Has Having This Baby Ruined Our Relationship?
A baby can’t ruin anything – we grown ups do that all by ourselves… even if we’re not fully aware how or why we're doing it.
Q Since having our first baby a few months ago our relationship has gone downhill. I’ve tried talking to him but he says I’m just imagining it and everything’s fine. But I know it isn’t, and that it’s not all in my head.
He seems to be pulling away from us. He’s moody and snappy, and is ‘busy’ at work and not getting home until our little one is ready for bed… and I’m exhausted by then. He’s started to do more work at the weekends too as he says we need the money – but we don’t.
We used to have a laugh and things used to be fun and we were a ‘team’ but that isn’t the case now. I’m also afraid he may be having an affair (our sex life is virtually non-existent since I was pregnant). I’ve mentioned counselling but he nearly hit the roof! I’m really worried and sad by it all. Has our baby ruined our relationship?
A Has having a baby changed your relationship? Yes, for sure. New demands, new stress, new experiences.
Ruined it? A baby can’t ruin anything – we grown ups do that all by ourselves… even if we’re not fully aware of how or why we're doing it.
Our thoughts create our reality so it’s worth bearing that in mind. Might you be imagining rejection and avoidance when it’s not really there, or maybe even somehow setting it up?
I’m not suggesting that you are – it’s just best to check that part out with yourself first.
You’ll have to get your ‘detective hat’ on and look objectively at the situation. Separate out what is fact (with evidence) and what is thought, imagination, wishing, or fear.
If there is fear in the mix (there usually is), then you’ll need to dig down and see if there’s a link for you to something from your own past that might be reactivated in the present day, and clouding your perceptions.
Ask yourself – ‘Have I ever felt like this before?’… and wait for your sub-conscious mind to offer up a response.
If/when you are clear that what is happening now isn’t just a replay of something from your past (such as your parents relationship changing when they had a child; or you feeling neglected as a child when a new baby appeared on the scene); then you can tackle the present situation much more clearly.
However, from what you’ve describe he is behaving differently towards you recently by coming home later and being tied up at weekends.
- What exactly IS different about your relationship now? (Be specific)
- What adjustments have you both had to make since becoming parents?
- What fears do you have about the future of your relationship and your child’s upbringing?
- What do you feel about your relationship right now?
Ask him to give you 20 minutes of his time for something that really matters to you. Set aside time for this - when your child will be asleep.
Ask that he doesn't interrupt you as you share your observations, thoughts and feelings. Be clear and concise.
Then ask that he give his honest and heartfelt response to what you have shared. Be sure to listen to his words as well as his unspoken (body-language) communication.
In this way you will give one another ‘permission’ to share what’s going on inside for each of you, without blame, shame, criticism or guilt-tripping.
Avoid challenging one another – just listen and do your best to empathise with the other’s point of view. Be prepared to hear something you may not like.
He may for instance say that he feels overwhelmed with responsibility, or fear for the future of the relationship – and maybe fears for your financial future too.
He might not want to have sex because he is making assumptions about you and your needs. You won’t know until he tells you, and he’s unlikely to tell you if he expects a fight about it.
Remember – he’ll also have his own links and associations being made between his past and the present day too. He might not want or be able to put them into words, but at least he can, hopefully, be open to the possibility that some of what he’s feeling may not belong in the present day.
The bottom line is that your child matters most here – and this will, I hope, encourage you both to share your deeper selves with one another in these manageable chunks of 20 minutes (assuming that he’s willing to go along with this of course!)
If he refuses to discuss things with you, then this is a sign of a relationship in trouble, and you may need outside help to expose the deeper emotional layers for you both.
(He may be more interested in the self-help route to improving your relationship... if so please have a look at my website www.maxineharley.com where you'll find access to both an online self-help workshop called Understanding Relationships and an online course called How To Sort Out Your Relationship - without couples counselling.
There's also one that you'll find helpful as your child grows - it's called How To Sort Out Your Children -without child therapy! It focused upon what I call 'Care & Repair From The Inside Out'(c) - and being a better parent by healing our own emotional wounds and educating ourselves to be consistent and emotionally attuned to our child(ren).)
It's possible for you to re-define your relationship now, and to see becoming parents as a catalyst for creating a different type of relationship. One that has open communication, commitment, and connection embedded within it. One that you are proud to model to your child.
It all starts with the willingness to separate fact from fantasy, and to then look inside and be willing to share ourselves in an emotionally intimate way.
Our children deserve that from us, and the stable and safe future a happy relationship provides for them.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR