How To Reclaim Intimacy In Your Relationship After Childbirth

Intimacy is a term that has many connotations. Before intimacy means sex, before intimacy even means physical, intimacy means closeness. And what does closeness imply? It is a reflection of the understanding between people that has consciously and unconsciously developed over time. It is a bond between people that has allowed one another into their most personal spaces, both emotionally and psychologically. Intimacy is not a static thing, like an object that sits on a window sill. It changes as we change — and as our partnerships change. 

Intimacy can certainly change after you've had a baby. While certain aspects of your multi-faceted intimacy with one another can be strengthened, other aspects may suffer. And none of that is abnormal. Once you realize between diaper changes, wake windows, pickup times, playdates, and appointments, that you are not as intimate with your partner as you once were, it could feel daunting to overcome, especially when you are not sure where or how intimacy became lost. But intimacy is a practice that you and your partner might simply be out of. Here's how to get back into it. 

What happens to intimacy post-baby?

After having a baby, it's common for couples to report feeling less inclined to be intimate in the bedroom and less connected to their partner day-to-day. According to OBGYN Dr. Sheryl Ross for WebMD, "It's completely normal for both women and men's libido to hit a rock-bottom low during the first six to nine months following the birth of your baby." One factor that should not be dismissed is sleep deprivation, which can significantly impact all aspects of one's health.

But beyond sleep, when the focus is all about the kids, forgetting to check in with each other as a partner, and not just as a parent, seems practically bound to happen. "A really common thing that happens after a baby comes into the picture is that you go from being soulmates to roommates. Suddenly it's all about dividing tasks, and that's not what brought you together," relationship expert and educator Beth Goss tells Today. Even when you do feel appreciation for your partner, making that known to them is a barrier to practice crossing. "Often what we do is, we notice something but we don't vocalize it," she says.

What you do not need to do

Understand that you might not be able to pin down an exact reason for the loss of intimacy in your partnership, nor should you blame yourself for it. Intimacy can be interconnected and intuitive. When it comes to seeking answers, you do not need to have them all, nor should you alone be expected to work toward a new understanding of intimacy in your relationship. Acceptance of where you are in your relationship is also a great first step to moving forward.

Relationship therapist Shirani Pathak relays on her blog that there are some subtle behaviors to be aware of that could be contributing to loss of intimacy. First, be aware of the energy you bring to a conversation or to the room. How you talk to your partner makes a difference in your bond. For example, using "you" statements too often, such as, "you need to get the groceries this afternoon" can sound accusatory — as though your partner is incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities without you directing them. Instead, use "I" statements to take responsibility for your feelings and perceptions, allow your partner to do tasks how they do them, and work together when necessary. While it may seem counterintuitive, giving your partner space in this way as well as owning your emotions can strengthen trust between you. And trust is critical to cultivating emotional intimacy. 

Re-establish communication

Second, be aware of what you are communicating to your partner. Pathak continues on her blog to be aware of invalidating your partner, which can diminish the sense of closeness you have with each other. Invalidation can take many forms, from dismissing or judging a partner's thoughts or feelings, talking over them, telling them what to do without them asking, and blowing off a partner's perspective on a problem that may differ from your own.

Keep in mind that, just because you are validating your partner's thoughts, for example, does not mean you need to completely agree with what they think. You can tell your partner that you understand their perspective while also acknowledging that you see a situation differently. The point is that invalidating your partner can make their emotions or beliefs feel insignificant, which can make them feel belittled, unwanted, or unsafe being themselves in the partnership. 

While some people may not realize that they are practicing invalidating behaviors, being mindful of your first reaction to your partner during communication of any kind, serious or otherwise, is a good place to begin. Make listening, instead of responding, a priority in your talks. And make an effort to check in with your partner about how they feel, rather than avoiding their feelings or letting them take the initiative each time. Ensuring that you and your partner both feel heard creates a safe environment for open communication, allowing for a deeper sense of intimacy. 

Cultivate gratitude

Sharing your appreciation of your partner is critical when reestablishing intimacy after having a baby. When your baby becomes your world, it can be natural to feel completely engrossed in your role as a parent, when you are deserving of appreciation in other capacities, too. 

Appreciation can come in many different forms, compliments being one of them. Everybody likes to feel seen for their good qualities, so why hold back from letting your partner know the good you see in them? Complimenting your partner's parenting skills is great, but remember to compliment your partner for being themselves, for the kind of partner they are to you, for the kind of person they are to others. Compliments can inspire confidence where it might be difficult to see in ourselves at times, especially in the midst of a demanding schedule. 

"Making a habit of giving specific compliments and affirmations to your partner can help you keep perspective as to why this person is special to you, and it can help them know you see them. You never want your partner to feel invisible because you forgot to share your appreciation," says neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, speaking with NBC News. Appreciation can also be shown by committing to small actions or gestures, whether to be helpful, or just to be kind. Consider the day ahead. Do you have some free time, while your partner's schedule is packed? Offer to help them complete their tasks, or use your time to plan something special for your partner.

Make time for each other

 As you adjust to your life with a baby, establishing routines can be crucial to staying on top of your responsibilities. But becoming too rigid or entrenched in them over time could signal a need to cultivate more flexibility. 

"This can mean that we have lost sight of the value of doing things for each other that generate joy or intimacy in the other person. We stop trying to impress, we stop trying to understand, and in such environments, vulnerability and feelings can get lost to the routine of the everyday," Hafeez tells NBC News. Within the mundane, there is magic. But making time to share your innermost thoughts and making an effort to learn about your partner's can reconnect you to each other's emotional lives, which is critical for maintaining intimacy. 

Sharing might also teach you about how you and your partner have changed since your baby has arrived, and inspire you to reflect on what that means for your future together, as individuals, as parents, and as partners. So much of intimacy stems from understanding. Remember to give your partner and yourself grace as you seek toward understanding the ways both you and your life together have changed after your baby has arrived. When it comes to re-establishing intimacy in your partnership, one grand gesture, such as an extravagant date night, is ultimately not going to sustain intimacy long-term. Instead, it's the small, consistent acts or words of kindness that count over time.