Relationships and Children - The First Born (part 4)
Although producing babies confirms most men's images of being virile - as much as it does a woman's idea of being able to conceive - these little bundles of joy can still be a catalyst for problems. The most profound change in the early years of a committed relationship is the birth of the first child. It changes everything. The balance of a couple's relationship alters irrevocably and they have to assume new roles for which, emotionally, it is almost impossible to prepare. Even the most competent people can flounder, but the effects on many relationships can be devastating.
In my previous article on Dependency and Ambivalence, I illustrated the initial stages of a relationship, where we can see that much of this is to do with re-parenting by our new partner. The woman becomes everything the man-child could ever have wished for in a Mother, while the man shows all the strength, love and dependability she longed to have in her Father. And then a third person comes along - their new born, and sometimes a fourth and a fifth. The perfect playmate becomes the perfect Mother, and she shifts her whole attention from the centre of her life - her husband-son - to a new child.
The effect of this newcomer on him is likely to be worse where he has experienced a similar situation before; for example, where he was the elder - and so only - son, and then 'lost' his Mother's love when the second child was born. This is what happened to "David". As the eldest of three brothers, he was the only son for a short while, and then 'lost' his Mother's love when his brother Jake was born. When his youngest brother Dominic was born, his relationship with his Mother deteriorated even further, as this newest addition was her "favourite". For David, being a parent pulls on strings that re-awaken old despairs, heartache and old jealousies; proceeding to behaving badly, as he did when he felt like an abandoned infant many, many years ago.
"David" immerses himself into his work, and at home his sexual demands for gratification increase, which becomes increasingly unbearable for his partner Lisa. This creates a sense of fear and anxiety within her, as she wonders if he would take his sexual interests elsewhere. She is already struggling, being a new mum, with very little help from David. It was almost as if David felt he had to compete with his child for Lisa's attention and resented it - after all, he knew her first!
Due to the hidden, psychological variables that come to the surface in a relationship, especially after pregnancy, it's difficult to prepare for the impact of having a child. In sociological terms, the significance of the extended family is very important, not so much for their opinions/advice but as a support network, providing you with some quality time together to rejuvenate your romance, resurrect your courting days and re-kindle the reasons why you fell in love in the first place. Having a child can be an isolating experience for a woman, which only adds further stress to the relationship; hence the extended family or network of friends can be invaluable at this crucial stage.
If all options have been explored, including counselling (either individually or as a couple) and the relationship is still not working, it tends to be the case that the partner who has decided that the relationship is unsalvageable goes into 'practical' mode first, which can send shock waves throughout the family. Whether you have one or more children, areas such as separation, finances, accommodation, 'contact' times etc, will be initially difficult areas to discuss, and it may take some time to reach an amicable arrangement - but for the sake of the children, it will pay dividends in the long run.
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