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I wish I'd known how much my relationship would change after having a baby

Things I Wish I’d Known author and mother-of-three Emily Norris shares her honest account of how having children changed things with her partner

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4 March 2024
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Having a baby was a time of great joy and excitement, but it also rocked the very foundations my husband Matt and I had built together and tested us as a couple.

You dont know what kind of parent youre going to be until its too late. You like to think youre going to take it all in your stride and not allow children to disrupt your relationship, but chuck in sleep deprivation and the strains that family life can bring and suddenly your relationship has an entirely new dynamic.

The vision you had of being that perfect parent and couple suddenly becomes more about just surviving the day.

couple smiling for the camera© Instagram
Emily speaks openly about how her relationship changed after children

Id be lying if I said our relationship didnt come under strain during that crazy time. Having a newborn is all-consuming and the sheer exhaustion sometimes makes you say things in frustration that you dont mean and later regret.

But I knew wed come through it and I love Matt a million times more now because he is such a great dad to our kids. Plus, hes seen me at my absolute worst and yet he still loves me.

Being in a relationship when you both have sleep deprivation is one of the hardest scenarios you will probably face in my opinion, so if you can survive that, you can survive just about anything.

How to navigate your changing relationship when you have a baby

Your relationship will inevitably change as your world turns upside down and you go through the biggest and most life-changing transition you’re likely to encounter, but when it’s time to come up for air again, you can emerge stronger and more of a team than ever before.

Blonde woman with three sons
Emily shares three sons with her husband Matt

Tell each other what you need

Communication is key. In the first few weeks after having our son, I used to look at my husband Matt and think, 'Why don’t you just know?' But he was learning too, and obviously (because he’s not a mind reader) he needed me to tell him what I wanted him to help me with.

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This applies to the bigger things, too. Keep talking to each other about how you’re feeling, what you’re worried about and the emotional support you need as you navigate this brave new world.

It’s not a competition

When you’re tired and run-down, it’s so easy to feel resentment towards your partner who you might see as having the better deal. As long as you’re sharing the load as best you can, then it’s pointless trying to work out whose life is harder or comparing notes about who’s the most tired. Competitive tiredness is a conversation that will rarely end well.

Prioritise a united front

Having the same values plays a huge part in successful parenting and your relationship. Matt and I have always agreed on things such as discipline and how we want to encourage and support our boys to reach their potential.

And when there has been a bit of ‘debate’ about how to handle certain situations, we don’t have those discussions in front of the kids. We are always stronger together.

 READ: Why didn't anyone warn me how bad mum guilt would be? 

Make time for date nights

Obviously while you have young kids, date nights aren't what they used to be. There are no spontaneous evenings in the pub, trips to the cinema or wild nights clubbing. But I always thought it was important to carve out what time we could devote to being a couple, even if that just meant having a takeaway at home or watching a film together on the sofa. We do our best to schedule this whenever we could.

Flirt with each other

Receiving an unexpected flirty text message from your partner can perk up a drab day and put a pep in your sep. It only takes a minute to tell someone you love them and are thinking of them and being reminded of that when you’re changing your umpteenth dirty nappy of the day is never a bad thing.

 NEED TO KNOW: How my husband and I navigated the minefield of menopause 

Sleep on it

I know the advice tends to be never go to sleep on an argument, but I’ve found that parking the disagreement and agreeing to discuss it in the morning means you wake up with cooler heads making it easier to resolve. It sometimes means it’s blown over completely because after a few hours’ rest, you both realise it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Find the humour

Laughter in a relationship is everything to me. Matt is witty with a quick sense of humour and he’s able to see the funny side of most things - even baby-sick! His humour always puts things into perspective and if you have the sort of relationship where you can make each other laugh, you’re winning.

Little acts of kindness

I’d recommend reading the best-selling book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman, if you haven’t already. It includes personal profile assessment so you can discover the ‘love language’ of you and your partner (acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time or words of affirmation), which will help you both show and receive love in a more meaningful way. These little acts of thoughtfulness that you know your partner responds positively to, can make such a big difference.

Things I Wish I'd Known is out 7 March
Things I Wish I'd Known is out 7 March

Things I Wish I’d Known by Emily Norris is available to buy from Thursday 7 March 2024 (Vermillion, hardback, £16.99).

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