There is little that could impact your relationship with your partner more than having a baby. If you thought that having a child would solidify and strengthen your relationship, I have some bad news for you.

Research from the Gottman Institute in Seattle tells us that a whopping 66% of couples report lower level of marital satisfaction in the first three years after a baby is born.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment…

2 out of every 3 couples are not as happy with their marriage after a baby than they were beforehand.

So if babies are these cute, little marriage-ruiners, why do people continue procreating? That, I can’t answer.

Everyone has their reasons for bringing a child into the world and attempting to make a list would be futile.

What I can tell you is that there are ways that you can safe-guard from some of the potential pitfalls.

1. Finances

Having a baby changes the way in which people and couples think about their finances. I hate to be the first person to tell you this, but babies are expensive. Clothes, diapers, crib, food, shoes, more clothes, more diapers… it adds up.

If two parents have different views about money and how it should or shoud not be spent, these differences are going to be amplified by like 1000 after the baby arrives.

If she’s a spender, and he’s a saver (or vice versa), there are going to be many fights and possibly many nights spent on the couch. So how can you avoid this pitfall? 

Make a plan. Unfortunately, a lot of couples don’t talk about finances before the baby is born. Differences in spending habits may have been brushed aside or ignored earlier on in the relationship in order to preserve peace and harmony.

With the additional expense of having a baby, one partner might be compelled to tighten the purse strings while the other isn’t. Many relationships have ended due to conflicts around money.

So even before the baby comes, sit down and have a conversation about what your finances look like now and how that might change after the baby arrives.

Look over the last 6 months of expensives to determine exactly where your money has gone. Don’t feel confident in your ability to remain neutral? Visit a financial planner for an honest appraisal.

Add in the anticipated expense of having a child as well as any loss of income if you or your partner plan to stay home. Don’t just guess these numbers. A quick Google search will tell you that you can anticipate spending roughly $12000 on your wee one in its first year.

Set a budget and stick to it. Try it out even before the baby is born if you can. Determine the amount of money each of you is able to spend freely each month.

You can’t and shouldn’t try to decide how your partner spends their money each month. While you may think a daily latte is frivilous, it may mean a lot to them.

2. “Me” time

As well as being a drain on one’s finances, babies are also a huge commitment of one’s time.

Unlike sharks, who are able to acquire their own food immediately after being born, human babies require a lot more time and attention. I mean, they can’t even hold their heads up straight for several months!

Many couples underestimate the amount of time that they will have to devote to the care of a child. They also tend to overestimate the amount of time that they are going to be able to devote to themselves.

As a person, you also have needs. One of which is the need for time to do things in order to recharge and relax. Having a baby doesn’t naturally allow for either of those things.

If you or your partner plan to stay home, it can be a very draining and sometimes isolating experience. For the partner who works outside the home, it can feel like a burden to come home from a long day of work and immediately be expected to take care of the baby.

There needs to be a balance in which each of you is allowed to have “me” time. Set aside an hour each week in which one of you will take care of the baby while the other is able to get out of the house (or stay in and read a book if that’s your preference). 

You can’t take care of a baby or your relationship if you don’t also take care of yourself. Speaking of relationship, that brings me to my next point…

3. “We” time

Though it’s sometimes easy to forget- you were a couple before you had a baby and continue to be a couple afterward.

If you don’t take time to nurture and care for your relationship, it is going to wither. 

This includes, but is certainly not limited to, sex.

Just like activities for yourself, sometimes you have to schedule time for one another. Setting aside a time during the week to snuggle up and watch a movie or have sex doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. In fact, it will likely give you both something to look forward to.

Time outside the home, just the two of you, is also important. If you’re worried about hiring a babysitter (or paying for one), you can set up a babysitting co-op with friends or trade off with other nearby couples.

For some added flavor, ditch the old wine and dine and do something unique such as going for a hike or to a concert. This will help bring back some of the fun that may be missing from the relationship.

The greatest gift you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the two of you. ~Dr John Gottman

Feel free to join the conversation online on my Facebook page.