Guest post by Polya Rosin, Sweden’s #1 Relationship Strategist
To have a child is a miracle, right? I doubt there is a mom out there who could name a bigger source of joy and love than her kids.
Most couples dream of the day when they become parents, take birthing classes, read parenting books. And little do they prepare for what is to happen to their relationship, once the baby arrives.
Did anyone tell you what to expect in your relationship with your spouse once you become parents? Did anyone give you tools and strategies for how to survive and thrive together, not just as parents, but as lovers, as friends, as a happy couple?
How much research, time or money did you invest in your relationship, preparing to become parents? My guess is little to none. And yet the biggest impact on your baby’s wellbeing comes from you and your spouse, and the quality of your marriage.
So, let’s look at what happens after the baby (or more babies) comes into your family:
1. Your spouse and your relationship just went from #1 to #10 in the priority list and that is hard to accept – nobody likes to see they no longer matter much
2. Your sleep is messed up – you must have heard that before and yet, the impact lack of sleep has on couples is less spoken of. It does not only make couples irritable and prone to spats and arguments but also decreases work performance, self-confidence and overall health. Not to mention the drive for romance and passion…
3. Your privacy is … well,.. not existent – with babies and small kids around, going to the loo is a family event and taking a shower feels like a speed contest. That looks like a big stress factor, doesn’t it?
4. Personal space and “me time” are more of a dream than a reality – and if you have no time for yourself, how can you talk about time for your man, for intimacy or passion?
5. Peer pressure becomes the cherry on top of the self-doubt cake – most mums and most families feel tremendous peer pressure, start to look at what others do. And “keeping up with the Joneses” or the “Kardashians” really helps the self-esteem, doesn’t it? Yes, joking here but you get the point, don’t you?
6. Social isolation – now that’s a bummer.
7. Exhaustion – “It’s just a growth phase, it will pass!”, if I hear this one more time, I might just check myself into a mental clinic. For most families, parenting is an endless string of tantrums, sleepless nights, chores, infections…. So how can anyone make time for dates, love, passion?
8. Lack of intimacy – well, that should come as no surprise by now, shouldn’t it? Intimacy is about how free you feel to be yourself with your spouse and for your spouse to be free to be himself/herself. But with the lack of sleep, exhaustion, self-doubts, irritability and endless chores, how does one even have the patience to just be with the other person, to listen without judgement? Intimacy is like oxygen. Without it, any relationship suffocates…
9. Low sex drive – there are those lucky few who feel a boost in their sex drive after the baby arrives but let’s face it, most of you hardly find time to go to the loo and have no energy to even shower or shave your legs, so sex drive?! Hm…
10. Romance just went out of the window – well, yeah. After an evening with tantrums, a dozen laundry loads and a night with bad sleep, who feels up for romance?
11. The past rears its ugly head – now that is a big one and certainly an issue that is least spoken of. When you become a parent, you are likely to start to re-live your childhood and see certain childhood issues transfer themselves into your relationship with your spouse. Lack of unconditional love from childhood, abandonment, arguments between parents and “traditional mom-dad roles” suddenly make their way into the new parents life. And.. yes, there is more… Many parents start to reflect on what they lost becoming parents – perhaps career opportunities, perhaps a great body and perfect physical shape, perhaps social life, perhaps intimacy, passion… The focus on what is missing may cloud the way you look at your spouse and makes it hard to speak to each other with empathy and compassion.
12. Mother- Wife-Father-Husband-Friend-Lover-Muse-Professional, perfectionist, high achiever or free spirit? The struggle to combine the different roles is real.
13. And to spice things up – arguments, resentment and blame come in to play. It is hard to take back harsh words, insults, hurt. And let’s face it, raising kids and keeping up a home is hardly ever a 50-50 so at any time point, there is always someone who gives more. And with all the points above, this can lead to resentment and blame.
For expats, many of these issues are exacerbated due to lack of support from the grandparents or extended family, lack of close friends, differences in culture, language and societal norms, perceived limitations in opportunities for work, socialising, etc. And research shows most mixed marriages are at a higher risk of separation and divorce. Personally, I believe that mixed marriages have more opportunities, creativity and “out-of-the-box” resources to not only survive and thrive during the young parents stage but also to create lasting satisfaction and fun in marriage. But well, I am an expat, in a mixed relationship with multi-culti kids so you may call me biased
So, with all these things in the mix, how do you create your “happily ever after becoming parents”?
Here are a few tried and tested tips:
1. Think and act as a team – divide and conquer, and if the other person drops the ball, pick it up without blame. Invest in each other – time, energy, money, love. My personal moto is “whatever works” so throw away all the traditional norms, others’ expectations and “the Joneses and Kardashians” and do what works for you!
2. Keep the flame of romance and passion – and the key to that is intimacy, and the key to that is vulnerability. Tap into compassion and empathy. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost. Ensure you feel well, ensure your needs are met. And only then can you be strong enough to be present, supportive and kind to your spouse.
3. Set boundaries for you as a couple – I know you might feel like sending your biggest cooking pot on its way to my head as you read this but bear with me here and keep an open mind, ok? We live in a society that is very child-centred. There is so much pressure that you put your child first but there is a BIG problem with that notion. If you sacrifice yourself, your partner or your relationship in the process, your child will actually suffer. Safety aside, the best thing for a child is a happy home! And if “mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” or as some put it, happy wife – happy life.
4. Praise your partner in public! And apologise in public! – a compliment is 100x more powerful if you say it in public. Lead by example.
5. Always align your parenting strategies – this is another one where you might feel like throwing a pan in my direction but again, “Do it now. Believe it later.” So, listen up! The agreement between parents is more important than what they agree on. Food, sweets, screen time, sleep time, discipline, learning – to your child, it matters more that you agree than what you actually agree on. Research data on what food and routine is best for your child changes all the time, so don’t get stuck on the latest research and set your rules by that. Find out what you and your partner can agree on and then make that the rule.
How can you apply these tips to your relationship and create your “happily ever after”? Here is a present for all of the readers of this blog – a bonus 50 min, personal strategy call with Polya Rosin, Sweden’s #1 Relationship Strategist. Normally, this comes at a price of 1500 SEK but for you, readers – it is FREE! This is a one-time, limited offer so take this chance to boost the connection with your partner, to see how you can bring in more intimacy in your marriage and to talk about the strategies to help you become a strong, united parenting team
Book your complimentary call strategy session at:
Polya Rosin helps couples create healthy relationships for a happy life. Polya is She is a certified coach and a scientist with over 11 years of experience in health and wellbeing. She is a mum of three kids, an expat since the age of 18, she has a multicultural bonus family and is a strong advocate for passionate life and happy families.