They say you can’t spoil a kid with too much love, and that’s true. But sometimes when we love our kids to the moon and back, we can unwittingly cause collateral damage.
Before couples have children, they’re usually excited (and a bit terrified) about the upcoming birth and the notion of creating a family together. They make all the preparations together; attend pre-natal classes, paint the nursery, discuss parenting philosophies. The experience can bring them closer together as a couple.
But after the baby is born, the sole focus of the birth parent’s attention is on their new baby, who requires round-the-clock care. This can make the birth parent’s partner feel shoved to the side, which can cause feelings of hurt and resentment because they feel like they’re not as loved as the new baby.
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A new baby profoundly changes the relationship between parents. “The wife is suddenly less available to her husband. She’s often immersed in the responsibilities and pleasures of caring for her baby. And she’s likely to be tired — very, very tired at the end of the day. Nurturing her husband may be the last thing on her mind,” Dr. Marion Bilich wrote on Parents.com.
“Husbands, feeling suddenly deprived of their wives’ love and attention, can become resentful and angry. In addition, for many fathers the arrival of a new baby triggers feelings of jealousy and abandonment left over from childhood experiences,” she continued.
For many birth parents, the profound love they feel for their children can be enough to fill their cup. Children can bring such joy (and require so much attention those first few years) that birth parents build new loyalties and priorities, and inadvertently pay less attention to their partner.
Instead of growing into a family of three, it can quickly become “two against one,” with the mother-child love dyad being the stronger couple.
Eventually, if couples don’t address this imbalance, their relationship can get beyond the point of repair. So how can they prevent this from happening?
Keep lines of communication open
Talk regularly to your partner and ask how they’re feeling about your relationship since the baby came along.
Listen closely without defending or arguing. Their experiences are subjective, so their feelings are their own truths.
Ask in order to learn
Ask what makes your partner feel closer and connected to you. Everyone is unique, so find out how best to create feelings of closeness and connection again by asking each other.
A fun way to start the ball rolling is to do Gary Chapman’s online quiz together, which will identify which of the five love languages you are your partner are.
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Ask yourself the hard question: are you keeping busy as a way to avoid your relationship? Just like a workaholic can find endless work to do, so can a “parentaholic.”
Parents can find lots of ways to keep themselves busy with the kids, which might provide a safe refuge from some other life challenges.
Review your other roles
Have you kept a balance in maintaining your other roles, aside from being a parent?
Our children will fare better if they see us modelling a well-balanced life that includes other parts of ourselves, such as being a good partner, friend, community member, hobbyist, and a person with good a self-care regimen.
Being someone else’s sole purpose and focus is too much pressure on them!
Healthy families are inclusive
The family dynamic should feel like you’re all a part of the same team, with strong leadership by the parents who create a united front.
If you begin to feel you’re parsing your family into dyads at any time, spend more time focusing your energies into creating group experiences where you all have fun together.
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