In my experience, no one really has a good idea of what to expect when transitioning from being a couple to being a family. There are plenty of avenues to find parenting advice, but no one seems to really talk about the ways that it will potentially effect your relationship with your partner. There aren’t even get good portrayals in TV or movies. We either get Leave It to Beaver or we get Married…With Children. But things just are not that simple. So what should you expect for your relationship when you are about to start having kids?
Tasks Are About to Sky Rocket
Sorry to say it, but your life is about to get a lot busier (Here is an article that goes into a bit more detail on this subject). But for the short version, you can expect that everything is about to double. There’s more dishes, more laundry, there’s a little person always throwing up on stuff, putting dirty hands on stuff, leaving things around and lots more. The time that you devoted to keeping the house livable is not going to be enough now.
However you and your partner handle stress in your relationship is about to become amplified. If you turn outward and become critical when you’re stressed, that’s going to come up in your relationship. If you turn inward and isolate from your partner, that’s going to come up, too. Whatever it is you do when you start to feel overwhelmed is going to come up a lot more in your relationship. It could be really easy to turn on each other when everything just seems to be piling up. If you notice yourself starting to keep score in your mind, this is a pretty good sign you and your partner need to talk about things. Talk about who handles what? How do you ask each other for help when you are both feeling overwhelmed? Talk openly and non-critically with each other. If you do not talk when it feels like things are stressful and overwhelming, you can expect it to cause problems for you later.
Spontaneity is a big part of what people are talking about when they talk about romance and feeling “in-love.” The surprise trips out of town or spontaneous walks around a park are an important part of bonding. But now you are not able to do the same things you used to, at least not at the drop of a hat. That little human has to eat! They also have to take naps! And these aren’t always on your schedule. You’ll find yourself trying to do something spontaneous but feeling tethered to your house because that’s where beds and meals are.
So you will need to look for new ways to be spontaneous. Maybe try gifts, or surprise your partner by doing one of those chores that they normally do. Or try taking care of the kid solo so that they can get a few minutes to themselves to relax or read or just zone out.
Expect Things to Change in Waves
It might sound obvious, but family life is going to look different based on how old your kid is. When you have a newborn, no one is sleeping well and you stay tired. Once you hit those exploratory preschool years, you are always trying to deal with the house being wrecked. In elementary school, you have to learn how to balance your work and their school schedules. When they are a teenager, you have to deal with them learning how to use sarcasm and (mis)managing responsibilities of their own.
All of these different phases will have a different effect on your relationship with your partner. The key is to stay flexible. The more that you are able to stay flexible in your parenting styles, the more flexible you will be in finding ways to connect.
I brought up Leave It to Beaver & Married…with Children because it paints two very different pictures of family life. But honestly, I believe most couples will probably experience both in their families at different times. Sometimes you feel like June & Ward Cleaver. And if/when you are feeling more like Al & Peggy Bundy give The Marriage & Family Clinic a call.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.