May all your troubles be little ones
As with many clichés there is a truth behind this familiar well-wishing as a couple embarks on their life together. The transition from being a couple to a family is indeed at once a joy and a very testing time.
So many elements come into play: it could be a feeling of losing ‘your old self’, loss of couple time, shortage of sleep, time to yourself, financial worries, differing views on parenting or the involvement of parents-in-law, or a general feeling of isolation and lack of support. We may feel thrown on our own resources coping with these challenges.
In a recent survey ‘enduring love in the 21st century’ it was found that whilst mothers reported a general satisfaction with life, parents reported more relationship dissatisfaction than childless couples, and also did less ‘relationship maintenance’.
Depending on the ‘family scripts’ we learned from our family of origin each of us reacts to life’s difficulties in different ways. It could be that the message we learned was ‘it’s not worth talking about things – it only makes them worse’ or ‘we mustn’t make a nuisance of ourselves by saying that we are not happy.’ Strategies like these often backfire as intimacy and connectedness is lost and we end up ‘going through the motions’, with powerful things left unsaid.
So what makes for ‘relationship satisfaction’ in parenthood? Notably in research same sex couples happiness was less adversely affected by parenthood. It could be speculated that this may be linked to the less stereotyped templates of Mum and Dad role expectations. There may have been more conscious exploration and discussion of this new phase of the relationship. Perhaps this has a message for all couples who are also parents.
Feeling taken for granted is miserable. It can easily beset either partner as they juggle priorities. Small gestures of kindness and acknowledgement were shown to be the most appreciated by partners in surveys. Does appreciation have a place in your relationship?
In a world that has so many other demands distracting you from thinking about your relationship, therapy can give you the space and time to talk freely, explore your feelings and improve your communication, and sense of connection.
Related articles from our experts
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Margery Parsons, d.c.t.p., UKCP reg.20th March, 2017
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