If you’re feeling a little disconnected from your partner these days, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that about 67 percent of couples experience a decline in relationship satisfaction in the first three years of a baby’s life and this often persists into subsequent years.


Though many couples are over the moon about their new bundle of joy, they also struggle with work-life balance, loneliness, financial stress, friendship changes, more chores, and minimal free time. One study revealed that working couples felt their daily workload increased by four hours each day after they had a baby, not to mention the sleep deprivation which, research suggests, also greatly diminishes your ability to stay positive, communicate and manage your emotions.

Couples notice a 40 percent increase in arguments after having a baby, and two-thirds of these couples admitted these were often "silly" arguments caused by stress or exhaustion.

But there’s hope.

By committing to science-backed tiny actions that bond, repair and boost a relationship, couples can avoid unnecessary arguments as well as a "silent drift apart after baby."

These "micro-behaviors" (that often take two minutes or less), can protect your relationship from stress and grow it to the next level:

1. Make greetings and goodbyes count

Have you ever walked in the door only to hear your partner bark, "You forgot to take out the garbage!" Researcher Bill Doherty argues that the most important moment in your marriage is “the moment of reunion” when you greet each other.

He suggests that if you consistently greet each other well, you will maintain a sense of excitement about seeing each other. Set out to greet your partner with a positive comment like, “Morning, beautiful!” or, "So happy waking up with you!" or, “Thanks for watching the kids all day!” or, "Wow, you made a great dinner and painted with the kids this afternoon? You're my superhero."

During goodbyes, try something warm and gracious like, “I’ll miss you today,” or “Thanks for working hard for our family today.”

2. Stir up some oxytocin

Parents are often so busy snuggling their kids they forget to snuggle each other. Touching releases the feel-good neurochemical oxytocin (nicknamed “the bonding hormone”), so hug, kiss, or put your hand on your partner’s shoulder.

Hugs also help you buffer stress, help you avoid getting sick, relax you, and boost your mood. Research suggests that people feel more loving and affectionate toward their partner when they cuddle.

This simple act also inspires feelings of love, happiness, comfort, satisfaction, bonding and feeling appreciated. Cuddling is a time when many people go deeper in conversation and talk about relationships, the future, work or school, and friends and family.

3. Complete kind gestures and surprises

When participants in a relationship study were asked, “What two things do you like best about your relationship?” they mentioned small words, gestures and actions—like having their partner cook a meal for them.

A thoughtful holiday card, pouring a partner's coffee, a surprise breakfast in bed, letting a partner sleep in, ironing a partner's work clothes for the week, buying a partner their favorite food at the grocery store, or even playing a partner's favorite music add up to create goodwill between you.

Marriage researcher John Gottman found that there need to be five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative for a relationship to be stable. Kind gestures are the perfect way to achieve what he calls "the magic ratio."

4. Thank your partner at least once a day

Thank your partner via text message, post-it note, comment or card. Each day, pinpoint one thing about your partner that you're grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful “booster shot” for romantic relationships.

Gratitude predicts how happy someone will be in their marriage, improves levels of commitment to a marriage , improves the quality of intimate relationships , and makes it more likely that partners will stay together over time. Gratitude even guards and protects against the negative effects of arguing.

5. Send positive text messages throughout the day

Researcher Lori Schade and colleagues found that while aimless texting or arguing over texts can hurt a relationship, using text messages to express affection enhances relationships and creates a stronger partner attachment.

Sending a loving text is even more strongly related to relationship satisfaction than receiving one. Try sending your partner texts with compliments, happy memories, flirtatious phrases, activities you're looking forward to, positive "Yes!" moments, or kind hearted jokes.

6. Go to bed at the same time as your partner, at least a few nights a week

Go to bed at the same time as your partner at least a few nights a week, with time to talk, connect, cuddle and be intimate before falling asleep. Researchers found that couples whose wake and sleep patterns were similar had less conflict, spent more time in conversation and had more sex than couples who had different sleep schedules.

Plus, going to bed at the same time makes female partners interpret daytime partner interactions more positively the next day.

When couples talk after sex—“pillow talk”—oxytocin can make it more likely that partners will disclose positive feelings for each other. Remember to keep your phone out of the bedroom, as looking at your phone while talking to your partner can lower relationship satisfaction.

Relationships after having a baby are tough. But there are simple ways to stay connected that will help you thrive as a couple and as a family.

Renee Leanna/Facebook

Another week has come and gone—and while there's still a chill in the air and (quite possibly), January is finally coming to an end. How did your first month of the new decade go, Mama?

It's okay if 2020 hasn't been your year so far, because there are still 11 months left to go to make 2020 the #yearofthemother in your own life. If your New Year's resolution is already old news, set a new goal for yourself and catch up on some of the new stories taking over the internet.

Here's what went viral in the world of parenthood this week.

Keep reading Show less
News