My partner and I really struggle to find time for our relationship. We have a baby and a toddler that keep us very busy. The baby is still waking every two hours at night and I am exhausted, with little or no energy to devote to my partner. When evening comes all I want is to go to bed. My partner takes it personally and thinks I don’t find him attractive any more.
I don’t know where to find the energy to look after us as a couple, as well as our two kids, or how to make him understand the level of my tiredness. We have talked about couples’ therapy but we can’t really afford to leave the baby with a babysitter for long, as he is breastfeeding often and on demand. I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how to get some help? E.B
Whatever your picture of life as a young family was, it’s unlikely that the first words that came to mind were: no money, no sex, and no time. This wasn’t how you pictured parenthood with the man you love, and yet here you seem to be.
Changing from being a couple to a unit of baby-makes-three (or four) is exciting and wonderful, but it can also feel overwhelming, exhausting and worrying. The demands on your time, energy and resources can be a complete killer of any notion of romance. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it was love and romance that got you in this position in the first place and you sound as if you are both committed to making this work so with a bit of thought and planning you can get through this.
It’s important to remember that this won’t last forever and the stage when small children take up all your energy and emotional space will come to an end. So begin to build in time together now.
You asked me how to get help, and my sense is that your relationship is not at the stage where it could rupture and need professional rescue, but that you need to motivate all the other human resources around you. Is there a friend or parent who could watch the kids for half an hour while you go for a walk together? Is there a way in which you and your partner could share more of the chores or childcare so that you have a bit more time and energy left over for each other?
Put aside designated couple time, if only 20-30 minutes every other day to really talk to, and more importantly listen, to each other, so that you both feel heard, cared for and included. Both your lives are changing, and you have to talk about it, and be honest with each other about what you need.