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What No One Tells You About Parenthood and Partnership

  • 5 min read

Either you separate, or you grow closer together.

There is a picture on our bedside table. It shows my husband and me. Closely embraced and kissing. But those days are long gone — since we became parents.


Being pregnant together for the first time was an exciting time, no question. We were full of illusions. We idealized many things and lived in a dream world. But no one can foresee what it will really be like with a child. Enjoy the calm before the storm; they advised us. After birth, we hit reality hard, and that was painful.

After the birth, we hit reality hard and that was painful.


Inevitably we morph, and our relationship suffers

Having a child and becoming a parent is a great adventure, perhaps the greatest in life. Parenthood is an experience that pushes you to the edge. Not only is everyday life turned upside down, the couple-relationship morphs beyond all recognition.

Parenthood is an experience that pushes you to the edge.

When the little one arrived, everything suddenly became real. We, as a couple, two people, became three.

As new parents, we laughed with happiness and couldn’t believe that the little miracle in our arms was really there. But there were also tears. We drank cup after cup of coffee, did laundry without end, yawned with fatigue, and slept in shifts. There was hardly any time for two. Parenthood presented us with our great challenges as a couple.

Parenthood presented us with our great challenges as a couple.


Divorce? First months as an endurance test for the relationship

During pregnancy, and partly due to the COVID crisis, we had retreated into our own four walls and felt closer to each other than ever before. In technical jargon, this is called ‘cocooning.’ This process leads to a deepening of the partnership.

So-called cocooning leads to a deepening of the partnership.

In fact, according to psychologists, the quality of the partnership of parents-to-be initially increases during pregnancy. However, it often drops below the initial value in the first year of life. Parenthood becomes an endurance test for the love relationship. In Germany, 40% of break-ups take place in the first year after the baby is born.


Classic role patterns form.

Although I’d never wanted it, the classic role pattern quickly formed: the woman primarily cares for the child while the man is responsible for the family’s income. This created an imbalance in the first few months. Our daily lives were very different: my husband worked, and I took care of our child.


Conversations lead nowhere

I noticed that we only had a few points of contact in everyday life. Even when we went for walks together, my husband’s thoughts were often about his work. I, on the other hand, wanted to talk about everyday life with the baby.

We were gradually becoming estranged from each other.

Simultaneously, our little one was whining in the stroller, so our conversations took place in fits and started or led completely nowhere. Many things remained unspoken and unresolved. We had the feeling that we were gradually becoming estranged from each other.


The three key things we’ve learned

We finally had enough time to talk and review the past months during the time off over Christmas and New Year.

Here’s what we discovered for ourselves:

1. Parallel worlds emerge

Problem: If you don’t talk as a couple, parallel worlds can develop, and you start to lose each other. The unresolved issues and problems do not disappear on their own. A vicious circle develops.

Solution approach: You can use a communication technique from couple’s therapy: the 10–10–10 rule.

As a couple, you take 30 minutes to talk:

In the first 10 minutes, one person speaks. The other listens.

In the second 10 minutes, the roles are reversed.

In the last 10 minutes, you discuss with each other.

The advantage: First, everyone must listen to the other and share their own perceptions and perspectives. Closed mouths open when they have the opportunity to express their opinions freely. A discussion only arises at the end.

2. Unspoken wishes, expectations, and needs lead to problems

Problem: Often, especially in the first months, the man has the feeling of being superfluous and withdraws. The woman, in turn, thinks the man is not interested. Both feel unseen and unappreciated.

Solution approach: Talk about your own values, needs, and ideas about the family, etc.

What compromises are you willing to make? What is non-negotiable?

Talk about your ideas about the distribution of roles and constantly renegotiate your roles (e.g., the woman wants to be more than a mother and housewife, the father does not want to bear the financial pressure alone).

3. Discussions about the child

Problem: Disagreements often arise about decisions that need to be made for the child.

Solution approach: Put your child first instead of your views and ask yourself: What is best for my child?


Wrapping up

If you are in a similar situation or perhaps already thinking about separation, try to think outside the box and realize that communication is the be-all and end-all in your relationship. For good communication, it’s important that both partners can express their opinions freely. Listening is also vital and a sign of appreciation.

Extra tip: A few mindful minutes spent together can work wonders. Enjoy moments with just the two of you and let parenting be secondary (date night or a walk, when grandma is babysitting the little love). Remember why you are together and why you wanted to have a child in the first place.

Take care of your love relationship.

Best,

Kristina

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