Oh the power of a well-placed break. A short powernap on a long workday. Intermission at a play. The seventh inning stretch. How about the nine month stretch?
Transition to parenthood is challenging. Research shows that two thirds of all couples will experience a precipitous drop in marital satisfaction following the birth of a baby.
Those cute little bundles make us so happy and fill us with love and delight, but also stress us out which can make us and our partners irritable; our communication breaks down and we find ourselves not working together as a cohesive unit. Believe it or not, this is super common and pretty ‘normal’. But it’s still icky. Luckily, it’s also avoidable.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of satisfying relationships. Go out of your way to talk with your partner several times throughout each day. Inquiring about how they are doing and what’s on their mind; you’ll be letting your partner know that he or she is a priority and that you care about them.
If you really want to give your bond a boost, be sure to avoid negativity and criticism and instead compliment your partner for something that they did right. ‘Thank you for changing peanut’s poopie diaper. Thank you for picking up dinner. Thank you for helping me edit my blog post.’ (Luv you hunny!)
Recognizing, appreciating and commenting favorably on your partners contributions will increase the emotional connection between you and also increase the likelihood that they will help again in the future (hint hint!).
For those conversations that get off to a bad start, well, that is where the well placed break makes all the difference. Couples guru, Dr. John Gottman, recommends that if the first few of minutes of a conversation or argument are met with criticism, your best course of action is to take a break from the conversation for a little while. Collectively agree to separate for twenty minutes or more, with an agreed upon time to come back together and try again.
For an effective break that leads to great resolution:
- DON’T use the break as an opportunity to let your frustration fester and conjure up all the retorts that you wished you said earlier
- DON’T use your break as a way to avoid your partner
- DO use your time to relax and emotionally calm down
- DO make sure you feel calm and composed before resuming the conversation
Employing effective breaks will greatly enhance your ability to approach the subject matter with a clearer head and be more creative in your problem solving and compromising.
Expectant and new parents can learn and develop these and other relationship boosting tips at Bringing Baby Home workshops. You, your partner and peanut will be glad that you did.
That’s a wrap.
Dr. Alyssa Berlin is a prenatal and postpartum clinical psychologist. Dr. Berlin works specifically with women and their partners on issues such as anxiousness and emotional fluctuation during pregnancy, postpartum blues and depression, and the complex issues that can arise between and around new and expectant parents.
Preventatively, Dr. Berlin offers the internationally acclaimed Bringing Baby Home workshop once a month, which utilizes a series of exercises and discussions aimed at helping new parents avoid the typical pitfalls and relationship discord that can often accompany the birth of a new baby.
You can read Dr. Alyssa’s blog on the Huffington Post where she contributes to PBS’s ‘This Emotional Life” project.
Dr. Berlin received her doctorate at Argosy University in Atlanta, GA, went on to become a certified Gottman educator and is a member of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Alyssa and her husband, prenatal chiropractor Dr. Elliot Berlin live in Los Angeles and are the proud parents of four amazing children.
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