Having children changes everything – your relationship included. So how do you make sure you don't neglect this vital part of your life? A lack of intimacy can lead to problems and when you've got kids around it's easy to get into a routine that doesn't involve enough time for each other.
Here are our top 10 tips for being a happy couple with children...
1. Get lippy
Remember kissing – fun, isn't it? Well, it's not just for teenagers, "It's totally understandable that lots of couples (both men and women) don't feel much like having sex after a baby arrives", explains Betty Herbert, relationship expert and author of The 52 Seductions. "So making time for a kiss and a hug every day can be a brilliant way of maintaining intimacy and letting your partner know you still love them."
Another bonus is, a snog doesn't take long and you can do it while you're cooking the pasta...
2. Find some perspective
When you have kids, it's all about compromise. If you're worried about letting the housework slide a bit in favour of a walk holding hands, it might be time to decide what's more important in the long run.
"Before I had a baby, I cooked everything from scratch and had an admirably chic home", Betty tells us. "I hope to return to those things one day – but for now, something's got to give. I'm prioritising quality leisure time over being a domestic goddess."
3. Remember the little things
With nappies to change, fish fingers to cook and yoghurt to wipe off the wall, nobody is expecting you to sit down and write a poem. But the smallest things can make your other half know you're thinking of them, and that's a great feeling in amongst the frantic pace of daily life.
A soppy text, a favourite dinner, a note in their pocket. Things like this take seconds but the warm feeling lasts for hours.
4. Share the load
"Sharing the chores might not seem romantic, but it is", explains Dr Petra Boynton, who specialises in sex and relationships in pregnancy and parenthood.
"It's one of those really basic things you can do to boost your relationship that has nothing to do with sex. Try also to share childcare, even if you're on different work schedules".
Operating as a team is a great feeling and prevents any resentment building up.
5. Try something special
No, we're not talking about Mr Tumble. What we mean is finding ways to make your time together special, even when you can't get out to a fancy restaurant like you used to.
"Okay, so you're stuck at home", says Betty. "But that doesn't mean to say that you can't pour a glass of wine – or mix a cocktail – watch a film, play cards or light a candle on the dinner table once a week. It's too easy to just slump next to each other on the sofa every night."
6. Go out as a couple
When you have small children and need to get a babysitter to go out, it's easy to fall into the trap of either going out on your own with your friends, or going out as a couple on 'dates'. But there's another type of socialising that's really good for your relationship – hanging out in a social group as a couple. It can make you feel like a proper unit, just like the old days, so make time to go to parties together when you get invited or ask some other couples round for a meal.
7. Be kind to each other
It seems so obvious, but as Dr Boynton explains, simple things like being nice to one other can get completely neglected when the focus is on the children. Research suggests that being kind and encouraging to your partner is one of the most important things you can do for your relationship. After all, if we don't do it, we can't rely on co-workers or other relatives to. Look for the positive in your partner and give honest, specific praise.
8. Check in every now and then
Marriage experts recommend couples do something that big business has employed for decades to keep workers happy, productive, and in the loop: hold regular team meetings.
"It's easy to retreat into your own corner and feel like you're not getting the care you need", Betty tells us. " It's so important to carry on talking and listening to each other while you're going through one of the biggest changes you'll ever face – having kids."
9. Fly solo every so often
"It sounds counter-intuitive, but spending time apart is vital to a thriving relationship," says Betty. "Book lunch or a night out with your friends as soon as you feel ready after you've had a baby, or just head out to the cinema on your own. You'll come back feeling refreshed, and that means you can put something new into your relationship – even if it's just something to talk about that isn't the baby!"
10. Crack the code
You might already have one, but if you don't, find a secret way – like a code – to say "I love you" that only the two of you understand. It comes in handy if you call your other half and his boss is standing by his desk, or he phones you and you're in the middle of the soft play – and creates that 'we're in this together' feeling any time you use it.
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