Becoming a new dad can put your relationship with your partner to the test. If it’s your first child, you’re learning how to be parents together. If you already have children, you’re adjusting to caring for another baby in a busy household. You’re probably sleep-deprived.

You might be experiencing unexpected differences in how you each want to care for your baby. Or you might have different ideas about managing paid work and caring duties. Perhaps you’ve never discussed these issues before. Bringing them up now can sometimes cause conflict and tension.

If other issues are in the mix, such as financial stress, issues at work, social or physical isolation, or issues with extended family, it can add an extra layer of stress to your relationship with your partner. Being aware in advance of potential problems and being open to ways of managing your way through these can help keep your relationship on track.

Relationship challenges for new dads

As a new dad, you may have to deal with some or all of the issues listed above. But if one or both of you develop postnatal depression or anxiety, there will be other serious issues to address. 

You may notice:

  • Changes in the mood and personality of ‘the person you thought you knew’.
  • Loss of emotional intimacy: your partner might withdraw or push you away.
  • Increased/extreme neediness. This can be frustrating for a partner who already feels pressure from work or the new baby.
  • Increased physical stress from being the main carer (cooking, cleaning, loss of sleep, working and looking after a new baby).
  • Changes in your sex life: anxious or depressed people commonly lose interest in or lack the energy for sex.

Relationship tips for new dads

  • Try to keep communicating. Talk sympathetically about what is happening and try to avoid blame.
  • The best thing you can provide for your partner at this time is emotional support. Try to be gentle and encouraging.
  • Take an active role in caring for your baby.
  • Remember that the symptoms your partner is experiencing are due to illness rather than faults in your relationship.
  • Now is not the best time to be making big life decisions about things like your relationship, career or your house.
  • Reassure your partner that you understand any loss of interest in sex for the time being. There may be other ways of expressing intimacy.