When we enter a relationship, we are consumed with love for the other person. We believe this love will last for eternity regardless of how awful we become. Sadly, we all go through an awful stage. Whether it’s when we have the flu, or a more severe illness or when we go through a “change”.
People may move to their favourite travel destination for the perfect life in the sun. People change jobs, study, lose weight, take up a hobby. People choose to have children. We naively believe that our love will carry us through all these experiences with ease.
This is not the case. I have seen many relationships fall apart because of wonderful changes that have occurred. People lose sight of the importance of demonstrating love as well as feeling it.
Let’s just focus on one of the most significant changes in our lives: having a baby. Quite often, the first year is hell. I have seen some parents get into a state of, ‘I have to be the perfect parent’.
That can create a divide between them and their partner as their lover is turned into the other parent of the baby, who is quite often viewed as an incompetent and unhelpful part of the team.
But imagine someone watching their partner obsessing over every detail of parenting and constantly being self-critical. Imagine that person also being expected to comply with all the regulations of perfect parenting that are demanded of them by their partner who has decided what these regulations are.
The more relaxed partner cannot meet these standards. They are, however, not allowed to disagree.
During the first year, parents can be extremely hard on themselves and each other. If you want a bit of perspective, talk to the parent of a bunch of children. Quite likely they have got to the point where the last child is left to raise itself or be raised by the haphazard approach of its siblings.
I am a product of such parenting and while I admit that this information is enough to warn everyone off the approach, I haven’t turned out too badly.
It hurts me to see new parents drive themselves into a state of despair and depression because of these high expectations. I highly recommend that parents be more relaxed and work more in partnership when they are raising a baby.
Please find yourself a reliable babysitter and go out and have fun with each other. Remember that none of this happens without your partner. Continue to treat them in a loving way. Watch out for the resentment building and stop it. Laugh at your mistakes and enjoy your child and enjoy the learning experience and get lots of sleep whenever you can. Don’t let that baby become a wedge in the relationship and cause it to self-destruct.
Don’t let changes destroy your relationship. It is important to work together and compromise to keep a relationship healthy.
Suzanne Loubris is a relationships counsellor and organisational psychologist.