Any life transition is unsettling for us, and needs adjustment time whether changing schools, leaving school, starting work or university, changing jobs, leaving home or getting married. However becoming parents for the first time maybe the biggest leap of all. There are always gains – and losses – whenever we make a big change. We need to find a balance in our lives to accommodate all aspects that contribute to our wellbeing. Young parents can find it incredibly difficult to find time for themselves as individuals, time for co-parenting and being a family, and time as partners. Sometimes one aspect or other gets lost, and this can led to dissatisfaction, resentment and blame which then leads to arguments between partners.
What I hear in my counselling room is that each partner is feeling that their needs are not being heard or understood. It’s hard to hear or respond to what your partner is saying in a positive way if you don’t believe they are hearing or responding to you in a positive way—however this is what is needed. Below I will try to help you understand what your partner may be needing so you can get it right!
What you need to consider for Her
• She needs her partner to talk to her – not for hours on end, but share with her your thoughts, feelings, and things that have bothered you, that you have achieved, and that you want. She also wants to see that you want to know these things about her. Women are relationship focused. It is important to her that you two are connected and on the same page about these things.
• She wants your emotional support. If you see her upset, sad, frustrated, exhausted, lonely, hurt, unsure of herself, or with any other emotion, she wants to know you understand. Sometimes she may want you to fix it, but mostly she will just need to be able to tell you about it, know you care, and to give her a hug that says “I am here for you, we’re a team”.
• She will also thrive if you tell her she is a great mum, a great wife, a great support, and looks great in those jeans.
• She needs to know you will keep her safe. If something were to go wrong, you would be there for her.
• She needs you to encourage her to meet with her friends, and to have some times for leisure activities while you or a babysitter looks after the baby. She will come back refreshed.
• She needs you to want some couple time where you go out for a coffee or do some other activity together, and to want some family time where you stroll to the park together.
What you need to consider for Him
• He needs to see that his partner respects him as being a diligent provider, protector, parent —and lover.
• As a provider, he works hard at work—for the family. He wants to keep his family safe.
• He wants you to see that he is a good parent who loves and takes care of his baby.
• He wants to be close to you by giving and receiving affection, and sex. Sure you can say no to the sex because you are tired, or sick—but not for long periods of time or he will feel estranged.
• He will also thrive if you tell him she is a great dad, a great husband, a great support, and that you will make sure he has enough clean jocks and shirts because you care.
• He needs to be encouraged and supported to have some time for exercise which will increase endorphins in his system to keep up his wellbeing.
• He needs to have some time with his mates, or for his leisure activities. He will come back refreshed.
Wow you might say—this all looks too hard! You are feeling time poor, stretched to the limit, and these suggestions are unreasonable! So let’s break it down so all of the above can happen for you to keep the love alive for you as partners, parents and individuals.
For the couple I am suggesting you act like people in love do. They greet each other warmly after a day apart, they show interest in what the other has been doing, show support if times have been tough, celebrate achievements, show respect for how they have handled issues, be prepared to share tasks to keep the household running, want to spend time together either out or watching telly, spend time with friends and both families of origin, celebrate special occasions, plan for holidays and act like affectionate lovers do. The saying is: “every moment you choose to connect or disconnect”, so take responsibility to stay connected.
We all need to have time for ourselves in recovery mode, or pursuing self-care and maintenance of health and well-being. Make it possible for your partner to have this time by taking it in turns to have a Saturday or Sunday morning off home duties. Also take in turns to give each other a sleep in on weekends.
As a family, make sure it’s not all work and no play. Childhood goes so quickly, so make time to enjoy and share the moments.
You see it’s about living and making the most of the moments. It can be done if you want to, and can work together to find time management strategies. If you need help, the intelligent thing to do is to seek counselling with a professional. You are not just parents, but partners in a team where together you can make your hopes and dreams for yourselves as individuals, for a loving relationship with your partner and for a happy family life come true. Your life will be full of ups and downs. Occasionally you will have to ‘reboot’-that’s normal.
I wish you well on your journey.
Read more about Rosalie Pattenden and Part one of her blog here