Guest blog by Anna Osborn, licensed psychotherapist and relationship specialist
With May being Maternal Mental Wellness month, I decided to share a big secret with all of you. One that folks aren’t talking about enough. One that we need to share with each other. One that we need to have open dialogue about. One that needs to be shouted from the rooftop so that others aren’t hiding in shame and fear.
Having kids is hard on your relationship! What?
I know you’re thinking, well of course I know that now! But what if you knew it before the kids arrived?
What if someone told you, “hey this kid thing…it’s kinda amazing, but be careful of your relationship…it’s pretty tough on it. You may lose time together, you may forget to prioritize the relationship, you may be so exhausted at the end of the day you might forget the last time you hung out with your mate alone”.
As a mom of 3 year old twins, a wife and a business owner, I don’t know what my response would have been if someone really was honest with me about the impact having kids would have on my relationship beforehand. I might have thought, that won’t be me. I might have thought, goodness that’s a downer, or maybe I would have just tucked it away and then when it started to happen I wouldn’t have wondered if I was the only one.
And I love my kids! And I love my husband! But it’s still hard to balance being a mom with being the wife and partner I used to be.
Because the truth is having kids is hard on a relationship. It’s always amazing. And exciting. And scary. And exhausting. And joyful. And. And. And.
But what happens if we’re not talking about the struggle of focusing on our relationship while managing the demands of being a parent? What if you’re one of the ones hearing this for the first time? What if you so desperately want to reconnect in your relationship but are overwhelmed with where to start?
Well let’s just say it’s a good thing you’re reading this. Because this is a shame free, judgement free tool on how to work on your relationship despite the challenges thrown at you daily as parent.
So here’s what you do.
First, be kind to yourself. A drop in relationship satisfaction is a normal BUT very fixable part of being a parent. Why, because as a parent you lose the luxury of having your schedule trump the family schedule. Now, I’m by no means saying the kids schedule governs all, but in reality you can’t very well put off dinner and tubs til 10pm because you felt like catching up on some much needed alone time with your mate. And I don’t think it’s just me that experiences the wonderful truth that the exact moment I sit down to chat with my husband about our respective days is the exact moment that my kids demand every need to be met! So be kind to yourself and don’t lose heart if you and your mate aren’t as connected as you once were. That’s why you’re reading this, right?
Second, start slow. If you’ve lost that connection with your mate or all of your conversations lately revolve around the kids and schedules and how many times Junior pooped today, than you’re going to need some practice in getting back in-sync of seeing each other as a couple. Start with little points of adult connection. Send a text during the day that has nothing to do with the family schedule. Get up to greet each other when you get home rather than nod and grunt in the middle of the chaos. Leave each other a note to find in the morning that reminds your partner you’re thinking of them. Start slow and be patient on the process.
Third, take time out. No, I’m not talking about the kids, I’m talking about the two of you. In my psychotherapy practice, I’ll ask couples the last thing they spent time together as a couple. You would be amazed at how long they sit in silence, staring into space trying to visualize a calendar. I usually get an answer of “well we watched that one show together last week, right? Or was that the week before?” Sorry to say that doesn’t count. Passively sitting next to each other and zoning out to the TV (albeit nice) is not considered couple time! But it doesn’t also have to be a night out. It’s sitting in the backyard after the kids have gone to sleep to talk and enjoy the quiet together. It’s enjoying dessert at the table together after the kids are tucked in. It’s meeting for lunch during the day if you’re working parents. As you practice this, try and leave out discussions about the kids and household issues and instead just use the time to learn more about each other in the present moment or share memories about times of connection from the past.
Lastly, accept how important it is. I see couples in my Sacramento therapy offices minimize just how important the couple relationship is. And I get it. There’s so many demands on their time and putting one more thing on the list seems overwhelming. They unintentionally take for granted that the connection in their relationship will remain even if they’re not working on it. And they also forget what an amazing gift it is to model to our children on what a loving, connected relationship looks like. Remember, our kids learn from us and if we’re working on our love relationship with our mate, our kids get to see a pretty amazing site!
So here’s to spreading the truth and knowing that although having kids changes the connection in our relationship, it doesn’t have to ruin it. Follow this link to my 7 day relationship challenge and start doing some work on that connection today https://annaosbornmft.leadpages.net/new7daychallenge/. If you’re needing some extra support, reach out! That’s what couples counselors are here for!
Anna Osborn, licensed psychotherapist and relationship specialist
About the Author
Anna Osborn, LMFT, owner of MyHappyCouple focuses her work on reconnecting couples and inspiring individuals. She works with couples and individuals on improving communication, deepening intimacy and changing negative patterns of disconnection in their love relationships. As a licensed psychotherapist and relationship specialist Anna provides therapy, relationship workshops and hosts speaking events that help folks create and grow the love they want. Visit www.myhappycouple.com for more information on Anna and her work in the Sacramento community