When I look back to when I first discovered I was pregnant, my husband and I were overjoyed, but deep down, I could sense my husband fear that he was soon to become second best to the baby.
You see, my husband has two older children from a previous marriage so he had prior knowledge to how hard it can be to sustain a loving and strong relationship when children are involved.
I was determined it would be different this time around though, and I would not let the baby affect our relationship.
When it comes to parenthood, get him involved as much as possible, or the resentment will fester…
Of course, that was not the reality of the situation….
Once our baby boy was born, I went into super mum, organisation mode, and always had to be two steps ahead of my game (I.e. attending to the baby, cleaning the house, cooking the dinner, working part time…. etc.).
I wanted to prove to everyone that I had everything in order - and I wanted to do it all with a smile of my face!
My husband moved further and further down my list of priorities.
To make him happy, I told him to go out with his friends, attend as many football matches and drinking sessions down the pub as he wanted (something he hadn’t done for so many years).
I thought I was being a relaxed wife, but behind closed doors, the cracks in our marriage were beginning to show.
Fast forward a few years and we had lost that connection we once had, I’m not even sure we liked each other half the time.
Everything just ran on auto pilot and once our little boy started having sleep overs and having more of an interest in seeing his friends at the weekend instead of days out with us - the reality of what our relationship had become really hit me.
I was constantly being taken for granted.
But who was I to complain – I helped to create this mess we were in!
He on the other hand felt unloved, unwanted, and rejected – so just went about his daily life thinking about himself!
That’s when the penny finally dropped…
I was trying so hard not to be a nagging wife, but I had gone completely the other way and had implemented no boundaries whatsoever.
With no boundaries there is no respect, and with no respect, there’s no love.
There had to be a healthy middle ground where we both felt happy and content – and I was determined to find it!
Fast forward another few years (our son is now 7), and I’d like to think we are in a pretty good place.
It certainly hasn’t come over night – and it’s taken us a good year or two to finally feel strong and united as a couple again.
But it was worth the journey – and we have both learned so much and appreciate each other so much more now.
So how did we get here………
It’s all about the small steps!
“Don’t run before you can walk”
If I had my time over again, or I could give any advice to the new mothers out there – these are the three main points I would tell them.
Never stop having date nights! (just once a month or every two weeks if you can)
This is so important because, this is where you finally get to be just you two again, and to fully communicate without the kids being around.
Looking back, we should have never stopped having date nights, but I told myself that our relationship was fine, refusing to acknowledge the cracks that were beginning to surface.
The reality is, if you constantly chose the kids over your relationship, your relationship will suffer, and once the kids are grown up, you may not even know where to begin to find some kind of connection again – so chose to part ways.
Try and catch it early – don’t push the problems aside, hoping they will just get better on their own….. NEWS FLASH – they never do!
Never lose yourself in parenthood.
Have the difficult conversations.
I know I know it’s scary – you are worried that they will react badly, so you convince yourself it’s better to just keep the peace and not say anything at all. But this is exactly how resentment starts!
And the thing to remember about resentment is that it festers and will sit and reside within your body.
Over time, the resentment will then affect the intimacy between you.
If you have something to say or you feel hurt in some way by something your partner has said or done - it is so important that you speak up and release it.
Women often need to communicate and feel listened to, in order to feel loved.
Men on the other hand often need the physical touch in order to feel loved.
One will not work without the other
What I found is… when I sat down to have the difficult conversations (i.e. I felt that he wasn’t doing enough around the house for example) - it’s best to always start a conversation with “I feel”
“If you keep it in first person it will never be offensive”
Also, acknowledge your part in it all– don’t just shift the blame onto the other person.
Make sure the kids are not about when you have these conversations and try to sit down and discuss it properly (i.e. not just shouting at each other across the room for example).
I found that the more and more we did this - the less stressed and tactile we became with each other.
Keep confronting your fears and eventually they will disappear
We began to let our barriers down, and he finally understood how important it was for me to be able to communicate my anxieties to him without being shut down or being told I’m “over sensitive”.
Also explaining to your partner that you just need them to listen, they don’t need to rescue you or give you solutions or advice.
My husband would often feel like he had to come up with all the answers and that just put more pressure on him. All I needed was for him to be the sounding board.
Don’t try and do it all
Make sure he is involved no matter how much you are both struggling at first.
I remember when we first had our son, every single time I would get in the bath or lay my head down for half an hour’s sleep- our son would always start crying.
This was brought on by my husband’s anxiety and fears that I wasn’t there to help him, so I would automatically jump up from my rest and rush to the baby.
Try not to do this….
He must learn to figure it out for himself.
True happiness in life comes from knowing we can stand on our own two feet and work things out for ourselves
If we try and take the responsibility away from another person they will never learn to cope on their own!
Rebecca McCaffrey, a married, working mother living in Leeds, West Yorkshire is no stranger to tragedy in her personal life and has a huge passion for helping others by drawing on her own experiences. In addition to working for Cruse Bereavement Charity and the Well Woman Charity Rebecca currently works as a Relationship Counsellor for Relate Bradford/ Leeds.