Becoming parents changes our lives, whether we like it or not. Even with the best intentions, almost all couples will be overwhelmed by the arrival of their baby… and by the first years of their family life. The transition from couple to family life is not always smooth and requires adjustments but it is definitely possible to live through childhood without sacrificing your couple.
“Already, even before having children, when we are in the process of desire for children, we should be conscious that our life is going to change and that we will have various phases to go through. That way, we are less surprised! We understand that the child will break the couple’s balance but it is clear that rebuilding it must be a priority!” says Pierrette Desrosiers, psychologist in private practice. (Pierrette Desrosiers Psycoaching)
Still, the specialist is reassuring. Drifting away a little is natural. “It happens just like that, even if it’s not what we want. Often, during the first year, the mother and her child are in a bonding process that allows them to develop their special relationship. It is even important for it to happen”, she says. However, the father often feels neglected and cannot find his place next to his wife again. A lot of authors agree that it is the man fighting back for his place that brings back a healthy balance, for the child to slowly detach from his mother, once the relationship is solid and for the couple to reconcile. “During the first year, the energy is not geared towards the couple, it is true, admits Pierrette Desrosiers. And nature wants it that way too. The energy goes to the child, that little helpless being that would not survive without us.”
However, indulging in a fusional relationship with our baby can have an adverse effect on our relationship if it lasts too long. “If you let your lack of interest take control, you will soon live separate lives.” says Pierrette Desrosiers. So we’d better be careful when the baby arrives and take good care of our couple. “You can draw a parallel with physical activity. To get back in shape, we must spend energy, time and some money. To maintain your relationship, it is the same. You will need some time, some energy and even some money now and again!”
Be realistic. Of course, we can’t leave on a whim like we used to, we have to make plans but it doesn’t mean it kills the fun. “And even if sometimes we only feel like going out for an hour, we should do it anyway. Don’t stay at home because you think it is not worth the trouble. Again, it is like exercising. Once you do it, you remember how nice it was to go to the movies together” she says. And be careful! “A lot of couples proudly say that they never go out and that they never hired a babysitter. Where is the couple in that?” questions the specialist. You must continue to feel good as a couple or rediscover it (if you think you have lost it) because one day your children will no longer be there to keep you together.
Couple exercise number 1: the directory
You both write a list of activities that you would like to do together. “As for the menu, try to vary! It is very important!” explains Pierrette Desrosiers. Note activities you’ve done before, new ones, projects that require a budget, activities that are long or short, indoor or outdoor.
“Then, you exchange the lists and rate the activities from 1 to 10 to see what the other prefers.” adds the psychologist.
That way, you create a directory of activities you like and you know what the other person really wants to do with you. You will have plenty of ideas to decide what to do together.
This little exercise shows a mistake often made by couples: “We would love to see our boyfriend guess what we want! But our desires are changing and so are we! We want to go out one night and the next we would prefer to just take a coffee. We must make clear demands to the other and stop expecting him to guess. It will not kill the magic!» according to Pierrette Desrosiers. In her clinic, she often meets couples that are obsessed with being guessed by the other or who project unclear ideas. If the requests are not clear, we will live a frustration much greater than if we say precisely what we want because it is the only way for the other to fulfill our desires.
“I often tell couples to rate their requests. To say: “me, the first thing I would like you to do is…” or “what I would appreciate the most is…”. That way, by saying what is most important, the other can tell what really matters to us.” she says.. If we tell our lover: “I want you to do more!” or “I want you to be more respectful!”, it is too vague. And if we add to that a huge dose of criticism because he hasn’t guessed everything we did not say, we are off for a very negative sequence. “Love dies under criticism. It takes away all the initiative, breaks the desire, casts doubt, undermines self-esteem and leads to passivity. If we don’t clearly state what we want, we can’t accuse the other of not complying. And to say “You know what I mean!” doesn’t help either. Your boyfriend will shut himself down and will not dare to try anything, thinking that his girlfriend is always complaining and that nothing is ever good enough anyway.” says Pierrette Desrosiers.
Couple exercise number 2: the qualities
Pierrette Desrosiers notes that among couples that go wrong, the ratio is 10 critics for one positive feedback. It should be the exact opposite: 10 positive feedbacks for one critic. And that is, in your couple and in every other sphere of your life. “Before criticizing, always wonder if it is truly necessary”.
The psychologist suggests writing down 5 to 7 qualities that we love the most in our partner. Then we read them out loud and explain them to the other.
“Sometimes, this little exercise makes people cry because they didn’t know that the other still thought that of them”, she explains.
In addition, the libido is not constant in a couple. Adjustments should be expected. “In a couple, on the length of our life together, the desire is not always on the rise or even constant. The stress that leads our lives usually has an impact on our couple” says the psychologist. The biggest stresses of our lives are sexual difficulties, money, children’s education, and chores sharing. And the women are more likely to see their libido weakened by stress. “We must be able to talk about it and laugh about it as a couple. And as long as there is love, admiration and respect, everything is still there”. Intimacy isn’t only love making either! “The honeymoon that creates chemical reactions isn’t the same after several years together but we can still ignite a spark by spicing things up and communicating” concludes Pierrette Desrosiers.