17 Great Pieces of Relationship Advice for New Parents

Some tricks of the trade, according to parents who've been there.

Flickr/Richard Masoner Cyclelicious

Having a baby radically changes a new mom and dad’s relationship with one another. Often, and understandably, the romantic part of a relationship gets put on the back burner as parents focus on their newborn and getting used to having a third member of their family. That being said, just because a baby is in the picture doesn’t mean that mom and dad need to throw their romantic relationship out the window. It just means that the scale of romance might shift a little bit as parents do baby damage control. So how should new parents get through their first year of parenting? Here are 17 pieces of relationship advice for new parents who have been through or are going through their first year of parenting on how to make it through still liking your spouse.

Schedule Everything

Alex Ippoliti and his wife, who have been married for 14 years and now have six kids, began to use time management apps more typically associated with the workplace to make sure they were making time for each other. “It’s going to sound kind of funny, but we use a couple of apps, like Trello, for example,” said Alex. “We use some project management and budgeting apps to make sure that we are communicating with each other, and we kept track of what all we had going on. We also try not to get into a rut, do the same thing, and go to the same restaurant. We really try to do different things. It’s actually on a Trello card — all of our date ideas.

Ask For Help From Others

When Andrew and Flow Belinsky found out, quite by surprise, that they were expecting, they made plans to move in with Flow’s parents after the baby came and leaned on them hard. It helped them enormously. “The whole experience has been a great lesson for me in learning how to really surrender and ask for so much more help than I’ve ever asked for in my life,” said Andrew. “Whether that’s calling in grandmas, grandpas, or friends and community members who had mentioned that they’d be willing to cook for us or asking each other, really, for time and space to go for a walk or to go somewhere by ourselves for a night. It’s really been a humbling experience. All of the favors I’ve ever saved up in my life from any person — I cashed them over this last year and a half. It’s been the hardest time and biggest challenge and the most unstable time in our lives. So, it’s been a great lesson in calling in all the troops.

Do Something To Remind Yourself You’re Not Just Parents

When Rebecca and Alonzo Calhoon became new parents, Rebecca struggled to remember that she

wasn’t just a mom and that she was her own person with interests and passions. Alonzo tried to nurture that and make her feel more “her” again. “Part of our issue was internal battles that Rebecca was having about parts of her that she felt like she had lost when she became a mom. About every two weeks, she would go through this cycle of feeling like she needed to get away,” said Alonzo. “So we just started scheduling, every two weeks, even if it’s just overnight, we do something that feeds that side of her. We put things in place to remember that she’s not just a mom.”

Change The Scale Of Your Date Nights

Jay and Shelly Jeffsen don’t have a lot of family around, so their support system for their several kids is thin. While they still make sure they get out, they recognize that most of their date nights will have to happen at home once the kids are in bed — and that’s okay. “I’m a homebody,” says Shelly. “Jay likes to get out on the town. So we do schedule at-home-date nights and I am fine with that. I never have to leave the house! But of course, I want to meet his needs, too. So we have one at home, scheduled date night, once a week. There’s no compromising that. We’re together, we rent movies, we play cards. He’s a better chef than I am, so he’ll cook me dinner. It’s just time together to sit and look at each other’s faces and talk about things that don’t revolve around work and dreams and hopes and all of those things.”

Don’t Feel Guilty About Having Less Sex

As new parents, you are simply going to have less sex, says Tom Furnival, who is busy raising two toddlers today with his wife, Christina. The first year of being parents, they acknowledged that, and aimed for quality over quantity — without hemming and hawing or feeling too guilty about it. “The sleep deprivation, at least for us, did play a fairly big part in numbing our desires. When it comes down to it, you just don’t want sex as much. I’m not going to say it’s perfect, but we’ve acknowledged that we’ve entered a new stage in life and are moving from quantity to quality. We know that if we’re too tired, it’s fine. We’ve done a lot of shit today. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is breaking down or that we’re not attracted to one another. It means we’re absolutely bloody exhausted and we need to sleep.”

Make Special Moments out of the Mundane

Caitlyn Hatt and her husband, Juan, are super busy, with three kids from previous marriages and one of their own. That’s why they take the time to catch up over the mundane, like while cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry. “Even in a simple gesture of, “Hey, I’m going to go wash dishes,” he’ll say, “You know what honey, I’ll go ahead and dry them for you.” That creates an intimacy right there for us,” says Caitlyn. “We talk about the business, and about what’s up next at the gym, like if it’s arm day, and we talk about the kids. That really brings a lot to the relationship for us, as well.”

Go To Couples Therapy — Even If Nothing’s Wrong

Brandon Pierpoint and his wife, Ariel, became parents in an interesting way. When Ariel and Brandon met, Ariel was already six months pregnant — she just didn’t know it yet. After she had her baby, they got married, and Brandon is a stepdad to their kid. They got through it by going to couples therapy, sometimes even when they felt like there was nothing wrong. “One of the things that we did, and then dropped the ball on, but are going to start doing again, was proactively going to couple’s therapy. There were issues that we went to specifically address, but we also would go when there really weren’t issues. We both recognize the importance of work in the relationship. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not ‘done’ just because we’re married. It’s cliche, but I think it’s true: you get out what you put in.”

Embrace the Quickie

Rob and Louise Westra had an easy pregnancy and a scary birth. They live far from any family members, across the pond, and are super busy. Despite all that, they know that even maintenence sex — quickies — will keep their relationship healthy in a major way. “A few days ago, Rob was really up for it. And for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. So this morning, it was like, he was awake, I was awake, and we just needed to do it… People can have impromptu, healthy sexual experiences with one another without anyone feeling taken advantage of,” says Louise. “We have a very healthy sex life, but sometimes it’s a struggle, to just actually have sex with our schedules. It can feel a little bit like ships in the night. In all seriousness, we did, at once, hire a cleaner, because it freed me up and Robert to have more time and energy for one another.”

Write Some Parenting Vows

Danielle Bayard Jackson gave birth really shortly after getting married to her husband, Ryan. Although they were ready and excited to have their baby, they also wanted to stay true to who they were as people and not get sucked into the parenting role. So they wrote parenting vows — vows to keep to one another and to their newborn. “One night we were talking, and I told Ryan that I felt nervous about losing us and myself. Like, am I going to be that woman who always has spit up on me and who doesn’t go out anymore? And those things turned out to be true,” says Danielle, but the vows helped enormously. “We vowed we’d always push each other to get out of the house and go do something fun with their friends, and we would have date nights as often as we could. I think so far we’ve been pretty good about both of those things.”

Put More Effort Into Date Nights

Charlie Myers, who has a baby with his wife, Dana, felt like he lost his wife after she gave birth. But they both realized that she was still there — she was just bogged down by parenting and the stresses of the baby. So Charlie put in the work to give Dana an environment to just be herself. “I had to realize that Dana had not gone away, and part of my responsibility was nurturing her to be that Dana,” notes Charlie. “To do that, I would do more work. I would take her out and turn her on. I’d figure out who was coming to town that she might like or that we’d both like. We’d figure out an experience we hadn’t done before and still make sure that those date nights happened and that we had fun times together, as a couple, without kids.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Therapy For Yourself

Melissa Randazzo had an extremely difficult pregnancy and her son was born premature. As a result, he spent months in the NICU, and Melissa recovered from a grueling birth. She also felt like she didn’t really know her body anymore. While her husband, Gaspare, was super understanding, she took it on herself to re-engage with her body and herself so that she could have the confidence to feel intimate and love herself. “My relationship with my body completely changed. I physically didn’t recognize myself,” said Melissa. “I’m happy that I found a really, really great therapist that helped me through it, and that my husband was great and understanding. You can definitely plan all you want, but your plans can be thrown out the window through the blink of an eye. We bounced back pretty well.”

The Little Things Really Do matter

Michael Doemner and his wife, Caitlin, have an extremely healthy sex life. But that doesn’t mean they’re parents to each other all day and they just get in the bedroom and go crazy. Instead, they keep their relationship burning all day long. “Expressing love to each other, being kind to each other, doing the little things that aren’t sex or necessarily what we think of when we think of a passionate relationship, those minute by minute and hour by hour things set the stage for [good sex,] says Michael. “It’s not just about going through our day of craziness and laying down in bed at night and just jumping right into it. The stage is set all day long. Through our conversations and our interactions of just being kind and generous with one another, we make sure that we’re maintaining that relationship all the time.”

Do More than “Dinner and a Movie”

Alyssa and Otis Noel struggled after having their baby, partly because Otis works as a truck driver and would be on the road for stretches of time. But in the end, the long phone calls they’d have while he was on the road forced them to realize they needed to be more intentional with one another, and now, they go on interesting, adventurous dates that put them out of their comfort zone. “We try new things. We get outside of the box. We do things that make us both uncomfortable, like Top Golf. That’s something that neither one of us are good at,” says Otis. “But we go there, and it’s something new, it’s different, we’re laughing at each other and helping each other. We were just looking at things like: what haven’t we done, and what will make us uncomfortable to where we have to work together?”

Remember That Co-Parenting Can Be A Romantic Gesture

Johnathan Kish realized that the mainstream romantic gestures that he used to do for his wife and co-parent Rachael, like surprise dates or flowers, just weren’t doable anymore with three kids. So now, he and Rachael recognize that romance is support, not gifts. “What we’ve found is that supporting each other achieves the same goal of giving a gift,” said Johnathan. “So if it’s cleaning the dishes or making dinner and breakfast or putting together lunches, it’s not the same as a romantic gesture, but romantic gestures evolve as you get a little bit older and you have children. If I had any advice to give, I would say that new dads should use free time that they get to play video games — you should put yourself in the mindset that, what your wife needs right now is for you to take care of some of the things that she just can’t.”

Remember Your Priorities

Liz and Austin Alvarez had a lot of fears about the big picture of parenting. In 20 years, when their children fled the coop, would they still know each other? So, they made a vow that their baby was joining their family, not the other way around. “I think a lot of parents make their kids their entire world. We’ve always had the theory that Austin and I are a family. Our kids will join our family and then leave.” says Liz. “We never want to be one of those couples that wakes up in 20 years when our kids are moved out and roll over and look at each other and say, ‘Oh. I don’t know you.’ Something we’ve been doing since Canaan started going to bed at a reasonable hour, we pick one day a week that’s a date night in our home. We put our phones away and pick something to do — a game, or a movie, or questions to ask each other or dinner to cook together — one night a week. That’s really helped with our connection. I wish we had started doing that sooner.”

Giving One Another Space Is Crucial

Ashley and Lindsey Head both have high-powered careers and a baby. Before having their kid, they used to work out together every Sunday and then go to a matinee movie. Now they can’t do that — but they still make sure that they both have time to stay healthy for themselves, for each other, and for their baby. “I’ll stay at home with the babies while Lindsay goes to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, she’ll be at home with the kids and I’ll go work out. That’s unavoidable, but it’s good. We’re very in tune with what the other person’s priorities are, and the other person will take over for that day: cooking, cleaning, anything. It’s really about balance and sharing.”

Think Twice Before You Let The Baby in The Bedroom

While it’s normal, completely par for the course, and healthy to have the baby in the bedroom for the first few months of their life, Alyson Fenty stresses how much her marriage improved when she and her husband Joe put their baby in the nursery when she was about five months old. “I think there’s something to be said about the baby being physically in your bedroom, right next to your bed. As much as I loved that, and it was a really tough couple first nights away from her, I think it really did improve the intimacy in our relationship,” says Alyson. “Having a few hours at a time in between when she needed to be fed, where it was just the two of us, [changed everything.]”