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Regardless of how long you’ve been together and how deep your connection is, a baby will change your relationship in an entirely new and often confronting way.

My partner and I just celebrated ten years together. It was a milestone that deserved a celebration, so for the first time in a very long time, we asked the grandparents to babysit and promptly phoned a local restaurant to book a table. We didn’t realise how much we’d missed each other; uninterrupted conversation, a decadent meal and a few hours of time alone was exactly what we needed. And we’d needed it for two whole years! Why had we left it so long to indulge in a date night? Life with three kids, that’s why.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the first year with a baby, regardless of how many children you have or how ‘good’ your baby is, places a strain on your relationship. In retrospect, the first year with each of our children has presented new challenges for us as a couple; it’s part and parcel of welcoming a new baby and figuring out a new family dynamic. Hormones, exhaustion, the monotony of running a house and paying bills and juggling work life all contribute. It may be normal but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I now consider that first year as a transition period. In my opinion, the key to maintaining a strong relationship in that first year is to acknowledge that change is occurring and to know that that change is natural and necessary. Over the years I’ve come to accept that there are periods of intense frustration, exhaustion and despair that require patience and love to get you through. It’s like you have to lower your expectations, rummage around for a bit of extra patience and, most importantly, be kind to yourself and each other.

And then, on a daily basis, repeat: this too shall pass.

If you’re currently navigating the first year with baby and wondering what on earth happened to the carefree, deliriously happy relationship you once had with your husband, you’re not alone. The first year is a balancing act that’s new and challenging, and often your relationship with your partner takes a back seat as you muddle your way through sleep deprivation and the reality of raising a new human. But, whether you leave your relationship on the backseat or make it a priority is completely up to you. Yes, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of yourself and even easier to lose sight of each other.

How to re-connect? Give yourself time to settle into new parenthood (think months, not weeks) be patient, talk, argue, recognise your limits, don’t place high expectations on yourselves (individually or as a family unit), take afternoon naps and, if you can, schedule time together (think a shared meal, a block of chocolate and a movie, a glass of wine). Accept that sometimes the frustration of all the newness you are facing will mean you are short with each other. Sometimes you will both bite, but it happens in a moment and it can stay in the moment if you let it.

Most importantly, know that grand gestures of romance aren’t necessary; small tokens of self-care and love will get you through.

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Image: Jodi Wilson