Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and terrifying phases in a couple’s relationship. On one hand, you’re celebrating milestones and preparing for a new life. On the other, you’re experiencing hormonal changes and stressing out about the the pregnancy or the rest of your life with an additional family member.
Society often talks about the difficulties of pregnancy for women: fatigue, mood swings, joint pain. We’ve even explored the changes that expectant fathers experience. What we fail to address is the difficulty of navigating the relationship of expectant mothers and fathers in the midst of so many changes. Without special care, these emotions and transitions lead to attitudes and actions that lay a rocky foundation for life after pregnancy. It also can negatively impact the health of your new baby.
Research reported in Newsweek shows that children whose mothers had high stress during pregnancy “exhibit[ed] heightened levels of anxiousness compared to other children.” They also may have a weaker immune system, according to March of Dimes.
Don’t fall into patterns that can cause emotional and physical harm in your relationship.
Set these ground rules to minimize stress in your partnership and to create an environment of spousal support
There’s an old adage about what happens when you make assumptions. Suffice it to say that assuming isn’t productive. You create an (often incorrect) story about a situation and then act as if that story is 100% true. Whenever you hear a thought that starts with “I bet…” or “He/she probably…”, opt to ask your partner directly.They are coming from a good place, more often than not. Assumptions breed bitterness unnecessarily instead of fostering support during the pregnancy.
Give yourself space
This advice is true of any partnership, but it’s especially noteworthy in pregnancy, as hormones are changing rapidly. The best part of a strong partnership is the security you have in the relationship. You should be comfortable spending time alone, knowing that you’ll come back as an even better partner. Show spousal support by encouraging your partner to participate in hobbies he or she enjoys or to treat him or herself to whatever quiet time he/she finds most beneficial. That could be yoga, a facial, a walk in the park, or a massage. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let your partner take over the bedroom for a self-indulgent nap.
This show of support in pregnancy diffuses tension and stops arguments before they begin.
You know your partner pretty well at this point, but there is always room to improve communication. Go beyond not making assumptions, as mentioned earlier. Proactively share your thoughts. Tell your spouse why you decided to change your morning routine. There’s no way for a spouse to know that you get headaches and feel clouded in the morning unless you tell them.
Similarly, communicate your intentions. You cooked salmon tonight because it’s good for the baby’s development, and the Omega-3 can boost the mood of your partner. There are little ways that you show your partner that you love them each day. Communicating your intentions ensures the love is received. It also mitigates the risk of a stressful fight if your spousal support isn’t perceived the way you intended for it to be.
And, most importantly, communicate your love. Tell your partner that you love them and why. Let them know that you’re excited to have them as your partner in parenthood. It’s all too easy to forget these simple truths when you’re awash in emotion.
Take a break from pregnancy
Is the baby the only thing you’re talking about? It’s probably time to take a break from pregnancy. Put away your paint swatches for the nursery and your books on parenting styles. Spend a night being the couple that made this child’s life possible. This can mean spending a night on the town enjoying all of your shared interests. It can also mean spending a night binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix. Rediscover the activities you love as a couple, and make time each week to participate in them. This time away from pregnancy talk will make you even more excited to raise a child with one of your favorite people.
Choose to love
There are times when you will be annoyed at your partner. You’ll feel that they’re not being empathetic about your feelings. They’ll think you’re being unreasonable. It happens to the strongest of couples. Choose love over being right or winning the argument. When you’re tempted to offer a jabbing quip, ask yourself, “What can I do that will strengthen our partnership?” More often than not, the answer is to listen. Actively listen to the concerns, joys, and fears your partner shares with you. Ask questions. Offer a hug or a cuddle.
Remember that, even when your partner feels like the adversary, you’re a team. You entered this adventure of pregnancy and parenthood together, and you’ll be successful by mutually supporting one another.
What is your favorite way to offer spousal support to your partner? We want to hear your stories and tips in the comments below.