Where Did the Spark Go?

couple joined hands

Where Did the Spark Go When the Baby Arrived?

Have you noticed a change in your relationship with your partner since your baby arrived? Perhaps the passion is not as passionate – the flame merely a spark and the romance postponed until tomorrow, or the next day, or…the day after that. Are you so tired and by the time you get to bed that the thought of anything other than sleep seems unbearable? Do you wonder what’s happened to the passion and if your relationship with your partner will survive? Be comforted – you are not alone 

Throughout this developmental stage of becoming parents, couples re-define their relationship. There are not many events in life that challenge people as intensely as the transition from COUPLE to FAMILY and from PARTNER to PARENT. 

I invite you to pause for a moment and consider the changes that may have occurred since your beautiful bundle arrived:

• Sleep deprivation

• Hormonal changes (need I say more?)

• Transformation of the woman’s body (and perhaps the partner’s – if both of you ate for two)

• Role re-definition

• Relationship changes

• Less/different couple time

• Changes in your sexual relationship (perhaps decreased sexual desire/contact)

• Reduction of income

• Increased responsibility

While this is a time of great celebration, it is also a time of far reaching change. Being aware of the changes and the feelings that accompany those changes and sharing them with your partner in a way that allows both of you to be vulnerable, yet willing to tolerate change, is the key to maneuvering this normal developmental stage. It is a process! Not a one-time event. In reality we become parents overnight, however, we must also recognize that parenthood is a lifelong journey.

So what about the dimming spark? Is it an accurate reflection of the quality of the relationship between couples learning the parenthood dance? And what, if energy permitted, could re-ignite the spark – and keep the home fires burning?

A commitment to discussing the changes in your relationship, an honest expression of feelings without assignment of blame, or expectation for repair for what feels wrong, is a good place to start. Most people want to be good parents and when confronted with the reality of that job description get so focused on being good parents that they forget how also to be good partners. Sometimes they lose sight of how important their partner really is to them. It is much easier to be a good parent when you have the support of someone who matters to you. Balancing the needs of your couple relationship with the needs of your new baby is an investment not only in your couple relationship, but also in your baby’s emotional health. So what can you do to balance these often competing needs?

• Recognize the developmental stage your relationship is in.

• Be honest with yourself and with your partner about what you need and how you feel.

• Find expression for every part of yourself – not just the parental parts.

• Remember that parenthood is a process – you became a parent overnight, but you embody the role of parent over a lifetime.

• You are allowed to make mistakes

• Remember that one of the things you have to offer your child is the model of a healthy couple relationship – a model based on honesty, integrity, intimacy, imperfection, apology, patience and compassion.

• Take heart as you embrace the many challenges of parenthood and know that you are not alone.

Be kind to yourself and to the one you have chosen to chart this course with. Give that person the benefit of the doubt assuming that they are every bit as confident and confused as you are. The developmental stage you are in will not last forever and before long you will find yourself wondering when you should add another dancer to the dance.

While you contemplate the enormity of your role as parent, I encourage you to find time to demonstrate the importance of your couple relationship. And before you add another dancer to your family, rekindle the flames in your relationship by taking your valentine out for a dance.

Originally written for “The Mom & Caregiver” Magazine in February 2005
by Elizabeth Lacey