Now We Are Three or Four or More! Relationship Survival!
The baby you always wanted has arrived and you have fallen deeply and irrevocably
in love. But your partner seems a little distant and doesn’t agree with some
of the ways you are looking after the baby. He is not the same person he was
and you are not sure you are happy with the changes! Day by day he is behaving
more and more like his own father. Secretly, your partner may also be thinking
that you are behaving more and more like your mother. What happened to the
man you married, the one that was there for you when you were pregnant and
during labour? Why does everything feel like such a strain? And when will it
all be over when will life drift back to ‘normal’?
Whilst the joys and wonders of infancy are many, the pressures can also at
times feel overwhelming: parents can feel the burden of added responsibility,
duties and household chores; 24 hour nursing care in the early months (and
sometimes years) can be exhausting; adjusting to the new roles in the family from
partner, friend and lover to parent and the changes in relationships can be
hard work. Women also have the changes in their bodies to adjust to and the
feelings that accompany them. For many those years with young babies can be
confusing at times, out of which conflict can grow, and if this is unresolved
the stress on the relationship can reach breaking point. Children can test
us every which way and can rock the foundations of even the most solid of relationships.
A baby can cement a good relationship and bring a couple closer together,
or he or she can highlight the cracks in a relationship. There are many
perfectly normal reasons for feeling lost and bewildered, or angry, sad,
resentful etc., in your relationship after birth because of all the adjustments
you are making. A difficult, demanding or sickly baby, or one that wakes
six times a night can put an added strain on you and your relationship,
as can other common stresses such as post-natal depression, slow healing
from the birth, lack of support and so on.
Even though husbands have not actually had the baby themselves they can
experience many confusing responses to becoming fathers and may find it
hard to know what to do with these feelings. Some common ones include:
OVER-JOYED. Great waves of excitement and joy can wash over you
at any time of day or night. While these are generally pleasant they
can catch you by surprise.
EXCITED. The excitement that comes with a new baby can stop you
from sleeping at night and be wonderfully distracting during the day!
DISPLACED. It feels as if the baby has taken your place. You feel
pushed away and not as important. You struggle to understand your new
place in the family
JEALOUS. As all attentions are focused on the baby and your wife,
surprised to feel some similar feelings to when you were little and
your baby sister or brother arrived.
RESENTFUL. The baby takes up so much time, is so demanding of
everyone’s attentions you feel angry which you don’t express and
so it simmers as a low grade resentment.
EXHAUSTED. Coping with work and home, the broken nights, looking
after everyone (but yourself), including an unbroken stream of visitors,
wears you down.
OVERWHELMED. You panic at having total responsibility for another
human being … one who is so dependent…on you. The added burden
of being the sole breadwinner may make you feel like the task is
simply too big.
PERPLEXED. It can take some fathers several weeks or even months
to bond with their babies and in that time they may wonder what all
the fuss is about, may have expected to fall in love and be puzzled
SCARED. Babies are unpredictable and can cry a lot. Some babies
cry that is disturbing and that only stops when their mothers hold
them. It can be frightening to feel so helpless.
ANXIOUS. There is a great deal to worry about with a new baby especially
if you have plenty of well-meaning relatives and friends who
are generous with their advice!
GUILTY. For feeling any or all of the above!
talk up a storm
Finding a way to express what you are going through will help more
than almost anything. Make sure that you take some time to talk with
your partner every day, to catch up with each other on what has happened
and how you are feeling. Even if you only manage to snatch 10 minutes
at the beginning or the end of the day. Communicate any frustrations,
worries and fears. To make sure you and your partner are up to date
with your relationship housekeeping on a regular basis. Don’t forget
to find something to laugh at if you can. Your baby will provide you
with plenty of material if you run out!
Busy mums and dads can forget how draining parenting can be and that
they need to look after each other on a regular basis. One way is to
say something appreciative to each other every single day. A little
appreciation goes a long way! It is easy to take each other for granted,
or to behave as if you do to forget that
you BOTH need to feel appreciated, now more than ever. Try saying a heartfelt
thank you for that early morning cup of tea, for doing the washing up and
cooking that great meal. Make an effort to say kind and thoughtful
words about what a great mum or dad you are, about how well you are
coping or how gorgeous you look.
You will need to deal with that difficult issue of child-rearing, especially
if you both have different views or plans. Parents can argue endlessly
over when the baby should eat and when (and even how), toilet training, where
he or she sleeps, discipline issues and so on. You will need to hold regular
meetings (! conversatins) about all aspects of how you want to bring up your
kids so that you can work together in a co-operative partnership, and not
end up sniping at each other from across the kitchen table.
Talk to other parents who share similar interests. They can be a rich source
of information and reassurance as well as advice, especially if your family
lives far away or is unreliable in this area.
Get help from a counsellor or psychotherapist if you are finding it difficult
to communicate and are deteriorating into squabbling or nagging all too easily,
or worse, are giving each other the silent treatment. This is a passive way
of showing you are angry and always means that you have some frustration
that needs dealing with.
just the two of you
One or both partners may lose interest in sex for some time after the
birth. This is always easier if you are both feeling like sex can take
a back seat for a while. In a relationship where one partner feels sexually
frustrated it can be useful, or even necessary, to seek the help of a
psychotherapist trained in sexuality counselling.
The reasons for loss of interest can be varied. For example, sex can
be painful for women who have had an episiotomy. You may be too tired
or feel there is no time for it…or privacy. Women can find that after a day of intimacy
with their babies they just want to be alone. You don’t want any more touching
… you just want to go to bed with a good book. Men can feel worn out after
a hard day’s work, broken sleep, and childcare and chores and just
want to hang out in front of the TV with a beer.
Your partner and friend and lover has now become a mother or father
figure, and for some this new role may not be very sexy. You may have
an unconscious taboo from your childhood about your own mother and/or
father not having sex (except maybe the once or twice!). And then your
own libido plunges after the birth as you struggle with the unconscious
message that parents aren’t very sexy, or aren’t supposed to be!
Make time for in your daily lives for affection, especially for affection
that doesn’t lead to sex. Women who have had a physically arduous birth
may need to re-start the intimate part of the relationship from from
scratch, with lots of cuddling and closeness and touching in order
to build physical trust again. Many women need time to explore and
express how their bodies and sexual responses have changed. You may
benefit by learning the art of snatching a quick cuddle (or more) when
your baby naps unexpectedly (especially if you have more than one child) the washing can always wait!
You may want to think carefully about having your baby in your bed
or even in your bedroom (after the first few months) if he or she is
going to come between you and your partner, i.e. if you feel inhibited
emotionally or sexually or in any other way by having him or her there.
spend some time alone
The tasks of life can seem impossible as you juggle the baby with home,
your relationship, other children, work and looking after yourself.
Let alone friends and family. Many women (and some men!) put themselves
often means they get left out altogether. It is important that you take
care of yourself and spend some time alone each day to recharge your batteries,
even if it is only a ten minute break. Do something which nourishes and
relaxes you: just sit quietly with a cup of tea and a magazine or paper,
soak in a hot bath, meditate or do nothing!
We all need time alone, the more children you have the more important
it is to make this time a part of your daily routine. I know one mother
who makes herself a breakfast tray and sits in the front room with
the door closed and the children (all four of them) banned until she
emerges! She says it is one of the things that keeps her sane.
simplify and share household chores
These are not going to go away. Ever. As your children and/or your
family grow they will increase! You need to streamline them so that
they don’t become overwhelming in order to make room for other, more
important things, like having fun with each other!
Do the shopping once a week with a list, so that you don’t forget the
Get smart in the kitchen: learn a dozen fast meals, some of which you
cook with the baby on one hip, and which you can rotate without having
to think about them.
Give up all ideas of having a beautiful home at least for a while (unless
can afford a cleaner) and make your child and your relationship a
priority over a tidy house.
Share out the household chores between you and your partner, especially
you are both working. Many fathers are finding it rewarding to be
involved in caring for their children (including helping out at night)
it makes feel an important part of the family and not just that person
who brings home the bacon. It is also healthy for children of both sexes
to see their father participating in the daily running of the house.
making time for each other
One of the biggest mistakes new parents make is to focus so much attention
on the baby that they forget about each other they forget that their relationship
needs time and attention … if it is to survive. We need to be reminded
that babies have a habit of surviving, relationships do not. In some
ways your relationship with each other is more important than the one either
of you has with the baby. Because it will (hopefully) last longer and because
the health and strength of your family relies primarily on the relationship
between mother and father.
One of the ways you can invest in your relationship is by putting time
into it on a regular basis. Now that your baby is here you will have
to plan to spend time together. And this may be one of your most important
relationship tasks while your children are young.
Make a regular date: once a week is ideal an evening or a daytime date and
book a regular baby-sitter. Someone your baby will become familiar with
and be happy to be with as he or she grows up. Even if you can only manage
(and/or afford) an hour away from home, do something simple, just the
two of you: go for a walk, sit on a park bench and watch the leaves fall,
share a pint at your local pub. What you say to each other matters less
than the fact that you are spending time together. These precious moments
alone are more important than social engagements with friends. Especially
in the first months after the birth.
Initially, some couples don’t know what to say to each other and may even feel silly about taking time off in this sort of structured way when they were used to being more spontaneous but they soon learn to appreciate these times. Once you are able to get out for longer you can linger over a meal or enjoy a good film! Or you can ask your babysitter to come and take your baby out for a couple of hours in the morning, on the weekend for example, (along with any other children that happen to be lying around), so that you can go back to bed with a cup of tea and just snooze or cuddle or whatever…just like the old days!
The following remedies can help with partners who are struggling with
the adjustment to fatherhood. Use them as a short term measure and only
if the description fits well.
Withdrawn and resentful: For partners who feel the loss of their former life and love, who feel saddened and just withdraw instead of expressing their feelings. Homeopathic remedy: Natrum muriaticum Jealous and pathetic: Some new fathers regress to childhood themselves, becoming dependent, whiny and demanding in an attempt to get their partner’s attention. Homeopathic remedy: Pulsatilla Tired and irritable: For touchy types who find the broken nights difficult, who drink more tea or coffee to keep them going at work and then find it difficult to switch off at night. They become increasingly irritable (snapping at small trifling things). Homeopathic remedy: Nux vomica Anxious and overwhelmed: Some new parents find themselves completely overwhelmed with all that has to be done. They worry themselves silly over the baby’s health (and their partner’s) and sink into an increasingly negative state. Homeopathic remedy: Calcarea carbonica Anxious and fearful: For intellectual types who look with dread to the future, especially the increase of responsibilities, who find the emotional demands of parenthood hard to deal with and who retreat from intimacy with their partners into their world of work. Homeopathic remedy: Lycopodium
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