Following is a guest post from Linda Salazar, a Certified Life Coach and relationship expert. Linda is a speaker and author of 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child Is Born, Parents In Love; Reclaiming Intimacy After Your Child Is Born and Awaken The Genie Within; A Handbook to Help You Silence Your Gremlin, Manage Your Emotions and Bring Out the Best of Who You Are. Learn more about Linda at www.ParentsInLove.com.
From pure, unadulterated pain to total ecstasy—in a split second. What a feeling! The minute I laid eyes on my newborn son, my life was as complete as I’d ever dreamed it could be. My husband was by my side with tears in his eyes, wearing a smile as big as a kid would have on his birthday. The depth of love I felt for him and our son was something I’d never before experienced. My dreams, hopes, and expectations had all come together in one miraculous moment.
Unfortunately, that moment of bliss didn’t last very long. Just 6 months after the birth of our son, I was sure my 7-year marriage was going to end. The changes my husband and I experienced individually and in our relationship just about destroyed us as a family.
No one told us that having a child could create complete turmoil in a marriage. Oh sure, people talked about how having a child would change everything in our life, but it was always talked about in a positive, romantic way. It was clear to me that any relationship struggles new parents were facing, were being kept behind closed doors.
Fast forward to today, 29 years later — yes, you read that right — we have not only survived the challenges of being parents but ours is truly a magical marriage that has grown and matured in ways I never dreamed possible.
After becoming a parent, I decided to not hide behind closed doors and shared with other moms my fears and frustrations about the changes in my relationship. As I did, they opened up too, allowing me to realize I was far from alone. This realization led me to my passion and work today – supporting parents as they maneuver their way through the challenges of maintaining a strong and healthy relationship while raising their children in a loving environment.
There is much my husband and I have learned and applied into our life to keep our marriage strong while we raised our son and I would like to share some of that with you. The following tips are excerpted from my booklet, 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child Is Born.
1. Show mutual respect. You’re both doing the best you know how. Your partner will continue to strive to give you his or her best when you encourage rather than ridicule for mistakes or lack of confidence as a parent.
For example – As silly as it seems, when it came to swaddling my son, I was a complete failure. It frustrated me to no end. I deferred to my husband who often did it with ease, and honestly, that often made me feel worse. However, one of the kindest things he said to me was, “So you’re not the best swaddler right now, big deal. You’re a natural at so many other baby things that I find hard. Let’s just work on helping each other get better at the things that we each struggle with.” Those words made me want to give the best of myself to my husband and our son, and I fell in love all over again!
2. Explore your differences. This doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong. It simply means there’s more than one way to do things when taking care of your child. This is yet another opportunity to learn from each other and take the very best of what you each have to offer.
For example – A frustrated couple called me for some guidance. The problem they were having was that mom insisted dad do things her way, because she believed it would make his life easier when he struggled with certain baby issues. The more she nagged him about doing it the “right” way, the more frustrated he became and the less he pitched in. During the call he found the words to speak his truth without making her wrong and everything turned around for them in that moment. He said, “I need to do things my way sometimes, so I can feel as capable as you are with our baby. Right now I feel like a failure and that you and the baby don’t need me.”
3. Eliminate score keeping. Playing the “who puts in more effort” game has no winners. All contributions are important. Ask for more help, if need be, with love and gratitude rather than from anger and expectation.
For example – Here’s one way to approach this. “I’m so grateful for you doing ABC and DEF. It’s such a help. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with XYZ and would appreciate if you could help me in this area.” The bottom line is this – if we’re constantly asking for help in a defensive way and never specifically acknowledge how our partner is pitching in, resentment builds and the relationship suffers.
4. Reveal your greatest fears. All parents have fears. You might not have experienced those fears before having children and the fears can surprise you. Unrevealed fears can be a major source of tension in your relationship.
For example – A couple came to me because they were having huge fights over finding a preschool for their daughter. No matter how wonderful the school was, the husband kept finding something wrong with each one. After some questioning on my part he finally admitted to his wife he was fearful of their daughter being molested. This fear was not attached to any past experience; it was simply something he created in his mind. His wife did not dismiss his fear. She was compassionate and understanding and within a matter of days they decided on a preschool.
5. Look for what is working. It’s easy to look at everything that isn’t working when you’re overwhelmed. The truth is there’s always something working in your life. The more you focus on what is working the better you’ll feel. Start with looking for the obvious and small things – “I took a shower today!” “My partner came home early to give me a break.” “The baby slept for 5 hours straight.” “I’m breathing!”
These are just some of the issues I’ve experienced myself and coached couples through in my practice. In my next post, I’ll share more relationship-nurturing tips. In the meantime, I invite you to leave a comment and share your struggles and joys, or how one of these tips has made a difference for you.