A Father's

Communicating With Your Spouse

Nearly all new parents experience a drop in the quality of their communication. Half the time it’s permanent. Here are some of the factors that researchers have found contribute to this decline in couples' communication skills:

"A new child deprives a couple of many of the mechanisms they once used to manage differences," says researcher Jay Belsky. For example, a couple that had disagreements about who did what around the house might solve the problem by getting a housekeeper. But once the baby arrives, strained finances preclude a cleaning person and the once-painless who-does-what disagreements now need to be confronted

The lack of spontaneity. Before your baby was born, if you wanted to go see a movie or even just sit around and talk, you could just do it. But now, as parents, you don't have that luxury. If you want to go out, you have to get a sitter a day or so in advance, make sure the baby is fed, be back at a certain time.

Physical exhaustion. Even if you stay home together with your partner, there's a better then even chance you'll be too tired to stay awake for an entire conversation.

There's a general decline in intimacy-promoting activities such as sex, hanging out with friends, etc.

With so much of time and energy focused on your baby, you and your partner may find that your pool of common interests is shrinking fast.

There's a lot less time and money left to pursue individual interests and activities outside the home. As a result, many new parents find that their communications skills have "rusted." They don't have nearly as many new things to talk about and they've lost (partially, at least) the ability to hear and understand each other.

If you or your partner has left the workplace, you've lost a lot of conversation topics—now there are only half as many stories to tell about the people at the office.

How to keep your communication on track:

  • Get a family calendar. This can keep double-booking and scheduling miscommunications to a minimum.
  • Set aside at least fifteen minutes a day to talk about things other than the baby. Sounds easy, but it’s harder than you think.
  • Go out on dates with your partner. Getting time alone with your partner is absolutely critical to the long-term health of your marriage. Get a sitter if you can, or ask friends or relatives to step in. You might also want to set up an informal baby-sitting cooperative with a few other parents in your neighborhood; they need to get out as much as you and your partner do.
  • Do something special for each other, but be flexible and understanding. If you've made surprise plans and your partner is too exhausted, it doesn't mean she doesn't love you. Try again another night or put the "surprise" on the calendar.
  • Schedule sex. Sounds incredibly unromantic, but just having the big S on the calendar may actually make it more fun.... And anyway, if you're still interested, this may be the only way it's going to happen.
  • If your partner is at home with the baby during the day, try to give her some time when she can be completely alone every day, when she doesn't have to take care of anyone but herself.
  • Don't blame the baby for your troubles. Too many couples interpret their communication problems as a sign that the baby pushed them apart and that they shouldn't have become parents in the first place.
  • Talk to other people. Hook up with other couples with kids to find out what they've been through, what works and what doesn't. You might also join a new parents- or new fathers group.

©2012, Armin Brott

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It's clear that most American children suffer too much mother and too little father. - Gloria Steinem

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Blueprint for Men's Health: A guide to a health lifestyle, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner and Father for Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts “Positive Parenting”, a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com

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