loving relationship. While affectionate touching may sometimes lead to sex, if you’re only touching during sex then the moment you start touching your partner knows immediately what your intentions are and, sometimes, this may create some resentment. It is also a good idea to create a bit of anticipation and mystery in the relationship: “is this touch going to lead to lovemaking or not?” So touch each other affectionately as much as you like; it’s free, it feels good and it’s a great relationship-enhancer.

Dr. Michal Regev is a Registered Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist in Vancouver, B.C. who has worked with couples for over 15 years.

Tags: Babies, Books, Toys

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