We turned to Fran Praver, author of The New Science of Love: How Understanding Your Brain's Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011), for her advice on keeping the romance alive after having a baby. "Now that baby makes three, things have changed. Pregnancy and the newborn baby have placed romance on the back burner," Praver says.
"Some of the romantic feelings you felt back then, triggered by love and lust-inducing brain chemicals, are on hold -- and it may seem like you can't bring them back, but you can." Here's her advice.
1. Practise patience
First things first: Don't panic. You may think that if you can't figure out how to balance being both new parents and a happy couple right away that your relationship will go downhill. But avoid putting pressure on yourselves, says Praver. "The first thing to consider is patience. There is no rush to bring romance back." Instead, make sure you're on the same page by being open and honest about how you feel. After all, bringing home a baby is a big change that needs an adjustment period -- so start slowly. "Begin by communicating your needs and feelings to each other," says Praver.
2. Take time-outs
Becoming parents may be life changing, but bringing a baby home doesn't mean you're no longer a couple. It's important to take some time (even if it's only a few minutes) to be alone together. "Set up several time-outs from the baby during the week when you and your partner can have privacy," Praver says. "This can be your special time to talk about anything other than the baby and to cuddle, hug and kiss."
If a friend or family member offers to baby-sit for an hour or two, take them up on it. This can be impromptu couple time together where you can escape to the living room to catch up on your favourite TV series on DVR or to the bedroom to take a nap together.
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3. Share what you love about each other
You may be lavishing most of your love on your new bundle of joy, but don't forget to share some of that love with each other as a way to keep the romance thriving. "Tell your partner what you value, respect and love about him and ask him to reciprocate," says Praver. When things get stressful (and sleep is at a minimum) you can help keep one another afloat with reminders of how good you are together. "Reflect on good times and happy memories with each other," says Praver.
4. Plan a date night
Once you feel comfortable going out without the baby, get a family member or someone you trust to baby-sit and go on short dates together, such as a visit to a local coffee shop or a walk through a nearby park. If you can't get a sitter (or don't feel comfortable doing so yet), Praver suggests going out as a family. "Bring the baby with you -- but try to get out of the house so there is no cooking, shopping or cleaning up to worry about."
5. Bring back the lust
If sex is the last thing on your mind (and chances are it is), put some work into bringing back some feelings of arousal. All you have to do is use your imagination. "Begin the process of bringing lust back by using your brain," suggests Praver. Think back to a particularly great night of sex and ask your partner to do the same. "Action begins in the mind, and research shows that imagination can change the brain and trigger the release of love-inducing chemicals," she explains.
6. Fantasize together
Fantasizing can go a long way toward spicing up your sex life and rekindling feelings of attraction. "Ask your partner to join you in fantasizing," Praver says. What you choose is up to you, whether it's a romp in the afternoon in broad daylight or a tryst at a hotel. The point is to create a sensual mental picture of what could be. "You may not be ready to act on your feelings yet, but you will have set the stage for lovemaking in the near future," says Praver.
If you've been feeling like romance has taken a backseat to your baby, it's time to find a balance between parenthood and love. Getting your relationship back on track doesn't have to be stressful. It just takes patience, good communication and an open mind to start refocusing on romance.
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