Keeping the Spark Alive After Having a Baby (Part 3: Love Specifically)
We only have one word for love, but it means different things to all of us. When we say we want to keep that spark alive in our relationship, what does that mean for you?
One of the challenges of being new parents is having little time or energy left for each other. Whether we like it or not, our baby gets the best of us, and then we tend to do what we need to just to get through ourselves. Even when we go out of our way to show our partners we love them, it’s hard to do things the way we used to.
How many of us used to love all the cuddles from our partners, and now, after a day of breastfeeding and having a baby cling to us, the last thing we want is for our husbands to start touching us? Or how about when all you need him to do to show you he loves you is to help clean the bathroom this week or come home on time from work, not just tell you how much he loves you? Or maybe all you need is to hear him say how much he loves you and what a great job you’re doing.
This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other as much anymore, it means we need to be more specific in the ways we are showing love. Because with a new baby, there is far less opportunity, energy or motivation to spend time making sure our partners know we love them.
...Side note: I know with limited time and energy, the last thing we’re going to do (even if we know we should) is add more things to our to-do list to make sure we are still showing our partner we love him. That’s why this week’s topic is going to be so helpful - it’s not about doing more, it’s about looking at what you’re already doing and just working with that. (Though bonus points if you go above and do try to show love more than you currently do.) Ok. Let’s get into it....
This might be a bit cheesy, but bear with me: Our relationship is like a garden. When we put time and care into our garden, it grows, flourishes and produces amazing fruits, veggies and flowers for us to enjoy. When we neglect it, it might survive for a bit, but eventually it will start to whither and die, and weeds will overtake the good stuff. Now, I’m sure you can say what sort of garden your relationship looks like at the moment - how does it feel? Here’s the amazing thing I’m going to share: there are shortcuts to growing a super garden without putting in any more effort. It’s not about watering the garden more (though that’s important too). The tip I’m going to share is like adding fertiliser to that water you’re already using in the garden. It’s like taking the current results and multiplying them expontentially, without really adding in any more effort or using more time.
Did you know we all have favourite ways to be loved, and to show love? Think about an example of a little way your partner shows you he loves you. How about a little way you would like him to show you how he loves you?
People will all answer those questions a little differently. Maybe love means your husband helped with a job around the house that you needed doing. Maybe it means he brought you home your favourite chocolate as a surprise. Maybe it means he wanted to go for a walk with you and hang out, instead of doing his own thing. Maybe it means he gave you a kiss and hug when he got home from work, or maybe it’s just when he told you how great you looked or how great of a mum he thought you were. Which of these would mean the most to you right now?
Dr Gary Chapman, author and marriage expert, defined five different ‘love languages’. His theory is that we each have a ‘primary love language’, and this is how we prefer to be loved and to show love. The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Physical Touch. (You can find out more and do a quick quiz to discover which is your primary love language - get your partner to do it too!)
What this means is, love looks different for both of you. When he tells you he loves you, it might be in a different love language, so you’re not really understanding or receiving it the way he thinks he is communicating it. And vice versa with our efforts to show love to him. Obviously, neither of you is right or wrong, like Chinese and English isn’t the right or wrong language, they are just different ways to communicate. But you can learn to communicate in different languages!
The secret to multiplying the effects of your efforts to stay close and ‘in love’ with your partner, is to speak the love language he speaks. And for him to do the same for you.
If you don’t want to take the quiz, or he doesn’t want to, you can still find out what the most effective way to communicate your love to each other is, by trial and error.
Here are a few different examples you could try:
- Send him a text message during the day just to tell him something you love about him. Or compliment him over dinner on something you admire or appreciate in him. (Words of Affirmation)
- This evening when the baby is asleep, spend half an hour just hanging out with him, with no phones or screens. Or go for a walk with the baby and him if that’s easier, and just talk. (Quality Time)
- Do a household job for him or help make one of his jobs easier. E.g. do the dishes, if he normally does them. (Acts of Service)
- Give your husband a decent hug and a kiss when he gets home for the day, or hold hands when you’re driving in the car together. (Physical Touch)
- Buy him a little gift to show you were thinking of him - you could pick up his favourite chocolate as a surprise when you’re doing the groceries, or even drop off a takeaway coffee for him at work. (Gifts)
There are five different types of ways to show love here, and seven days in the week. That’s pretty good to work with!
All of these are different ways to show your partner you love him, and I’m sure you can think of ideas which are practical for you. Remember, these aren’t extravagant acts of love, we’re not going for a big Hollywood romance movie act of love, we’re just going for a more authentic, day in day out sort of love. A love that will last because we can do these things regularly.
Keep note on his reactions, too. They’ll be a good clue into what ‘language’ he responds best to. You’ll start to learn more about yourself too, by knowing what you would most like yourself, and what you most feel out of those examples is showing him you love him. Of course, the best way to make sure he knows your love language too is to talk about it together.
Ok, so let’s recap.
- We all experience, perceive and show love differently.
- Our own preferences for how we’d like to receive love and show love is our ‘primary love language’.
- Our partners most likely have a different primary love language to us.
- We can get the most out of our efforts to show love, when we show love in our partner’s primary love language.
It’s simply about loving each other in specific ways, the ways you both will value the most.
It takes a bit of thought initially, but then it’s easy. It saves wasting efforts in areas that aren’t going to help make you feel closer (speaking a language he doesn’t speak). And it means the tiniest efforts can have huge effects for helping you to feel close and in sync with each other, because your efforts are directed in the right areas (speaking one another’s language).
The best part is, learning to love each other in the specific ways we prefer to be loved, is a skill that will help keep that ‘in love’ spark alive not just through the early years as parents, but for the rest of our lives.