How do you stay strong as a couple after you have a child? Here are some ideas to help you keep the romance alive.
Being a parent means devoting much of your time to caring for your child, managing daily responsibilities, and trying to maintain a work-life balance. When you have a child, you take on new responsibilities, and your habits as a couple change.
You and your partner may no longer do things together like you used to before you had kids. However, it’s important to make time for your partner and your relationship.
What changes after you become a parent?
The birth of a child is undoubtedly a happy occasion. However, it also brings with it many changes that can turn a couple’s life upside down. Fatigue, new responsibilities, and a lack of alone time can cause tension between partners.
New parents also have to grapple with tough questions about education and finances that can compound issues that already exist in the relationship. And since parents are often incredibly busy, you may find yourself putting off important discussions, which only makes matters worse.
When your baby is born, the relationship dynamic between you and your partner may also change. You may admire some of each other’s parenting qualities, but you may dislike some of them, too. This changes the way you perceive each other and interact.
The arrival of a child can also limit the opportunity for moments of intimacy. A lack of quality time together and loss of interest in sex can also cause tension. Talking about your concerns and spending time together can help you rekindle the flame and form a team to overcome these issues.
Why is it important to make time for each other?
Spending quality time together as a couple is the foundation of a healthy and lasting relationship. These moments remind couples that they were lovers before they became parents—and that it’s possible to be both at the same time.
It’s important to see your partner as your lover, not just as a parent to your child.
Sharing intimate moments together makes it easier to overcome the problems and conflicts you encounter. When it’s just the two of you, you have the opportunity to talk and bond. You’ll also gain a better understanding of your partner’s perspective.
It’s good for your child, too
Having a young child is often very demanding. You might be putting your romantic relationship on the back burner without even realizing it.
However, your child needs to know that their parents love each other. They need to understand that they aren’t your only source of happiness, which would be a heavy burden for a child to carry. If your child knows that you and your partner are in love, it will be easier for them to make friends with other kids their age, because they won’t feel overly dependent on their emotional connection with you.
In addition, the way you treat each other as a couple will influence how they view love and approach their future romantic relationships. Of course, you don’t need to be constantly kissing and cuddling in front of them for them to get the message. They’ll be able to sense the affection and love that you and your partner show for other through your attitudes and actions.
What if your child doesn’t want you spending time together as a couple?
Some children don’t like their parents spending time together alone. If this is the case for your child, they might be feeling left out or think that you like your partner more than them. Let them know that they hold a special place in your life, and explain that there are different kinds of love. The love you have for them and the love you have for your partner are different, but both of them are very important to you. One can never replace the other.
When you plan to go out with your partner in the evening, try to spend some quality time with your child during the day. This will help them understand that they’re not being put to the wayside. When you see your child when you get home or the next day, you’ll have a lot to talk about, like what they did while you were gone.
How do you cultivate romance?
Every minute you invest in your relationship is important. It’s better to share a few minutes together every day than wait until you can have a longer date.
Here are some simple ways you can connect with your partner and show them you care.
If your child is under 1 year old
Caring for a baby isn’t easy. However, you and your partner can still spend time together.
- Tell your partner that you love them. These are the most important words you can say.
- Do something nice for your partner. For example, you can make dinner or bring them breakfast in bed.
Even if you’re low on money or time, you can always afford to work on your relationship.
- Turn off electronics during mealtime. This will give you more time to talk.
- Do chores together (e.g., washing dishes, cooking, giving your baby a bath, or shopping). Even if it’s not particularly romantic or fun, you’ll still be together and have time to talk.
Every day, set aside some time to talk with each other, even if it’s only for a few minutes (e.g., ask how they’re doing or how their day was).
- Go for a walk together. If your child falls asleep in their stroller, you can enjoy some alone time with your partner. If they don’t fall asleep, give them books and toys so they can keep busy on their own.
- Set some time aside after you put your child to bed to have a romantic dinner, watch a movie, play a game, etc. You can even have a nap with your little one in the afternoon so you’ll be in better shape to enjoy your evening.
- Write a letter or little love notes to your partner. Tell them why you love them and how you feel about them. You don’t have to be a poet—the simplest words are enough when they come from the heart. Reminding yourselves why you love each other will keep the spark alive despite the monotony of everyday life, and it will make you want to spend more time together.
- Show your partner that you’re thinking of them through simple, caring gestures. For example, you can text them a joke, call them at lunchtime to see how they’re doing, pick them up from work, make them their favourite meal, or give them flowers or a gift.
When spending time one-on-one, try to talk about your child as little as possible. Instead, talk about the two of you and your plans. You’ll be able to view yourselves as a couple, not just as parents.
- Have fun with your partner. You can play games or sports, take a bath or shower together, give each other massages, etc. Having fun and sharing interests helps build bonds.
- Take every opportunity to physically show your affection for each other. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the simplest ways to show your love. For example, give your partner a kiss when you leave in the morning, when you get home from work, and before you go to bed at night. Unfortunately, many couples only do this out of habit, without taking the opportunity to bond. You can also hold hands, massage each other’s shoulders, hug each other, etc. Physical contact feels good and releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel happy.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry if you can’t get every little thing done in a day. Making time for your relationship is just as important, if not more so, than ticking off items on your to-do list. Don’t hesitate to put the laundry off until tomorrow if it means spending more quality time with your partner.
If your child is aged 1 or older
If your child is between the ages of 1 and 8, you might also want to consider these ideas:
- Commute to work together if possible. If your workplaces are close to each other, you can meet for lunch and enjoy some time talking to each other.
- Go to the park as a family. You can talk with your partner while you watch your child at the playground.
- Encourage your child to play alone from time to time. They’ll learn to have fun on their own and not rely solely on you. This way, you can still have quality time with your partner even if your little one isn’t far away.
To avoid paying for a babysitter, you can ask your friends who have kids if they can watch yours. You can offer to do the same for them in return.
- Plan outings with your partner. Start with short outings at times when you won’t be disrupting your child’s routine. For example, you could start by going out during the day before or after nap time (e.g., having breakfast at a restaurant or going for a walk or bike ride). Then, you can leave for longer periods or go out during naptime or in the evening. Your child will get used to it and will know that you’ll come back rested and happy.
- Cultivate your friendships with other couples. It’s good for a couple to spend time with other couples. Spending quality time with people who have a good relationship can be comforting and inspiring.
- Plan a romantic weekend getaway or a short vacation. However, if your child is younger than 5, they might not react well to this and act out when you return. When children are young, they don’t always understand why their parents are away for a long time.
- If you’re going away for a few days, have someone your child likes and knows well look after them. Ask if they can watch your child at your house so that they’re in a familiar environment. If that’s not possible, make sure they have their blankie or a comfort object with them. Walk the caregiver through your child’s routine and ask them to follow it.
If you can’t find someone to look after your child
If you don’t have childcare readily available, choose an activity that you can do with both your partner and your child (e.g., go on a walk, cook together, dance in the living room). It’s better to include your child in your activity than to not do it at all. Remember, the important thing is to have fun together.
When to ask for help
The first few weeks after a baby is born can be a difficult adjustment period for parents. Fatigue and misunderstandings become all the more frequent. If you find yourself having relationship problems, and especially if they continue beyond 6 months, you may want to seek professional help.
Consulting a professional (psychologist, psychotherapist, or sex therapist) can also be helpful in the following cases:
- You feel that you and your partner are growing distant and that the situation isn’t improving, even though you’ve expressed your concerns and how important your relationship is to you.
- Arguments with your partner are more frequent and quickly escalate.
- Your child gets involved in your arguments.
- Your child is exhibiting certain behavioural problems that might be related to your relationship issues. Children see and hear much more than we think, and they’re perceptive.
A professional can help you see things more clearly and build a new foundation for your relationship, while taking your role as parents into account. Don’t wait too long to seek help if you think you need it. It’s much easier to make needed changes before tension and frustration build up.
Things to keep in mind
You can absolutely stay in love with your partner while being a good parent. You can do little things every day to keep the romance alive.
Spending quality time together as a couple is the foundation of a healthy and lasting relationship. In addition, it makes it easier to find solutions to the problems you face.
The love you have for your partner will serve as a model for your child.
Scientific review: Geneviève Parent, sexologist and psychotherapist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2023
Sources and references
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
Dewarrat, Maryse. Le désir après bébé : devenir parents et rester amants. Paris, Éditions Eyrolles, 2017, 184 pp.
Gébérowicz, Bernard and Colette Barroux-Chabanol. Le couple face à l’arrivée de l’enfant : surmonter le baby-clash. Paris, Éditions Albin-Michel, 2014, 272 pp.
Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Communicating as a parent. 2022. publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca
Parent, Geneviève. Questions sexuelles pour couples actuels. Montreal, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2011, 224 pp.
Schmidt-Ulmann, Mélanie. Comment rester amants quand on devient parents. Paris, Leduc.s Éditeur, 2010, 229 pp.