I've noticed a few of my friends with bubs have had some relationship issues lately. This has sparked me to think about posting something about maintaining relationships while being a new parent. I'm far from an expert on this (just ask Corey, he'll tell you) yet I think it's important I say something. So here goes nothing. By the way, I don't want to offend my readers who are single mums, I think you do an amazing job, but for those of us who are in a committed relationship my personal belief is that keeping it healthy is absolutely positively worth fighting for. Also because I’m a christian and I’m married I’m gonna say marriage and husband instead of relationship and partner. If that offends you well sorry please forgive me but sometimes political correctness gets on my nerves. If you’re a male reader this applies to you too, just change the words to suit you however you want, ok? Gentleman, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong by the way, I love to learn.
It’s hard to imagine that something this cute and small could turn the world around them into chaos.
Yes, this is a photo of Alexis one day old. She was amazing, she was beautiful, she was perfect, the sight of her filled me with love for my husband. She was everything I’d ever dreamed of. My life was complete. Then we took her home from hospital and the fun really started.
Marital/relational stress is probably one of if not the most common issue new parents face yet it's rarely talked about. I haven't done any statistical research but I know so many "happy couples" start having issues when they have kids. I don't know why it's so hush hush either. Maybe because we feel like we are failures if we have fights with our spouses, or maybe because we have had "women need to be submissive to their husbands" drummed into us over and over again or maybe because we don't want to make our problems worse by speaking up or maybe because we feel nobody will listen. Whatever the reason, you don't have to broadcast if you're having issues with your hubby but it is healthy to know that it is normal, there is nothing wrong with you, many many people face this, and you can get through it.
It might help to think about why you are suddenly fighting with the one you love so much. There are so many reasons that are so simple yet so complicated at the same time. Often one little thing can seem to be a major disaster but there's almost always more factors bubbling away under the surface. Think about how much your lives have changed since bub was born. There's the obvious things like sleep depravation, increase in household chores, increase in financial stress, and decrease in leisure time. There's also things like postnatal hormones in a woman's body, decreased alone time with your partner, increased visitation from family (yes this can increase stress no matter how much you love your family… or his..), increased tension in general (if you are always worried about bub). How you interact with your husband may have changed. It's a very unfortunate trend of stay at home mums to fuss over their babies in kind loving voices but bellow at their husbands. Have you started accidentally mothering your husband? More than likely having a baby has effected things in the bedroom too….
It's important to realise that boys and girls think differently. It's all well and good to say, "he doesn't understand how hard being a mum is," but don't say that to your significant other as if it is a reason to hate them. Most new dads try incredibly hard to be supportive but try as hard as they like, men won't be able to fully understand. They won't understand how your heart aches for this child. They won't understand how you can't stop thinking about the baby. They can't understand how difficult breastfeeding is, or if you really wanted to breastfeed but can't they won't understand how much that might be hurting you. If you were once a career woman and are suddenly on maternity leave or have resigned or have dropped down to part-time then men aren't likely to understand how isolating it can be and how you crave intellectual stimulation. They might understand how hard it is to suddenly to be domesticated and live on a budget but they might not understand how you feel about that. If you are juggling work as well then you have even more stress and I don't know how you can cope with that. I imagine leaving your baby would be hard to do no matter how much you enjoy your work or how much you know you are doing the financially responsible thing for your family. Dads think differently to mums so they can't be expected to understand what goes on in our heads. Half the time I can't understand what goes on in my head so why do I waste everyones time and energy expecting Corey to?
It's important to realise that as much as our men "don't understand" us we can't really understand what it's like to be a dad either. We need them to provide financially but we suddenly need them to help around the house more: washing, cooking, cleaning. We need their help changing the baby, bathing baby, holding the baby. We expect them to work full-time and be supportive at home. We don't like to hear our men complain, especially in the first few weeks, because, "hello, I'm still recovering from pushing this giant blob out my…"
Looking back I expected the world from my husband when Alexis was born. Sure it was MY body that was messed up. It was MY hormones that went through the roof. It was MY emotions that were scoring high enough on the postnatal depression scores to spark concern from the nurses (but not high enough for them to do anything about it). It was MY career that was over and MY dreams of med school thrown out the window. It was ME who Alexis wanted whenever I tried to sleep, shower, or eat. It was affecting me so much, no doubt about it, that nobody noticed just how much it was affecting Corey too.
It's an enormous change in a young man's life to become a father. Many men suddenly feel overwhelmed with responsibility: to provide, to lead, to protect. Some men go over the top, others can't face it and act childish, some appear unphased on the surface, but over a beer to a mate I'm sure most would admit they are petrified. They can feel like they haven't got a clue what they're doing with the tiny vunerable "car alarm that sh$ts". Yelling "I told you to read the baby books before she was born" at them doesn't really help. Neither does telling them they are useless or asking "seriously, is there something wrong with your brain?" (Go on, call me a rude mean horrible wife but I bet you've at least thought it at least once.)
Not only is computer game time, drinking time, and loving
-from-the-wifey time reduced, they have psychological changes too. The woman they love changes drastically and they have to juggle not being the sole object of her affection. Men can feel like they have been replaced. Men can get jealous of baby taking all of their wife's attention and also of the baby preferring to be with the mum. It would break Corey's heart when he'd come home from a long day at work and want to cuddle his daughter (and I would be desperate to fob her off for a while) and Alexis would decide she absolutely had to have a breastfeed as soon as he walked in the door. Instead of getting cuddles with me or her he'd be delegated cooking duties.
I'd like to say it gets easier as it gets older. In a way it does, looking back, but yet there will always be challenges. Once bub starts solids it opens up a whole new way for dads to interact with their babies. It also, however, greatly increases the amount of cooking, cleaning and dishes to fight over. Once bub can crawl it makes playtime really fun but you then have to start paying attention to what is on the floor. Once bub can stand and walk it is so much fun and it is so easy to interact with a toddler, but then they get in to everything and they start resisting sleep. Corey leaves things Alexis shouldn't play with in places she can reach. It drives me nuts but there's no point bashing him up over it. Whenever he finds a good hiding spot she finds a way to get into it anyway, so what's the point.
The problem with parenting is that whenever we feel we are starting to have it all worked out, our beautiful children change. Do you agree? Alexis seems to go from one milestone or difficult stage to another. In the first two years or so bubs are consistently learning new skills, growing, teething, or getting sick. It's a fact of life. This can put incredible strain on parents. Well it affects me as a mum anyway because I sometimes feel like I can not keep up with Alexis, so there must be something wrong with me. It's not uncommon to project this stress onto Corey and then little inconveniences like him not mowing the lawn or him leaving a container in the office (or bringing a weeks worth of containers home when I finally conquered the massive pile of dishes) can become a big issue.
I think it's really important to keep things in perspective. This is next to impossible, mind you, but do try to set aside time to calm down and think about things like this every so often. Stress in relationships can effect babies feeding, sleeping, metabolism and temprament. When Corey and I fight it negatively affects Alexis (and baby Wormy), so when you and your partner fight it probably affects your kids too. As hard as it is, try to keep your home happy and free from tension.
When your relationship is struggling or you feel like you are drifting apart and you aren't sure where to go from there here are some things you can try:
1)Remind yourself why you fell in love with this person.
2)Write a list of all your husband does to help. (See my list from 6 months ago)
3)Think about how you may have hurt your husband(deliberately or not) and ask for forgiveness. This is really hard but it is so worth it.
4)Tell your hubby that you love him and that you appreciate what he does for you. Be specific. This will boost his self-confidence. Men aren't immune to feeling incompetent!
5)Ask him if there's little things you do that upset him and if there's one particular thing he'd like you to work on.
6)If you really do need your spouse to be more supportive try giving him a choice of a few things he is capable of doing and ask him to pick which one(s) he would consider taking responsibility of.
7)Try really hard to set aside time and money for a date. Get a babysitter, it’s worth it and it’s healthy for your kids to learn that you will leave them sometimes but you will return. Either go out and do something unususal or stay in and relax and have vital one-on-one time. It is amazing how easily things can improve when you invest some time into your relationship again.
8) Make a conscious effort to have fun as a family. Staying in watching movies and playing with toys is good but try to get outside the house for fresh air and sunshine and get active. This is scientifically proven to increase feel-good hormones. You don’t have to go to a themepark or anywhere fancy, you can go for a walk or to the local park or just kick a ball around the backyard. Some of our favourite moments are the few minutes we spend kicking the soccer ball around watching Alexis chase it and Corey ends up tackling Alexis and rolling her down the hill. You can’t buy memories like that.
Sometimes things just don't work out. If you aren’t married or things are getting reall nasty I can't and won't attempt to judge whether it's best for you to slug it out or run, but if there is any hope at all in your mind that you can make it work and you and the bub aren’t in physical danger then don’t make a decision to run while you’re sleep deprived, hormonal and hurting. I think in most circumstances trying little steps like these doesn't hurt and almost always helps. Obviously as a Christian I believe that marriage is meant to last "til death do us part." Hopefully putting things like this into practice will encourage you to hope that is far far away not just around the corner. Remember to be patient with eachother, as you are both tired and stressed and you have both had your lives changed dramatically recently.
If you are a Christian then you should pray for your marriage on a regular basis. Satan hates healthy families because he knows how powerful they are. He throws everything he can at us to keep us fighting amongst ourselves instead of united and strong fighting him. Even if you don't believe in spiritual things you at least can realise how much stress can cripple relationships. Parenting is a lot easier if you work with your partner instead of against them. (Yes I used partner this time because you ARE partners, partnering together to achieve a common goal.) You are both on the same side afterall, you both want what's best for the children. Sometimes what's best for the kids is putting your marriage first. Children need a happy home more than a clean home, a big home, a tidy home, or a home full of toys.