You've found the love of your life. You've fallen in love. You've dated, become engaged and gotten married. You've longed to make your duo into a trio and after some waiting you now have a baby!

What could possibly go wrong?

We know that even the strongest relationships are challenged during the transition to parenthood. Couples find themselves without time to talk or touch, sleep-deprived, irritable and prone to snapping. There is suddenly an exponential increase in tasks to complete and often couples stress about financial concerns.  Grandparents rush in to help but sometimes their help feels like interference. 

Add to all of that, post-partum depression, health problems and concerns for the well-being of the baby. What if you just don't know what you're doing? Many perfectly competent adults face feelings of extreme confusion and overwhelm with a new baby. This is the stuff of sit-coms. And yet...

All of these factors add up and translate to a decline in marital satisfaction. According to Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on marriage, as many as 67% of new parents experience conflict, disappointment and hurt feelings during this stage of marriage. The Gottmans teach a workshop for new parents called Bringing Baby Home. In it they prepare couples for life with baby.

Gottman's research also shows that the single highest predictor of marital adjustment after baby arrives is the quality of friendship in the marriage. It is vitally important to prioritize your relationship and remember that it is the foundation of your family. If it crumbles and falls, the kids go down with it. Babies require a lot of time and attention, it's true, but your relationship will need some as well to survive.

Here are some tips for new parents:


Absolutely everything seems harder when we aren't getting enough sleep. We are crankier, fight more and exaggerate our feelings when tired. Try to nap as much as possible during the day even if you've never been a napper. Resist the urge to stay up at night after the baby falls asleep. Those dishes and mail will wait until tomorrow. If you possibly can, work in shifts, taking turns with the baby. Hire a night nurse if your baby has health needs or needs constant care. Even consider sleeping in separate rooms for a brief time if it helps you to get a better quality of sleep during the early months.


Quite simply this means greeting one another with a 20 second hug or a six second kiss when you first wake up in the morning, when you part during the day, when you reunite after being apart and before falling asleep. Just knowing the other is still there goes a long way in keeping you connected. This is a time of diminished sexual activity, so keeping the affection alive is important.


You might be surprised how important gratitude is to the maintenance of your friendship with your spouse. Both of you are under varying degrees of stress with a new baby, but look what you've done! You've brought a new life into the world and each of you have played a part. It's easy to grow resentful if you start comparing your contribution to his. Remember that each of you is struggling with your new role in different ways. Appreciate effort and express it lovingly. I like this three part appreciation: a) I appreciate that...b) I appreciate it because...c) It makes me feel....


My mentor always says that we survive in isolation and thrive in connection. Don't keep all of your feelings bottled up. Remember that the two of you are in this together. You both could use a sounding board for what's going on during this important transition from family of two to family of three. No need to try to fix the other's woes. Just listen and empathize. 

While this period of your relationship seems impossible at times,  try to focus on the joy that it is. Just think how much easier it'll be when you go from three to four! Seriously, it does get easier as you get more comfortable with your roles and the baby starts to sleep. You'll get into a rhythm and hopefully get back to your intimate connection. Just remember to stay friends along the way.

If you are experiencing serious cracks in your relationship, get help. There are many books, workshops and therapists who can guide you through this transition. 

You can contact me here or by phone (424)273-1159

Author's Bio: 

Mary Kay Cocharo has been working with couples and families for over 28 years through her private practice in West Los Angeles, California and cannot imagine doing anything else! She is deeply passionate about helping couples and parents rediscover the joy of being together, deepen communication and resolve conflict.

Her heart in helping others bridge these gaps stems from her belief that regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or creed, we all want and need the same thing—love, equality, acceptance, safety and connection. She imagines a world when it is the rule, not the exception, that we see each other without judgment or fear, and instead come from a place of curiosity and interest.

Learn more about Mary Kay Cocharo at her website:

* She is an active member of the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Los Angeles Chapter of California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, IMAGO Relationship Institute, and the Southern California Imago Therapists Association.