Just because you have recently had a baby, doesn’t mean that the universe gives you a break and puts a hold on all the external stresses that happen as a part of everyday life! In fact, all the same stresses are still there once you become parents, but the problem is, once you have a baby, your conversations with one another can tend to become 100% baby focused – and all other issues seem to take a back seat.
So when stressful situations that happen outside the home are continually not acknowledged or discussed, they can cause a build-up of anxiety, anger and withdrawal amongst couples – even though the situations did not originally involve them AS a couple, the fallout of not talking about them certainly can BECOME a relationship issue!
Take Bob and Barbara for example. Bob has a normal medium-pressure sales job & Barbara works as a teacher and enjoys what she does, but not the workplace politics. Before baby arrived, they would come home from a hard day at work, Barbara would pour them each a glass of wine, and they would chat about their respective days while Barbara cooked dinner. They each took turns in talking about their day, what happened & how they felt about it. It was a valuable ritual that gave them both the opportunity to download the stressors of the day & share how they felt about what had happened to them.
Now let’s skip to after baby. Bob comes home from his usually stressful day. Barbara is in a bit of a fluster as many new mums are at the end of the day). There is laundry all over the lounge floor, the bed isn’t made & there are dishes in the sink. Barbara is breast feeding, so having a wine is not at the top of her list, and so she forgets to offer one to Bob. Dinner hasn’t got a second thought, and because Barbara has dealt with a colicky baby all day, the second Bob walks in the door, she thrusts the baby into his arms and mumbles something about needing a break. Bob hasn’t had time to put down his car keys or briefcase, and he is still replaying the fight he just had with his boss as he was walking out the door, not to mention the bumper to bumper traffic all the way home.
They even forgot to kiss each other hello! Ouch!!!
When they do finally get to talk, it is usually about the most pressing topic at hand – the new baby.
And so, both Bob and Barbara both lock away their external stressors of the day without getting a chance to talk to each other what has happened to them, and this situation builds and builds every day – day after day. Until something cracks. And that crack usually appears right down the middle of their relationship.
After researching thousands of couples, John Gottman discovered that in order to cope with external stressors and stay connected with each other as a couple, ESPECIALLY in the challenging transition to parenthood, it is not only important – but imperative – for couples to have a daily stress reducing conversation. This simple ritual helps to manage the dramas of the day, reduces the potential for depression and alienation and most importantly – provides an opportunity to support one another as a couple.
Learning how to incorporate this ritual into your relationship is a key focus in the Bringing Baby Home Video Program, but here is a quick rundown that you can start with TODAY to help change the direction of your relationship for the better. Remember to take turns in being the listener and the speaker. Each person talks for around 15 minutes. The only rule – you are NOT allowed to talk about your relationship! (we talk about relationship stress & how to deal with that in the Bringing Baby Home Video Program)
- Show genuine interest in what your partner is saying
Stop what you’re doing to listen and pay attention. Do not be distracted with other things. Put your phone away.
- Let them know you are on their side
Take your partner’s side, even if you don’t agree. In this particular moment, your relationship is worth more than expressing your difference of opinion.
Example: “That sounds upsetting! I would be just as mad. I can understand why you feel that way.”
- Offer your support
When it comes to your partner versus the world, you should always take the side of your spouse. Never side with “the enemy.”
Example: “I wish I could be there to protect you from your manager’s endless demands.”
- Show similarities
Expressing how you can relate to their circumstance says that you’re both speaking the same language, you’re on the same page, and you’re fighting for the same team.
- Show affection
Hold your partner’s hand, rub their shoulders, or offer a comforting hug as they talk about their day.
- Help your partner to process
Ask them if they want your help in finding a solution to the problem. Don’t forget that your only job is to offer support, not to problem solve.
- Listen first before suggesting solutions
Don’t give unsolicited advice. Instead, ask if they are interested in hearing your suggestions.
Example: “Can I help you solve this?” “Do you want my advice here?”
Practicing this daily relationship ritual will help keep you connected as a couple and not just functioning as new parents. Always remember that when you and your partner are strong – your family will be strong. The best gift you can give your baby is a strong relationship between the 2 of you!