While the joy of becoming parents is unparalleled, it also introduces a new set of challenges that can test the strength of a relationship. Most couples complain that their relationship has transitioned from being romantic partners to feeling like mere roommates who are focused solely on parenting duties. While it is natural for priorities to shift after having a baby, neglecting your romantic relationship can have long-term consequences.
What is the Post-Baby Roommate Phase?
The post-baby roommate phase with your partner refers to a period in a romantic relationship when the focus and dynamics between partners shift significantly after the arrival of a baby. It is a term used to describe the feeling of couples becoming more like roommates rather than romantic partners due to the overwhelming responsibilities and demands of parenting.
Signs and symptoms of this phenomenon include feeling less connected to your partner, as well as less intimate and more transactional. It can begin to feel like a running tally of who did what as both of you struggle to adjust your schedules, overcome
sleep deprivation, and learn all the new skills you have to learn as a parent. The combination of having more on your plate and less energy can also lead to a decrease in quality time, which then feeds the feelings of disconnection and loss of intimacy. Intimacy is emotional as well as physical. If both or either take a drop, it can greatly impact your partnership.
3 Ways to Navigate the Post-Baby Roommate Phase with Your Partner
1) Communication is Key:
You may feel like the last thing you want to do is “communicate” – you are tired, worn thin, and trying to save your patience for your baby. It may feel like opening a can of worms or biting off more than you can chew to think about having a conscientious conversation, but the fact of the matter is that communication is everything in relationships. Whether you are trying to increase your daily interactions, scheduling sit-down time to touch base, or both, communicating with your partner will strengthen your relationship.
When you initiate a conversation, communicate not what the other person is “doing wrong” but how you are feeling. Expressing what you are going through without assigning blame invites your partner to problem-solve with you or simply to hear you out. Yes, if a specific behavior is upsetting you or making your life harder, you have the right to talk about it. How you approach it, however, is the difference. For example, telling your partner that you’re struggling to find time for something and asking to look at your schedules together to make it happen is very different than telling your partner something like, “I never get to do x, and you always do.” Telling your partner, “I value our relationship and want us to make sure to meet as lovers and partners as well as parents,” is very different than, “You’re neglecting me.”
To support a happy dynamic, you need to communicate words of fondness and admiration, e.g., “I appreciated when you did this” or “I appreciate the way you handled this.” These words of affirmation solidify that you are a team and that your partner’s contributions do not go unnoticed. Positive reinforcement feels better than being called out for missteps or accidents. Ideally, your partner will return the favor and take note of the positive ways you are showing up.
You also need to make sure to communicate things outside of parenting; talk about music, traveling, and the newest movie you’ve seen or want to see. Remember your shared interests, even if you can’t participate in them as much as you used to right now.
2) Prioritize Quality Time Together:
Plan a date night. Even if you can’t get a babysitter, and date night is a two-hour sleep window where you sit down on the couch with some popcorn and watch a movie or order your favorite takeaway and light some candles at
the kitchen table, make it happen. If you can get a babysitter, all the better! Take advantage of the opportunity to get out of the house, whether you take a blanket and some dinner to a park, go to a museum or gallery, or do some other activity that fits in a time window you’re both comfortable with.
Simple gestures like holding hands, hugging, or sharing a heartfelt conversation can reignite the romance and intimacy in your relationship. If you don’t have much time, quick moments throughout the day can work wonders. If you’re both busy during the day, setting aside focused time when you’re able to be together in the morning or the evening can also work. The point is to make a point of staying connected.
You are in the baby phase right now, and it won’t last forever. What will continue, however, is being parents. Establishing a routine where you prioritize quality time together will help to set you up for a different kind of being busy as your child/children ages/age. Without scaring yourself too much, take a moment to consider how easily you could write off this period as “a short-term issue,” but it could set a precedent for the dynamic as you continue your relationship. Parents with children of all ages report transitioning into feeling like they are living with a roommate over time; being conscientious from the beginning gives you a stronger foundation for doing the work to stay romantically connected to your partner. As you prioritize quality time together, you don’t need to set up a routine that you think will work for the rest of your lives. What you do need to do is consider that your mindset about prioritizing one another will be a permanent one.
3) Share Responsibilities Equally:
To avoid feelings of resentment and imbalance, work together to divide tasks and responsibilities equally. Create a schedule or a system that allows both of you to take turns in baby care, household chores, and personal time. Remember that you are a team; supporting each other through this challenging phase will strengthen your bond.A lot of therapy for couples looks at unpacking feelings of resentment. There will always be times in relationships when one person has more to give than the other. That is normal. The point is to ensure it all comes out in the wash overall. If there are tasks that only one of you can do (nursing, for example), then the other person can pick up a different task and have it be their sole responsibility.
Depending on your situation, one or both of you may be working, you may have family leave as an employment benefit, or you may not. One of you has just gone through a very physically taxing endeavor. One of you may be working overtime to make up for lost income. Be kind to yourselves and one when you look at the household responsibilities. Take time to determine what is most important and what can be on the back burner for a little while. Laundry has to be done no matter what; washing windows might be able to wait a bit.
In sharing responsibilities, don’t forget that you cannot be everything to each other. Determine where you can each get some time with family or friends, either for a mental break or a little support. Yes, prioritizing one-on-one time is important, but so is the ability to change your scenery, talk to someone new, and consider the world outside feeding, changing, cleaning, soothing, repeat. Facilitating time for each other in that space is a great way to show care and appreciation for the other person and for yourself.
4) Celebrate Small Victories:
Celebrate the small victories and progress you make as parents and as a couple. Whether it’s successfully soothing the baby, getting a full night’s sleep, or accomplishing a task together, acknowledging these wins fosters a positive
atmosphere in your relationship. The fact of the matter is that you have expanded your family together, which is a pretty romantic concept when you think about it. Unfortunately, that romance gets a little bit lost when a baby is crying in the middle of the night or a diaper blowout results in a bunch of extra cleaning. Parenting is hard; no amount of rose-colored glasses will change that. But viewing it as your joint project, with wins along the way, helps to ground you in the joy of parenthood.
Sometimes, all it takes is looking at one another at the end of the day and sharing a smile because you got through it. This teamwork mentality will make it easier to connect on a romantic level, to share tasks, and to communicate about how you are feeling, keeping romance alive; sharing tasks and communicating will make it easier to celebrate together. So much of what you are doing in this period of time has a symbiotic relationship with the other things you are doing. Celebrating even the smallest of wins is, in a way, celebrating everything you are doing.
From a high-five to a spa day, you can celebrate however works best for you. If you are a visual person and like to look over your accomplishments on a chart or in a journal, you may want to utilize that to record your triumphs. If the last thing you want is another thing on your “to-do” list, you may choose to take moments to celebrate in real time. Celebrate your victories, your partner’s victories, and your victories as a couple. This also includes non-baby-related achievements; did you excel at work, finish a book you’ve been trying to get through or complete an ongoing project? Celebrate it. Parenthood is about your lives as individual adults as well as your existence as a parenting team. You cannot pour from an empty cup; you deserve to sustain yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically. Celebrating that is good for everyone!
5) Keep the Romance Alive:
Romance comes in many ways. For some couples, you may need to first focus on flirting again. Whereas for others, we need to talk about sex. Non-sexual physical affection is also crucial in maintaining intimacy, so don’t underestimate the power of a loving touch or a warm embrace. Your sex life may have been impacted by pregnancy itself, from morning sickness to the physical discomfort of the pregnant person. The drop in romance may have begun even before you began your roles as parents.Flirting can take place in person, via phone, or both. Sending texts back and forth throughout the day can help you to be in a mindset of anticipation for later when you and your partner are in the same place again. View flirting as a way to communicate affection instead of ongoing “pressure” for sexual intimacy and have fun with it. Remember that you and your partner may have very different styles when it comes to flirting; the important thing is that you are each doing your best to be authentic. If you can both be home throughout the day, small comments, winks, touches, and kisses can go a long way to create that closeness.
Outside of outright flirtation, taking time to embrace, hold hands, and cuddle up to one another without it escalating to a sexual interaction goes a long way toward feeling close to the other person. In fact, when doing couples therapy in Los Angeles, I often see a dynamic where one partner feels isolated by the fact that the other only ever touches them to initiate sex. It doesn’t matter how attracted you are to your partner; nobody wants to feel “obligated” to receive only one form of physical intimacy or nothing at all.
Nobody is meant to get through this stage of life without help and support. You and your partner may have a small village or a large one around you to help you out, but it may not feel like enough. If you seek couples counseling near Woodland Hills, check out our couples therapy page. No matter how you decide or can tackle this time in your relationship, know that you have the ability to work together as a team to stay connected to one another. It will require flexibility, patience, and determination, but it can be achieved! Practice mindfulness to not ruminate on things from the past or worry too much about the future. Yes, there is always a need to learn from mistakes and to make a plan for the day. But it is beneficial when present-moment experiences take up most of your day. This allows you to make the most of a time that tends to blur and to speed by, to savor time with your family and the memories you are making.
With Couples Counseling in Woodland Hills, CA, it is possible to bring back connection, fun, play, and romance back into your marriage. It doesn’t matter how long you and your partner have been feeling like roommates or co-pilots; couple’s therapy is about learning to turn towards each other and spark love and intimacy.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.
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