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In this guest post from Oregon Counselor Associate and Core Values Counseling team member, Josie Self, we explore what the Gottmans have to say about tending to your relationship once your little bundle arrives.


A baby changes everything


In our last post, we talked about how bringing a baby home is one of the most transformational experiences a couple can have. In fact, many couples experience drastic shifts in their relationship including increased conflict, decreased intimacy, less time together, less sleep, and new questions about goals and values which may not have seemed so important before. 

Today, we’re taking a look at three more steps recommended by Drs. John and Julie Gottman to help you navigate this period (we discussed steps 1-3 in the previous blog post). All of this is detailed in the Gottmans’ book, And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives

For more specifics on each step, we highly recommend reading the Gottmans’ book.


Step four: “Savor each other by building a strong friendship and a zesty sex life.”


Sexually satisfied couples prioritize friendship and make sex a priority. Simply put, no friendship = no passion.

You might be wondering how to work on your friendship, practically speaking. Building and maintaining friendship includes updating love maps, appreciation, and admiration.

You might have heard of a tool we love called the Gottman Card Decks. In it, you’ll find lots of questions to ask one another about your sex life. But one question to focus on really sincerely with your partner is, “What actually feels good to me now?” 

We also highly recommend Emily Negoski’s book, Come As You Are (and we love the accompanying workbook). It’s important to understand each others’ brakes and accelerators. What are the stressors which slow down progress toward sexual intimacy, and what are the factors that bring you closer?


Step five: “Add warm fathering to the mix.”


Research from the Gottmans has found that, “When Mom is unhappy, her baby does not retreat. The same is not true for Dad. A child tends to withdraw emotionally from a father who is unhappy in his relationship with Mom—a tragic gulf grows between him and his child.”

Today’s fathers are more involved than ever in their children’s lives, but even so, at the outset, fathers often feel pushed out by the support system that seems to almost magically fall into place around Mom when the new baby arrives. It’s easy for dads to feel sidelined.

Cultural stereotypes die hard, and the ones that paint fathers as useless, unnurturing, aloof, absent, and irrelevant still persist. Dads who actively push back against that stereotype are a) more common today than you may realize and b) totally doing the right thing. (Great job, dads!)

A recent study shows that kids whose fathers were warm and emotionally engaged grow up to have better adult social lives (think relationships, friendships, and community) than those whose dads showed less warmth.

What’s more, a father’s skill in playing games like peekaboo and tossing a ball around with his kid leads that child to have a higher intellect. Who knew a game of catch could be so important!

Bottom line: Dad’s emotional accessibility and responsiveness is key. Harsh and punitive fathering directly impacts children’s intellect and social functioning. The warmer the father, the stronger and healthier the kid.


Step six: “Create an enriching legacy.”


As the Gottmans say, “Bake the bread of legacy.” In other words, it’s important that we seek meaning beyond ourselves and our simple existence. 

Look for goals and values you want to champion in your family, alongside your partner. Usually, this involves a shift of goals and values from personal history to family legacy. When a baby is introduced, which parents’ set of goals and values becomes the default? Couples must create SHARED meaning.

Routines of daily life aren’t enough for satisfied couples, they want more. They want a family with substance that nourishes their souls and that of their children. 

To do this, you can consciously make the shift from “Me to we.”

You’re not alone

As we said in our last post, changes in your relationship are normal after introducing a baby. If your relationship feels harder as a new parent, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone — most couples in your situation feel this way, too. With some intentional work and time, your relationship will not only heal but flourish.

If you’d like dedicated help navigating the world of your relationship postpartum, we’d love to help. Contact us today to get started.