Rounding out our month-long theme on love, relationships, intimacy, and sex during pregnancy and beyond, let's talk about specific ways to keep your relationship strong and connected during pregnancy. As we discussed earlier this month, pregnancy is often like the "calm before the storm" of caring for a newborn. While changes during pregnancy also can cause tension, it's generally easier to focus on your relationship without the addition of sleep deprivation and a new focus on baby. For this reason, it's important to go into the new parents phase with a strong relationship. For some, it may be as simple as adding in a date night while others may need a more intense focus on problem areas.
1. Plan a standing weekly date. This can be lunch out together, making dinner in, going for a walk together at night, or any other number of things. Make sure to leave time for talking -- and listening -- to each other. If possible, plan to spend at least an hour together. Take turns choosing what to do and where to go. Try to find out one new thing about each other. End the evening telling each other one thing you are grateful for in your partner.
2. Daily couples' journal. Find a simple notebook, an easily accessible spot for it, and write one note to each other in it every day. It doesn't have to be lengthy or poetic. It can be a thank-you note or love note, or a simple and sweet observation. Taking time out every day to be intentional with your words to your significant other will help strengthen your communication and appreciation for each other.
3. Face-to-face screen-free time -- every day. It's easy to get caught up in the hustle of life's demands. But if we let the hustle drive the bus, we miss too many sights along the way. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes every day with your parter face-to-face, without the distraction of technology -- no phones, tablets, or TV. You can talk or just stare at each other, but either way, your connection will grow with this simple practice.
4. Couples meditation. Meditation has so many benefits, both for individuals and also for strengthening the relationship bond! You can find several free couples meditation recordings and resources online. This is suitable for those new to meditation (learn it for the first time together!) and seasoned meditators.
5. Counseling or therapy. Sometimes, it takes more to work through issues in your relationship. If that's the case for you, seek out professional help. It's not likely that big, recurring problems will go away without intervention from someone who is objective and trained to help couples communicate. It's important to try and work on the little things before they become bigger, and the big things before they become impossible, and it's easier to do these things before a new baby is in the picture.