Did you think about how your relationship might change after you became parents? Being a parent is really hard and can put huge strain on our relationship with our partner. Negative feelings such as anger and resentment can easily build up and fester. We can easily lose sight of who we were as a couple before becoming parents. This is very common and not surprising given our lives have been turned upside down, not to mention the inherent irritability that comes with exhaustion!
The small things can easily turn into big things. Arguments arise over whose turn it is to change/pick up/hold/settle the baby or do household chores. Both parents often feel they are not being heard or appreciated. It is a time of huge transition and one where there is very little downtime to really talk through these issues, without exhaustion and heightened emotions derailing the conversation.
Did you talk about it before you became parents? Have you found ways to carve out that time to talk about your relationship without getting into heated discussions? Here we want to open up the conversation about the realities of how our relationships change when we become parents. Get involved yourself by writing a post or share on your stories on Instagram, and let's get the conversation going and #LetsTalkAbout Relationship Issues. #MotherhoodTheRealDeal.
I knew it would be tough on our relationship when our first baby was born - sleep deprivation and stress was bound to have an impact. It never crossed my mind that I would struggle mentally and eventually be diagnosed with bipolar disorder triggered by childbirth.
My husband was the main carer for our daughter in the first four months as I recovered and it has had a deep rooted impact on our marriage. He went through his own trauma and at times it has been hard for us to see through it all. He has awful memories of that time, as do I, but we have seen it from different points of view. Since then we have had to put in a lot of effort to keep our marriage on track.
When I get stressed and anxious, or slightly down, it triggers him back to when things were really hard and I now make sure I validate and acknowledge that. Having two small children takes so much time away from your relationship and we often go to bed at different times which makes you more disconnected.
Hannah's top tips
We try and talk through any issues and when it has become hard to do that we have even emailed our thoughts. Often that helps because you have more time to think about it. We also try and laugh and have fun as much as possible once the kids go to bed- watch comedy on you tube, listen to our favourite songs, look at old photos or play a board game. I always try and go to bed at the same time as him, and if I have to get up and do a bit of work after that at least we have had that time in bed together.
So many of the tools on the Nourish app are wonderful- because if you are taking care of yourself and reducing your stress and anxiety it positively impacts on your relationship. So even small moments of self care can have a huge impact.
Bloody hell, relationships are hard. They can be absolutely wonderful, but they also have their down moments and when you throw life changes (new job, new house, health issues, family dramas) into the mix, they're even harder. Then add babies and kids...
I'm naturally fiery, and my husband avoids conflict. We have plenty in common and when we were young, free and uncommitted, none of our differences mattered. But when parenthood hit us like a train, and further down the line we became a bit anxious here, a bit depressed there, and stressed all round and gagging for sleep, our relationship seemed to implode. Conflicting emotions are at the heart of relationship issues, so of course it made us both even more stressed and anxious, angry, sad and confrontational or withdrawn. Not a good combo!
Learning to face and talk about our marriage was the key. It really is important to acknowledge the problem before you can face it. I'm not a great talker about personal emotions, but my husband is better and gradually I've come to recognise that it really is helpful! If only just to make sure the other knows what you're going through. I love to fume, but it's probably not fair to fume if your other half doesn't know what you're fuming about so they can change it if needed... We're also big fans of therapy - both as a couple and on our own. I can't tell you the difference it makes.
Solo therapy is brilliant for working out why you're angry or unhappy in the first place and the impact it has on your relationship. Couples therapy is fab for working it through together - and with a neutral third party in the room!
Clio's top tips
Be reassured you're not alone! You might feel utterly incensed at times at yourself and your partner, but you're not the only one. That's not to say it's a good thing, but small steps and talking are key. It might mean just promising each other not to shout so much; or saying one honest thing each per day - to be more open and vulnerable, not to be mean; sitting down together for 10 minutes on your own each day; practicing gratitude with each other by listing 1 thing per day about your partner that you like - and telling them!; being honest with yourself and digging into your own issues, anger, insecurity and finding out whether they might be contributing to your relationship issues; being prepared to give and take - a relationship is two people, so you can both make changes.
For me it's important to get time for myself every day - a lot of my relationship issues stem from overstretching myself and lack of self compassion - my inner critic reigns supreme! So 10 minutes to meditate at least once per day, but ideally 2-3 times really helps me to put things in perspective and be calm and centred and better able to communicate with my husband and daughter.
STRENGTHEN THE CONNECTION: We are all so busy in today’s society. Checking emails, doing activities, booking holidays, making time for the kids, working for a promotion, catching up on WhatsApp messages, trying to figure out how to use less plastic, and the list goes on. Modern Western society is hard to live in. And to love in.
I see a lot of couples who are not ‘bad’ couples, but who have gone through bad times.
These couples need to work on reconnecting, to repair the ruptures between them. Rebuilding the foundation. Restoring the trust they had. A lot of ‘re’ words – reconnect, repair, rebuild, restore. I use these words to illustrate that most of the couples I see had those positives in place when they started building a life together. They fell in love with someone they clicked with, who shared their values, who laughed with them and made them feel good. Like most of us in the early days of infatuation, they were intrigued by the other person and wanted to get to know them better. So they spent time and effort on each other, dating and building their connection.
Then life happened - and parenting is one seriously big life hurdle! Love got lost as life got difficult. All relationships take work to maintain and strengthen. It can be so easy to forget that in the fog of parenting.
Michaela's top tips
Training your mind to be more compassionate is like training your body to run faster or lift heavier things - it might be difficult and awkward at first, but with repeated practice, you will grow. You will learn. You will make it a habit. You will feel healthier and stronger.
Caring for your relationship works the same way - it can feel awkward at first but it can also become a healthy habit to act with love and kindness to one another. Not perfectly, as there is no perfect love where we never lose our shit. But to act with more compassionate intention, instead of competitive or critical intention.
Don't wait for your body to feel the strains of everyday life before you choose to do something to look after yourself. Don't wait for your relationship to feel the strains of everyday life before you choose to do something caring for your relationship.
Parenting teens is gritty! It’s a whole different ball game to raising a toddler, the rules of engagement are different. You are no longer negotiating with your partner about the best potty training strategy to use, you are trying to agree on if you should let them go to a festival. The consequences of making the wrong potty training decision are far less scary than making the wrong call on being festival ready. We bring so much of our own stuff into these decision making moments and with teens they come thick and fast.
I’ve found I have needed to do a lot of self reflection and asking myself “why don’t we agree on this, what other things are creeping into this discussion that is making this difficult?” It feels like an intense light is being shone on your ability as a couple to rationally discuss what is often very emotive. Not only that, your teen is watching how you are dealing with it together, how to compromise and negotiate as adults, that is pressure!
So how do you get your relationship teen ready? I’d recommend working out what your expectations of each other are. The unagreed roles of one of you being good cop and one bad cop really becomes apparent when you have a teen who knows what they want. So if you have already discussed your expectations of each other, of how you are going to handle stuff, you have a better chance of getting the parenting done without creating issues between you. We have found it helpful to try to explain why we feel the way we do about girlfriends sleeping over for example, rather than just insisting that is the rule that has to be respected.
This can be hard because explaining your stance on something often requires a degree of vulnerability, of showing our inner workings which we many not be that comfortable doing. But if we want our partner to respect where we are coming from, that’s often exactly what we need to do.
Kate's top tips
You are not going to like this, but be ready to consider you might be wrong. I hear your sharp intake of breath, you’d thought maybe we could be friends but not anymore. But hear me out. We often don’t appreciate the power of listening to our partners view point, we look like we are listening but not talking doesn’t mean we are listening. If you need to regain that feeling of being a team with your partner a super effective way of doing this can be showing that we are open to really taking on board their thoughts and ideas and be willing to review our own. Be grown up enough to see that sometimes their approach is actually better than ours. It’s a relatively small thing but it has a big effect on how bonded you then feel with one another. We often don’t realise we are doing it but we dismiss the other person’s thoughts or feelings on a topic because we think our feelings are stronger so therefore more significant. Sometimes we are right, but sometimes we are wrong and sometimes for the good of team parent we need to let something go to let a little bit more love grow. Cheesy but true lovely people.
I’d really encourage people to explore the coping skills corner of the Nourish app. We are bad at giving ourselves a moment to think, we fill that moment with something, often something unintentional. I would recommend being more purposeful with those moments if you get them and use them to ground yourself in a bit of doing sod all for a moment and appreciating what that feels like. We are obsessed with being productive, ditch it for a moment, nothing bad will happen, but you might get time to think in a rational way about the health of your relationship.