Barely five weeks into being pregnant with my son, I was already starting to feel nauseous, jumpy, and exhausted. No longer able to count on my normal energy reserves, I had to get really focused on what mattered to me, start taking better care of myself, and being direct about my needs. One of those needs, unfortunately for me, was the need for help. Though I'm normally the sort of person who wants to do everything herself (cause how else will it get done right?), I quickly realized that was not going to be an option for the next few months (or really, for the next few years of trying to raise this child). Having to lean on my partner in a totally new way made me realize that being pregnant can actually make your relationship stronger.
Obviously, when I say this, I am talking about healthy, respectful partnerships. It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: while pregnancy can feel like a magical time, pregnancy is not actually magic, and pregnancy cannot fix a fundamentally weak or abusive partnership. If you're with someone who struggles to be patient, generous, or empathetic under normal circumstances, the challenges of pregnancy are likely to make that exponentially harder. For many people in abusive relationships, pregnancy is when the abuse either starts or worsens. If you find yourself in that kind of situation, please do all you can to figure out your options, get some support, and leave if at all possible.
However, if you're in a positive relationship, pregnancy can actually make your partnership stronger. Fortunately, that was my experience. Knowing that we obviously couldn’t share being pregnant or giving birth, my partner agreed to do whatever he could to help me feel as comfortable as possible, whether it was making whatever food I needed whenever I needed it (yay, midnight bacon!), doing way more than his normal load around the house so that I could do less, giving massages, and even fastening my shoes when it got too tough in my third trimester. Pregnancy can bring out the best in a strong relationship, because...
It Highlights The Need For Communication
Communication is always so important, but it becomes especially important when you’re doing something as significant (and fraught with potential pitfalls) as making a brand new person. Fortunately, pregnancy cuts way down on the amount of energy you normally spend beating around the bush. Meanwhile, having a baby on the way is probably the best possible motivation to make sure you and your partner are on the same page, which benefits you both in the short and long term.
Pregnancy Excitement Can Boost Your Connection
If you’re pregnant because you want to be having a baby, then pregnancy is really exciting. It’s fascinating on a basic, scientific level, to say nothing of the significance of making your specific child. There are lots of special moments you get to share with your partner (like seeing your child-to-be on an ultrasound, or feeling the baby move) that can remind you how incredible it is that you get to share this amazing thing with someone you love.
Pregnancy Fears Can Bring You Closer, Too
Even when things are going well, pregnancy can also be a really scary, nerve-wracking time. It can raise questions and doubts that can surprise even the most excited expectant parents. Opening up to your partner about your worries and fears can be an opportunity to step up for each other and get closer.
It Makes You More Vulnerable
Whether it's emotionally, because of the aforementioned worries and fears, or just because you physically need more help than normal (especially if you're really sick during your pregnancy), pregnancy is a really vulnerable time. That vulnerability, however, can be a boon to a good relationship, by forcing everyone involved to get real about their needs and wants, and essentially helping you both get to know each other more deeply.
It Makes You Prioritize
Pregnancy forces you to get clear about what matters most in your life, both in a grand sense (“How do we want to raise this child? What kind of lifestyle do we want for our family?”) and in a day-to-day sense (“I’m tired AF. This entire to-do list ain’t getting done. So, which three things do I have to do, and which can I delegate or let slide?”). Figuring out those priorities together, and nixing the low-priority stuff from your relationship that take up too much time and energy without giving much benefit, can strengthen your partnership for the long-term.
Pregnancy Inspires Protectiveness
Nice gestures like giving up their seats and offering to carry things, and even frequently annoying things like offering all sorts of unsolicited advice are all ways that people demonstrate their instinctive desire to protect you when you're pregnant. That goes even more for your partner. Having your partner go out of their way to keep you comfortable and safe can be incredibly endearing, and help you appreciate them more.
Pregnancy Is Impressive
Watching you heroically meet the challenge of making a person, and weather all of the changes that come along with that, inspires awe and gratitude (in anyone with a brain) to understand the significance of what pregnancy actually entails, as well as a heart to appreciate it. Gratitude definitely strengthens relationships.
Pregnancy Can Be Funny
Sure, folks like to talk about how pregnancy makes people “glow” and all of that, but a lot of the time, it just feels like a lot of nausea and fatigue punctuated by farting, constantly having to pee, and other less-than-dignified moments that you’ll both find funny. Well, someday. The family that laughs together stays together, right?
It Motivates You To Have Fun Before Baby Arrives
Knowing that your life is about to drastically change once you birth your new baby is great motivation to go out and do fun things that you may not have time, energy, or money for in a few short months. Having fun date nights, taking little trips, or even just enjoying time to sleep in (if you don’t already have any other kids waking you up, that is) can all offer opportunities to connect and deepen your relationship.
It Pushes You To Consider The Balance In Your Partnership
Though having a “50-50” partnership is often held up as a goal, real relationships are almost never actually like this. At any given point in time, one partner is usually doing more of the “work” (the emotional labor, the practical labor of maintaining a household, and so forth) though who is playing that role often shifts at different moments in life. Pregnancy is a huge reminder of that, as well as a great time to check in with that balance. Even though things aren’t usually split completely evenly (and the physical reality of pregnancy is nowhere near that), that doesn’t mean that things can’t be split in a way that feels fair and satisfying to everyone involved.