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New Baby, Changing Marriage: Having a Healthy Partnership as Your Family Expands

Dr. Millie Riss and Courtney Morton, LCSW at Greenleaf Counseling Center are licensed therapists who work with women, couples and families. They help people with struggling with eating disorders, life transitions, parenting concerns in addition to other life issues, such as depression and anxiety. They always offer free one-hour consultations to meet with potential clients about their concerns and discuss how therapy can help.

Having a new baby brings both growth and challenges to a marriage. Parents, especially moms, often say that they are too tired for anything after caring for an infant, not to mention if they are caring for older children as well. Sex drive disappears for many; money goes to diapers, college funds and babysitters; date nights a rare event; and work doesn’t end when you leave the office.

Particularly challenging areas for couples after having a baby include finances, sex and intimacy, time management, parenting issues, and negotiating advice from in-laws and the well-meaning public. Below are some suggestions for how to handle these struggles.

Finances: After hospital fees, diapers, doctor appointments, baby supplies, college savings, and babysitters, what’s left over for you? With all these variables that come with baby’s arrival, it’s important to set a structured budget while giving yourself flexibility and the freedom to make mistakes and learn from your financial experience. Remember, you don’t have to buy everything Babies R Us tells you you need.

Budgets can be helpful, but it’s hard to know exactly what to expect when baby arrives. If you use credit/debit cards, most banks have a program that helps you track what you spend in different categories. This tracking can be a good starting place when first setting up a budget. Where are you spending money now that baby is here, and what changes do you want to make? Having regular times to check in with your partner about the budget can help you stay on the same page and keep you in the black.

Physical and Emotional Intimacy: You just had a baby. You are tired. You are in pain. Your body is not familiar anymore. You may not feel sexy, or you may lack the energy to even contemplate sex. If you struggled with getting pregnant and had to schedule sex to conceive, being spontaneous takes extra effort. Many couples worry when they have a decrease in sex drive, but it is normal and will return, with some work initially for some. After you get the okay from your doctor to have sex again (usually 6 weeks), schedule a date night to commemorate the occasion. Continue to plan regular dates with each other where you spend most of the time talking about things other than baby. In order to cut costs, trade date nights with another couple with a child.

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