However prepared you try to be, inevitably there are some things that you haven’t covered when you plan for parenthood. Sometimes one of the major changes is how your relationship with your spouse or partner becomes different and that can leave you confused, unfulfilled or worse.
1) Remember each relationship goes through phases as it develops
When a romance is blossoming, it can be as if you are merging into one being, and we often hear about “two becoming one”. However, the next phase of a healthy relationship is to grow from the security of “being one” into being interdependent, not co-dependent, and that can bring up many issues over many years.
So, just be aware of what changes enrich the relationship and work on changing those that don’t.
2) Cooperation not competition
If one parent has given up work to be at home with the children, even if done willingly, this can often lead to competing with the working partner. It won’t be immediately obvious, but be aware of how you treat each other – what do you say, how do you feel about each other’s contribution and how much do you actually listen? Be honest with yourself, how do you really feel about being at home or at work? If you loved your career, you are now likely to be living in a conflicted place either because you have given up work, or because you are trying to continue your career AND be there for your children. It is very unusual for someone to have truly understood this and be in a position where they are 100% happy in the “parenting young children” phase. So, without having any intention to, you might be taking this out on your spouse or partner in the way that you think about them or in how you talk to them – and you have NO IDEA that you are doing this. If you begin to realise that you are undermining your own relationship then stop, and talk this through with yourself and then with them. Together you will be able to work out steps to help you move your relationship, and your feelings, into where you want them to be.
3) Discuss and plan what you want for your relationship.
Even if you did this before you had a family, it is important to review regularly. I recommend yearly for a full review and plan. Ensure you spend at least 30 minutes every 3 months exploring how things are going and deciding if you are still heading in your chosen direction together is really important to help keep you connected. Your plan can be as simple or as complex (!) as you would like! The act of working things out together will help you understand where you are both at and what you want to do to develop your relationship further. Your relationship changes because you have a family, it doesn’t have to end.
4) How do you deal with becoming 3 things, a mum, a wife, an individual, and how to maintain that value of self?
The foundation of these things is to be clear on what your value of self is. A great book to help you with this is “Opening our Hearts to Men” by Susan Jeffers. Easy to read and with practical exercises that show you how to “feel good about yourself.” I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to build healthy relationships.
To still be an individual, a mum and a wife requires planning. Be clear, what do you want to achieve in the 3 areas; why do you want to achieve these things, and when by? Putting this into action will follow once you have these things clear. This naturally also links with planning for your relationship – after all, there’s no point deciding that you want a relationship that’s fundamentally different from that which your husband wants, is there?
Give yourself some time each week to reflect on if you are feeling fulfilled in all the areas of your life. That way nothing gets too far out of hand before you address it. Some people have a soak in the bath, others go for a walk on their own; I always recommend using a journal of some sort. You can buy yourself something beautiful to write in, or just a pad of A4 and file. Your method doesn’t matter, but the act of putting it onto paper (or onto a computer) and being able to reflect and plan will really help you balance your life in the best way that you can at the time.
5) Is the change of priorities between sex and sleep permanent?
Only if you want it to be! However, your sex life can certainly appear to have disappeared for now. Sleep is vital and becomes almost the most important thing for many people once you have kids (see my previous Bump, Baby and Beyond article or go to my bloghttps://coresenseblog.wordpress.com).
However, sex – the beautiful act that created your family – is still important too. Well, actually, intimacy is. Intimacy is when we are truly connected with our partner and we are giving and receiving love and appreciation. If you create intimate times – even for 5 minutes a day with no pressure to make love, – eventually you will find that intimacy can naturally lead back to having sex if you are both awake enough.
Gently ask your partner how they feel about the change in your love-making. Find out if there is anything going on that is worrying them – it might be something to do with work, or issues surrounding birth, or breast-feeding, or something completely unrelated in your mind, but it is affecting their self-esteem.
Sometimes men are concerned that they might hurt their wife or girlfriend after they have become a mum, and wonder if they should approach sex differently – but need your help to have the confidence to do so. Women often have so much on their minds that to switch off and focus on physical feelings is a near-impossibility.
A great tip for many parents of young children is to put the children to bed, get the house straight and then go and make love, before snuggling up with a book, listening to music or watching the t.v. together.
A book I often recommend to help create intimacy is “The 5 Love Languages – The secret love that lasts” by Gary Chapman. It is easy to read and will help you understand your children too! And if you and your children get on, then you and your spouse / partner will find it easier to have a better relationship.
Whatever your situation know that with love and attention your relationship can improve, often with a depth of feeling and greater intimacy than before.