It is not always possible for me to choose love in the midst of challenging situations, but I can definitely try to soften—soften my voice, my touch, my opinion, and my timetable.
-Rachel Macy Stafford-
As you and your partner transition into your new roles as parents (or parents to multiple children), it’s important to figure out how you can best support one another and create a united front.
- Being united together in parenting will help you both when family and friends share differing opinions about how you should parent your children.
As parents, many of us would love a manual on how to raise our kids and an exact timeline on when they will meet their developmental milestones.
- Often, we’ll hear phrases like, “all babies do xyx” which can leave parents feeling like their kids are behind in some way.
- A much healthier and inclusive approach is to embrace the phrase, “all babies are different.”
This mantra frees you and your child from the burden of living on someone else’s timeline. And, if there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, you can come up with a good game plan with your kid’s pediatrician, someone who actually knows your child well.
Your relationship with your partner can change a whole lot when you become parents or add another baby into your household. Plus, marital satisfaction declines in 67% of marriages during the first year of your baby’s life (Gottman Institute).
Here are some ways to help you reconnect emotionally with your partner while you’re still pregnant and as you move into postpartum:
- Date night- in or out of the house
- Daily check ins with each other (even 5-10 minutes a day can make a big difference)
- Weekend getaways
- Couples counseling
- When you’re upset, turning towards each other, not away from one another
- Focusing on active listening, reflection and mirroring for your partner so they feel seen, heard and understood by you
- Figuring out if you’re an internal or external processor, so you’ll know if you need to be alone while you think through issues or if you need to talk things out with someone out loud
- Being on the same team, not opposing teams when there are struggles in life
Things to remember in your relationship:
- You can appreciate all your partner does AND still want/need/desire more help and support from them.
- Relationships are the dance between the desire for togetherness and the desire for autonomy.
What type of family life would you like to create? It’s important to start thinking about this early, even while you’re still pregnant.
Let’s start with some traits often found in healthy families:
- Caring and compassion for all family members
- Support during hard life events
- Empathy when a family member is struggling
- Emotional connection between family members
- Room for autonomy and togetherness
- Laughter and shared humor
- Good boundaries
- Structure, schedules and consequences that are clearly stated
- Space for self-expression, creativity and differences
- Spending quality time together and enjoying each other’s company
Here are some common family issues to look out for:
- Frequent arguing and disrespect between family members
- A lack of empathy, validation and support for each other
- Emotional disconnection from one another
- Autonomy or togetherness, without space for both
- A lack of laughter and shared humor
- Unclear boundaries between family members
- No sense of structure, scheduling and unclear behavioral consequences
- Family members who don’t feel like their voice or opinion matters in the family
- No space for differences between family members
- A lack of quality time together
So, how can you create an emotionally healthy family environment? Here are some ideas:
- Schedule a weekly family meeting where all voices in the family are heard and understood
- Involve older kids in the making of the family schedule, bedtime routines, consequences for negative behaviors, etc.
- Attend important events for all family members
- Empathize and validate feelings
- Allow space for emotions for all family members
- Keep emotional reactivity low, and find coping strategies to help all family members accomplish this feat
- Spend quality time together, enjoying activities that bring you all joy
- Try new things, explore as a family, and have new family adventure whenever possible
- Go to therapy to learn more about any unhealthy family patterns, and to learn ways to break these patterns
- Know that each and every member brings value to your family, and find ways to embrace this, in hard times as well as the good ones
You can start some of these activities with your partner now, and have your kid or kids participate as they get older and it’s more age appropriate for them.
Quote: “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
Social scientist Brene Brown has done extensive research in the areas of shame, worthiness, vulnerability and courage.
She found that being vulnerable with others can help you to feel more deeply connected to them.
Asking for help and support from your partner can feel hard at times, but being vulnerable in this area may also help you feel more emotionally connected to one another. (www.brenebrown.com)
Gary Chapman wrote a great relationship book call, “The Five Love Languages” which include:
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
Quality time together
Based on this list, what would you say your love language is? What about your partner’s love language?
Often our love languages are different from our partners. If this is the case, you’ll need to show love for you partner by doing things for them that don’t fit with your own personal love language. Check out the book to take the love language test. (www.5lovelanguages.com)
The Gottman Institute:
The Gottman Institute has done extensive research on marriage. They have come up with four areas that may signal your relationship is in trouble (The four horsemen), as well as their antidotes and what you can do to change these patterns and create a healthier marriage/relationship.
Four horsemen and their antidotes:
Criticism to Gentle startup
Contempt to Build a culture of appreciation
Defensiveness to Take responsibility
Stonewalling to Physiological self-soothing
These dynamics can be hard to talk about and address, but the ultimate goal is to make your marriage/relationship with your partner stronger, healthier and more connected. That was just a quick rundown of these concepts, but please check out their website for more detailed information. (www.gottman.com)