Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a Denver Marriage Counselor, Online Couples Therapist, Premarital Counselor and Life Coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families create health and happiness, and flourish —  together.

How to Have a Great Relationship After Baby?

Plan Ahead.


As a Denver marriage counselor, online couples therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist and married mom of two I know that bringing a new baby into the family is truly one of the most amazing life transitions. We spend countless hours preparing for our new little member by creating a perfect nursery, talking about a birth plan and reading book after parenting book, but often we forget to think about our relationship after baby. It's vital to prepare your marriage for a child, too.

How Does Having a Child Change a Relationship?

Let’s face it, having a baby requires a major adjustment in our relationship, including the way you communicate, work together as a team, and even show each other love and affection. I should know, I have two children…under two years of age! (But that’s another blog post.)

Making space for a third, or fourth member of the family brings growing pains in a marriage and often it is the one area that gets overlooked. This is a problem, because your relationship after baby can need some TLC too. It's important to strengthen your relationship before welcoming a new child, so that you both have the most positive experience possible.

We increase our ability to have a smooth transition from a family of two to a family of three or more only if we plan for it. Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the path from partners to parents.

One: Identify Your Support System Before Baby Arrives

As the age old saying goes, “It takes a village, ” and I honestly believe that it does. The first couple of months of newborn life can be challenging. No matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, parenting is the true definition of on-the-job training. Not only are you trying to climb the learning curve of this new job but you’ll be doing it on very little sleep. It is imperative that you have a support system that you can rely on when you’re tired, overwhelmed, worried or downright terrified that you’re doing it wrong (don’t worry, you’re not).

Figure out who is your individual support and who is the support for you as a couple. I cannot stress enough the importance of support for new moms specifically. Being postpartum coupled with the sometimes challenging experience of breastfeeding (if that is your choice) can be especially hard, and being able to lean on others that have gone through it, is life saving.

Encourage your friends and family to check in on you two, accept any and all offers for meals, cleaning, a break for a nap or a shower, and know who you’re going to call when you just need a minute to cry/vent/complain etc. Remember that asking for help is the truest sign of strength and not weakness. Being willing and able to know when you’re at capacity and need to tap out can assist in avoiding symptoms of depression and/or care fatigue.

This will help both of you as individuals, and as a couple. Having someone to support you both in taking “time-out” together can help sustain your relationship after baby. Also, having support to prevent either of you from becoming so depleted that you don't have anything left to give to your partnership is very important.

If you don't have a natural support system with friends and family to lend a hand, consider making your own — Ideally, as part of your pre-baby prep plan. Check out in-person or online postpartum support groups for emotional support. You may also consider finding opportunities to connect with other young families in the same situation who would welcome the opportunity to trade childcare from time to time.

Two: Employ Your Empathy

The practice of cultivating empathy for both yourself and your partner is one of the most important tools you have. Let’s be honest, sleep deprivation is an actual tactic used for torture. So when you are feeling highly irritable, overly emotional and that your brain closely resembles a fried egg reach for your empathy.

What's empathy? Empathy is understanding how another person feels, and having compassion for them (as opposed to criticism or judgment). When you're adjusting to a new child, neither of you are at 100%. You're both going to make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or do something that will annoy each other. This is the time to give each other a pass. [For more on this topic check out “Empathy: The Key to Communication And Connection”]

Remember that it makes sense that you’re feeling on edge, or that your partner seems more easily agitated. Remind yourself that it is only temporary. You will sleep again, your distress tolerance will come back, your ability to think clearly will re emerge but in the meantime you will practice patience with yourself, and those around you.

Be thoughtful about the fights you choose, allow space for tears, and be gentle with your words for both yourself and your other half. Ideally, begin intentionally cranking up the empathy in your relationship well before baby arrives so you have lots of practice being more tolerant of each other before stress and sleep deprivation shorten your fuses.

Three: Negotiate Your Roles Before Baby Arrives

One of the biggest challenges of any transition is a renegotiation of roles. Bringing another person, albeit a small one, still brings along a whole new set of tasks. Your relationship after baby can look very different in terms of who does what around the house. Before baby is born, spend some time with your partner considering how you are going to split those tasks up.

Questions to ask each other before baby comes:

  • Will one person be solely responsible for night feedings and diaper changes or will those tasks be divided?
  • Will both of you be responsible for washing bottles? Or will one person be the keeper of all things milk?
  • How will you make sure that you both are getting time to take a break and check out of parenting duties, even if only for 10 minutes?
  • If you have pets in your home, consider who will be in charge of their needs while you’re adjusting to the needs of baby.

Remember that these roles can always be renegotiated as you go, but starting off with an initial idea of what household roles and responsibilities will look like will decrease the chance of a 2 AM screaming match about who should be changing a dirty diaper. Tackling the responsibilities of parenting together will also help keep feelings of resentment at bay and protect your relationship after baby arrives.

In my experience the first two months are the hardest part of the transition. At about 8-10 weeks it feels like a fog lifts and suddenly you re-emerge into the world of the living, but the initial weeks can feel like a whirlwind. Having a plan with your partner will at the very least give you a road map of ways to navigate the sometimes treacherous path so that you can spend more time enjoying your new baby, and become a stronger couple (and family) in the process.

And… congratulations!

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

The Power of Praise

The Power of Praise

The Power of Praise

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Catch People Doing Something Right.

Did you know that you have the power to perk people up, appreciate their wonderful, unique selves, and make them feel good about what they're doing? And… that you have the power to make yourself feel that way about YOU, too?

It's as simple as noticing what you, and others, are doing right.

Something I've learned from years of being a therapist, a life coach, and a couples counselor (as well as a wife, mom, colleague and friend) is this: Noticing, and commenting approvingly on positive behaviors not only makes you and others feel good, it also encourages more of the same.

Too often, people try to create change in others — and themselves — through criticism. They only speak up when something is NOT working. This leads their partners to feel that they “can never do anything right” (which I hear about all the time in marriage counseling) and it leads them to feel badly about themselves, and even doubt their competence and worth (a common topic in the therapy and life coaching room). [For more on this subject, check out “Creating Self Confidence.”]

When people feel bad about themselves, or like they're always going to disappoint their partners, it's nearly impossible to muster up the energy and try harder to do better. It feels like it doesn't matter anyway, so why try?

Have you ever trained a dog? Do you scream at it whenever it does something you disapprove of, and ignore the instances when it behaves beautifully? No! Exactly the opposite is true: When your pup obediently sits / lays down / comes to you on command you lavish it with praise and reward with a treat. “Who's a good dog? Who's the best doggie? You are the best doggie!”

In contrast, think about your own internal dialogue when you don't do something just right: You miss your workout, eat the donut, or make a mistake at work. If you're like a lot of people, your inner critic berates you, calls you names, brings up all the other times you disappointed, and paints a bleak future. [For more on how to get a handle on your inner critic, check out The Happiness Class].

Now, think about your inner dialogue when you did make it to the gym, ordered the salad (dressing on the side!), and did your work just right………. Crickets. Chirping. Most people glide right by their own awesomeness, and that's a shame.

Same goes for your partner. It's so easy to jump all over people, or automatically radiate disapproving energy when others fail to meet our expectations. It's also very easy to completely miss all the times — which are probably most of the times — that your partner is kind and generous.

You could certainly indulge the, “Why should I compliment them for just doing what they should be doing?” school of thought. But you're probably reading this article because you want a next-level type of relationship. If that's the case I invite you to imagine what kind of love-fest might ensue were you to slather on the praise and positivity when your partner is actually being great.

A simpler way to connect with the power of praise is to think about how YOU feel when your efforts are noticed, your specialness is admired by others, and your gifts are celebrated. It's affirming. It's validating. It makes you feel like you're on the right track, and that you should keep doing more of what you're doing, right?

Here's one from me to you: I think that it's fantastic that you're browsing around online for articles that will help you build yourself up, feel happier, and have better relationships with others. Not everyone does that. Many just complain about their circumstances or blame other people.

But you understand that knowledge is power, and you're open to new ideas. You are aware that you're in control of your life, and you have the power to shape the results you get. You get that what you do, matters — and you're committed to putting in your best effort.

That is a pretty great thing about you. I hope that you remind yourself of that fact as you go about the rest of your day — tossing around positivity and praise like you were the mayor of happy-town.

Much love,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. While you're at it, try this one with a kid. Comment on something they did well, (like, “Good job listening!” or “I really like it when you look right into my eyes when I'm talking to you!”) and they will not just puff up with pride, but often fall all over themselves to get more of your approval. They're hungry for it.

P.P.S. Everyone is.

Are Negative Perceptions Harming Your Relationship?

Are Negative Perceptions Harming Your Relationship?

Are Negative Perceptions Harming Your Relationship?

Seth Bender is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

Stop Jumping to Conclusions

As a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and married guy, I know that this happens to anybody who is in a relationship – you get into an argument with your partner, and your mind starts racing with thoughts that seem to automatically pop into your brain. In the therapy world, we often call these thoughts “perceptions.” Perceptions are mental images which are triggered by emotions, which then influence how we act towards our partner.

Negative Perceptions = Negative Reactions

If these perceptions of ourselves and our partners are negative, then they might manifest in behaviors that can be destructive to a relationship, especially if they get repeated. But how does this process happen, and more to the point, how can you help manage and control these perceptions in your own relationship?

What's Your Inner Dialogue?

To understand what perceptions feel like, imagine the initial thoughts that run through your head when find yourself in a heated argument with your partner. For example, do you assume your partner is always losing control? Do you think nothing you do will ever be good enough? Do you assume your partner is running away or abandoning you emotionally? Do you think you have to fix the situation any way you can?

These are all examples of negative perceptions that can then influence how you then behave and communicate with your partner. If your thoughts are negative in that moment, then you will likely behave accordingly in a way that will push your partner away, not connect them to you.

Our Thoughts Create Our Feelings, Which Lead to Reactions

Another important point to remember is that perceptions serve as the bridge between emotion and responding to that emotion. In other words, perceptions are most often caused by anger or frustration — secondary emotions that are fueled by fear and pain. From there, perceptions seem almost automatic. If perceptions are fueled by negative emotions, then they will often turn into negative behaviors. [For more information on the Thought > Feeling > Action response cycle, check out the “Happy Mind” unit of The Happiness Class.)

When your thoughts about yourself or your partner are negative in the moment, then you may feel emotionally insecure and unsafe, and any negative behavior that arises from that is the body’s natural response to feeling emotionally threatened.

But there’s something very interesting to think about in terms on negative perceptions – they’re most often not true!

Challenge Your Automatic Thoughts

For example, remind yourself that your partner is responding to their own fears and is likely not trying to run away from you, you don’t have to fix every problem in a relationship, and you ARE good enough, even if your negative perceptions feel true in the moment, especially when triggered by anger or hurt. Even though the thoughts are in our head, they feel very real and we respond to them in kind.

Fortunately, there are ways to be able to break the cycle and fight these negative thoughts.

Fight Negative Perceptions With Empathy

The antidote to negative perceptions lies with empathy and empathic communication, meaning being able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to understand why they may be acting the way they are.

Empathy can be built in a number of different ways – listening to and validating your partner, sharing softer, deeper emotions with one another, and understanding that your partner’s behavior may be caused by unmet emotional needs and a lack of emotional safety that might have little to do with you are all examples of empathy — and all ways of breaking negative perceptions proactively and in the moment.

Know that a partner’s reactions may seem irrational to you, but emotion is often not rational, and in those moments, try to take a step back. If you can validate and understand your partner’s true pain, those negative perceptions will become less intense and you’ll be able to access kindness to your partner in the moment. Your positive thoughts will connect you to your partner, not push you away.

Remember, you can feel empathy for yourself too! Perfection is never attainable – you are human and you will make mistakes, as your positive and negative experiences help build how you respond to stress and perceived threats. People respond to negative perceptions in attachment styles that feel safest, and you are no different. You have permission to not be perfect!

You're Not Alone

All that being said, negative perceptions can become overwhelming. If you'd like support in learning how to manage your thoughts and find more helpful responses in moments of stress, a good therapist or coach can help you access your strengths to work on resolving underlying pain and controlling your thoughts. As those thoughts are connected to what has already happened, then healing and coming to terms with the past may be key in helping you move forward.

The brain controls emotions, but the brain can also play tricks on you! Know that even though negative thoughts in the moment feel real and overwhelming, they are often not true. You have the power to manage and change those thoughts, and to change your relationship to one that you always return to for comfort and safety.

All the best,

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

The Apology Languages

The Apology Languages

The Apology Languages

What Does “Sorry” Mean To You?

Picture this: You’re on your way home for dinner, running late again for the 4th time this week. As you rush home after a long day at work, you know your partner is going to be hurt because they enjoy when the two of you sit down for dinner together. They’ve told you many times how important it is to them. You know that you didn’t intentionally stay late at work and the past few months have been so busy, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are late again. You’re thinking of how to apologize the moment you walk into the door.

In online marriage counseling and couples therapy sessions, we often see couples who have felt hurt by their partners (and partners who don't know how to make it better). Remember, when it comes to apologizing it's not just what you say. It's the way you say it, and even more importantly, what you DO that counts.

Not All Apologies Are The Same

What does your apology sound like? Do you tell them you’re sorry for running late? Do you tell them you understand why they feel hurt because of your actions? Do you talk about how you can make sure you aren’t late again? Do you ask for forgiveness and give them time to decide?

“Sorry” Only Counts When It's Meaningful

There are many ways to apologize to our loved ones, but did you know there are different apology languages? Similar to The Five Love Languages written by Gary Chapman, The Five Apology Languages each capture a different type of apology we need when our partner is trying to make amends. Just like each love language (i.e. Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gift Giving, and Acts of Service) is simply different and not superior to any others, the same can be said about each apology language. One is not better than the other, we simply prefer a way of apologizing and feel most heard when our apology language is spoken by others.

The Five Apology Languages

What are the five apology languages and how are they different? Let’s take a look at each of the apology languages to better understand which apology language fits for you. Keep in mind that while you may have one or two apology languages, each apology language is important and serves a purpose. Don’t underestimate the power of any of these apology languages!

  1. Expressing Regret: This apology language focuses on the emotional hurt you’ve experienced from the other person’s actions or behavior. Focusing on emotional hurt means that hearing a genuine “I’m sorry” goes a long way for you. When someone is expressing regret, you feel that they are expressing the guilt and shame they feel for hurting you or causing you pain. You are not looking for “the next step” in how to fix the problem; you are looking for the person who’s hurt you to own the emotional hurt they’ve caused.
  2. Accepting Responsibility: This apology language requires the person apologizing to admit they were wrong and accept responsibility for their wrongdoing. This can be difficult for us to do as it is challenging to admit to your mistakes, especially if those mistakes have caused pain to someone else. However, if this is your apology language, you are looking for a genuine apology that accepts responsibility and does not attempt to make excuses or justifications. For an apology to feel genuine, you need the other person to simply say “I am wrong,” without further explanation.
  3. Genuinely Repent: This apology language focuses on how the person apologizing will modify their behavior in future similar situations. Not only is there a genuine apology for the pain caused, but also verbalization for the desire to change. Genuinely repenting takes an extra step towards change, as you need to hear the person express they want to change and set realistic goals for how they will make those changes. Unlike expressing regret, you ARE looking for that “next step” and how your partner will ensure this does not happen again.
  4. Make Restitution: This apology language requires justification or explanation for the person’s wrongdoing. If this is your apology language, you want to hear from your partner that they still love you, even after feeling hurt. There are many ways to make restitution, especially if we look at the five love languages. To feel loved after an apology, your partner must meet your love language to make restitution. Essentially, you’re looking for assurance that your partner still cares and is attempting to assure you by meeting your needs in the ways that are most important to you.
  5. Request Forgiveness: This apology language is all about asking for forgiveness and giving your partner space to decide if they forgive you. If this is your love language, it is meaningful to you for your partner to actually ask for your forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness is much different than demanding forgiveness. The key to requesting forgiveness is to allow the hurt partner to make the final decision, rather than force it upon them. By demanding forgiveness, you are taking away the sincerity if forgiveness is given.

Understanding Your Partner, and Yourself

Any guesses as to which apology language is yours? What about your partner’s apology language? The reason it is important to understand your own apology language is because you can share this information with others to help them understand what you need. It is also helpful to hear from others what their apology language is to improve communication.

Let’s say that your apology language is Expressing Regret and your partner’s apology language is Genuinely Repent. While there are similarities to these languages, there is a pretty big difference. You may not need to hear your partner verbalize a desire to change and share how they are going to make those changes, but it sounds like this is something your partner needs to hear. It can be challenging to add that extra step in your apology if it’s not what you are expecting. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know how your partner’s apology language differs from yours so that you can apology in ways they feel heard and understood? (Hopefully you’re answering “yes!”).

Now that you know there are different apology languages, I challenge you and your partner to take the Apology Languages quiz online ( ). After learning what your apology languages are, sit down and talk about them. Learn about each other and how you can apologize in ways your partner feels understood and cared for.

For even more detailed information to help strengthen your bond, take our free online How Healthy is Your Relationship quiz to get a snapshot of your relationships's strengths and growth opportunities in a variety of domains. Then you can have a productive conversation about what you both love about each other… and what you're also needing more of. Take this opportunity to grow together!

Also, some free relationship advice: When the hurt is big, or when there has been a major betrayal such as infidelity, “sorry” is just not good enough — no matter how you say it, or which apology language you use. The work ahead is not about making amends. It's about restoring trust in your relationship. Restoring trust is difficult but it absolutely can be done. Just remember that restoring trust is never an “event” where you say or do one thing to make it better.

Trust is restored over time, and with intention and effort. There is a healing process that couples need to go through in order to mend their bond, release anger, and recover from infidelity. This doesn't happen overnight, and it usually requires the support of an expert relationship coach or couples therapist. However, remembering your partner's apology language is a great place to begin showing them that you love them, and that you're committed to doing what it takes to repair your relationship.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.


Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.


Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

The Gift of Unconditional Love

The Gift of Unconditional Love

It's Time To Stretch Your Soul

The grand, beautiful paradox of this special, sacred time of year is that it pulls for the best in us — while giving us opportunities to be at our worst. The result can be something beautiful: Unconditional love.

The holidays put us in a state of generosity, and bring us back to the touchstone of faith and meaning. Ramping up to the New Year makes us think about who we want to become in the future. This time of year also provides us with unique stressors and potentially challenging relational moments. All of which conspire together to make this the perfect time of year to cultivate the practice of  unconditional love.

In the near future, you will likely have magical, meaningful moments with cherished friends and family. If you're like most people, some of these experiences will also be disappointing, annoying, frustrating, or even hurtful. All of these are cross-roads moments where you can choose judgment or empathy; contempt or compassion; anger or acceptance; grudge-holding or forgiveness.

It’s easy to love when your ego is stroked, when you feel gratified, and when you’re awash in pleasurable “loving” feelings. But the heart of every great religion teaches us that our purpose here is something else: To love when it’s hard.

Here's what I've learned over the years about the transformational power of love, and some simple strategies you can use to cultivate unconditional love, tolerance and acceptance in your life — both through the holiday season, and in the new year ahead.

May peace and love be with you in 2018.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Cultivating Unconditional Love

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: The Kronos Quartet, Black Angels: “Spem in Alium”

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