Ten or so years ago, you met the man of your dreams. He’s attractive, he’s witty, and he’s got charm.
He’s also intelligent and good looking and he is free. And most important he likes you.
You go out dating and you both fall in love with each other. And the rest is history as they say.
Yes, in a way that is true for you too. The time of dating lasted only a short time before you both decided to move in together, and from there it was only a short 18 months until he proposed to you and you got married.
These first two or three years went by in a hurricane. A storm of feelings, adventures and great sex. You did great trips overseas and made love on the beach in Bali.
Now, seven years after the wedding and honeymoon you sit with two children age 6 and 3 and pregnant with the third. But despite having everything you supposedly should want, you have the distinct, undeniable feeling that something is missing – big time.
It seems like having children has somehow moved you further apart from each other instead of closer together. How can this be? He is a good father and does his share at home. And yet still, you both feel the loss of something important in your relationship.
So how do you not let your children become a problem in your relationship?
Children are the greatest source of joy and the greatest source of trouble for any relationship.
Wasn’t it difficult enough to get your two lives organised together, revolving around each other in harmony? Wasn’t it difficult enough to sort out the differences and preferences and habits in your day to day lives, without the introduction of small and sometimes unpredictable infants?
Now with two more little ones, your priorities have shifted.
To visualise this shift, I often ask my clients to draw a circle representing the 168 hours we have in a week and then fill out segments for work, sleep and all the other activities you do in a normal week. This list contains shopping, cooking, gym, friends, sex and me-time like reading, watching television or FaceBook.
Draw one circle for the time before children and make another one for the time now.
Let your partner do the same and then compare and discuss.
We normally see a shift for one of you (usually Mum) which shows a greater influence of work, sleep and caring for children, meaning that all of the other segments see movement and reduction as well. Often the segments of Gym, Me-Time and Sex end up shrinking (if not disappearing) due to one or both parties having to shift the way they spend their time.
When you compare your circles with those of your partner, you might also see that for him the shifts from before children to now are not as dramatic as they may have been for you. In other words, he might experience a normal week that isn’t dramatically different to how his week looked before, which is hard to understand because for you, the world feels like it’s been turned upside down. (Please see also my blog-article on this topic)
Stress and Problems
The difference between what our expectations are and the reality of what we get can cause almighty stress. The bigger the gap between your expectations and reality, the greater the stress.
You can’t avoid the disappointment completely, but you can reduce the stress by verbalising it and talking about it.
If your expectation was that everything would just carry on as usual only with two or three little ones at your side, think again. Once you have children, life will never be the same. Children need attention, they need care and supervision, and they need guidelines and daily stimulation for learning and development.
What could you do to avoid that your children becoming a problem in your relationship?
- Show your partner that you love them
- Tell your partner that you love them
- Create the 168-hours circles as described above.
- Discuss what each of you would wish for your children. It is important to agree on some basics around childcare.
- Talk about your children as often as possible and compare individual experiences.
- Allow for each partner to spend time with your children alone
- Create time for each partner and each child have 1 on 1 time and do something special eg going to the movies.
- Engage babysitters regularly (if possible) and organise active appointments
- Avoid having arguments with your partner whilst your children are listening or watching.
- If possible, keep working after the children are born so that you have a regular outside stimulation. This is important mainly for your self-worth and earning your own money is a great feeling too.
- Divide the chores at home (eg. groceries, laundry, cooking and cleaning) so that you both have more time for each other. See the 168-hour circle.
- Agree on necessary boundaries for your children and for yourselves.
Maybe you want to grab a signed copy of my book to find more tips on how to create and maintain a loving, intimate and respectful relationship.