When they have a baby, couples must adapt to a new reality because everyone plays a new role. To adapt, a lot of mothers take control over the baby’s well-being. But what happens if this need for control takes a lot and even too much space? What are the possible consequences of this control on our relationship?
As a mother, our priority is our child’s well-being. We decide what is best for him concerning his food, his sleep and his routine. We must take dozens of decisions every day. We fulfill his needs and sometimes we do even more than necessary. We are responsible and in control. If we are anxious by nature, we are afraid to loose this control and this fear feeds the need for control.
The desire to control is caused by our insecurity and by our desire for everything to go well. We want to avoid bad predicaments because we don’t want to be destabilized and vulnerable.
Even though this control may be beneficial for our child, it is not always the case for our partner. We must admit that we can be very demanding with our partner sometimes. It’s as if we were transposing what we demand of ourselves on him. We know for a fact that he cannot fulfill all of our expectations, and that perfection is not of this world but still…
The control that we exercise over our partner, the father of our child, is rarely profitable. Let’s just call a cat a cat; we are likely to infantilize him. What it means is that we act with him as if he was our child. How does it work? It’s in the way we talk to him. We address him as if we were in a position of authority. Not to mention the disapproving look, the same that we would have given our child.
Here are a few examples of infantilizing behaviors that we sometimes have towards our partner:
- Criticizing his way of doing things;
- Ridiculing his way of acting with our child;
- Wanting him to act like us;
- Asking him to justify his decisions or his actions.
Admitting that we act like that sometimes is not easy, but it is the first step to improve our situation.
A lot of men are very cooperative when we require their collaboration in precise ways, but their motivation falters when we supervise what they do. They feel patronized, and they perceive our comments as a lack of trust. Even if we don’t intend to patronize them, the negative effects are real. As a matter of fact, we underestimate the impact of this need for control on our relationship and even more so on our sexual life.
If we feel responsible of our lover like we are with our child, it has an influence on the way we see him. At this point, he becomes a child in our mind and not a partner. Then, how can we confide in him and trust that we will be supported? How can we make the transition, when time comes, between the mother and the lover? How can we make the transition between this infantilizing perception and that of a man? And how can we put aside all the resentment?
Many of us find it hard to switch from mother to lover at the right time. Imagine the challenge of changing the perception of our partner and of us before making love.
Sleep it off...
Seriously, we can’t always ignore our inner woman. We must find a balance in the definition of our roles. Our relation with our partner is not the same as our relationship with our child; therefore, we must change our way of interacting depending on who is in front of us.
It goes without saying that our partner also has his share of responsibility, and that he must take his place in this family dynamic but since we have no power over others, let’s take care of ourselves.
It is possible to change our behaviors if we want. We must first admit our way of acting without unduly blaming ourselves. We could wait for our husband to change but at what price? What do we really want? Do we want a relationship that is equal or frustrating? The changes we bring will also be beneficial for our partner.
Here is a little reminder of the changes we can bring:
- Make clear demands. Example: I need help, could you wash the dishes? (Beware of insinuations: Could you wash the dishes for once?)
- Express what you feel instead of blaming the other.
- Listen, without arguing, when your partner expresses a frustration.
- Lower your expectations of your partner and of yourself.
- Be aware of the way you talk to your partner (is there a difference in your tone when you talk to your child and when you talk with your partner?)
Taking care of the woman that we are
As parents, we complement each other in our strengths and in our limitations. We are responsible and independent beings and sometimes, we have diverging values and opinions. The point is not to identify who’s the best. We must be part of the same team instead and this team’s main goal is to contribute to our child’s evolution.
The couple is often shaken up after birth, and it requires from us an even better involvement. Don’t forget that the primary objective was to create a wonderful and united family.