For some couples, after this initial stage of transition, romance starts working its way back into their lives and they start gravitating towards each other again. However, for others, they slowly wander off onto 2 separate paths of estrangement. This is why many couples identify “having children” as the point when their relationship starts to fall apart when they show up for couple therapy.
Why are some couples able to find their way back to each other while others can’t? Obviously a lot of that have to do with the pre-child(ren) relationship of the couple but let’s look at some of the challenges parenthood brings and what couples need to do to overcome that:
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture during warfare, for good reason. Without sleep, you’d feel tired, cranky, and irritable, but it also takes away your resources and ability to cope with other challenges of parenthood. Both parents will feel that you’re getting less sleep and doing more at night. This is worse when 1 parent is doing the night shift and feeling resentful that the other parents are getting more sleep (even though it might be their own decision and choice in the first place)
Solution: Make sure that you are getting your sleep, take turn to ensure each person gets their full 8 hours at least once a week. Utilize other support you may have (e.g., maid, your own parents, in-law). Sleep when your child(ren) are napping/sleeping (instead of deciding “I need to use that time to run errands or have my me-time”).
Challenge 2: Lack of Time
With the arrival of your child, what you need to do grew exponentially. Even if you don’t have tasks, you have a little person wanting interactions, care, attention, etc. Even with 2 parents pulling their weight, they will find they will not have sufficient time in the 24 hours to do what they, their partner, their child(ren), and family needs. Add work pressure into that, you will feel pulled from all sides.
Solution: Carve out time for yourself and your partner daily even if it’s 15-30 minutes. Carve out longer time for yourself and your partner once a week for at least 1-2 hours. You can never finish what you need to do so accepting that fact is the first step. Knowing that if you carve out these times, you would have more energy and resources to do whatever else you need to do more efficiently is also helpful for you to do that. As partners, support and help each other to do that (e.g., sometimes father to need to physically remove the child from mom and push her out of the house to help her get some me-time).
Challenge 3: Change in Focus
Before the arrival of children, it’s easier for couples to make an effort to think about each others’ needs, to the point when it can be second nature. After the arrival of child(ren), it naturally that that became the primary focus and the needs of the parents become secondary. Some might start thinking that “my child needs me, my partner can take care of himself/herself as he/she is an adult”. There are many instances where one partner is so focused on the child(ren) that the other partner feels left out. Even when both are in agreement that the child(ren) should currently come first, this is detrimental to the couple relationship.
Solution: Consciously remember to think of our partner now and then. Instead of just thinking “my child would like to …”, try to think of what your partner would like. Choose to do something nice for your partner regularly.