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I don’t know if you have experienced this, but in my case, the first two years of motherhood brought a terrible impact on my couple relationship. Nothing seemed to be as it used to be between us. And at some point, I even felt hopeless about our chances of ever recovering the very happy relationship that we used to have. But somehow I was lucky enough to discover the one change that saved my couple relationship!
I promised myself that I will share it with anyone who struggles with the same problem, so I decided that I need to write our story. Hopefully, it will help other couples too.
The struggles started a few months after we became parents.
We were exhausted and even a little scared of all the changes in our life. We had no help with the baby so we were basically taking care of him all the time. And this had a huge cost for our relationship. I was tired after all the sleepless nights and I had no time or energy to invest in the relationship. Adrian was feeling overwhelmed too! Between his job and the tasks that he did at home as a dad, he had no more time for anything else.
We struggled to find a balance again and for a while, things got better.
But when I returned to my job (when Bogdan was 11 months old), our life faced another difficult time. We lost even that fragile balance that we struggled to build. My whole schedule was divided between work and the time spent with my son. Even if Adrian has always been a wonderful dad, I started to feel that he was not really helping me.
And that feeling brought several fights. I was reproaching him that he is not understanding my struggle and that he is not helping me enough. He was blaming me that I don’t appreciate his efforts and that I am constantly complaining.
The truth was that we both really wanted to help each other. But we were so overwhelmed by our own feelings and problems that we were not able to truly listen to each other.
One night, after a fight, I stood awake for a while thinking about our relationship.
I was aware that these fights were only destroying our relationship. They were not bringing any progress or improvements for either of us. So I started to search for a solution that could help us. I began to read more about effective communication within the couple and this is what brought a real change.
I realized that the way we were communicating wasn’t constructive at all. The reproaches were only making us feel angrier and more disconnected. So I decided to try another approach.
Instead of complaining or saying negative things about my spouse, I learned to just express my feelings and ask for a solution. Basically, this means switching the focus from him to me.
Instead of saying: “You are never helping me with the child! I told you over and over again about this and you still don’t do anything!”, I started to use a positive approach: “Now I feel very overwhelmed with all the tasks in my life. So I would really need your help. Could we please find a way for you to help me with this?”.
There is a big difference between the reactions that these phrases cause.
The first one only causes anger and the need of contradicting. The second one causes more empathy and willingness to help.
Another change was to be really specific about my needs. When I was saying “I want you to help me with the child”, the message was very unclear. There wasn’t any clear indication of how this help should look like. So he was doing a lot of things to help me but I was not really feeling the help. So I started to be very specific with what I was asking.
Here are some examples of how positive communication can really make a difference:
My request: “I feel that I don’t have enough time for my blog lately. I spend all the time with Bogdan and I really need some time to focus on my work. Could we please find a solution for this? I was thinking about setting a special time every day when you could stay with Bogdan so I could focus on blogging. What do you think?” (instead of “I never get to do want I want because you are not helping me. Why don’t you spend more time with Bogdan as I asked you so many times?”)
His request: “I don’t have any time alone during the weekends. I would really like to play on my Playstation and have some relaxing time without Bogdan interrupting me. Could we set a time every Sunday for you to do something with Bogdan outside so that I can get some free time at home?” (instead of “You complain that you don’t have time for yourself but I don’t have either! Don’t you think that I would like to play on my Playstation every weekend? But I can’t, so stop complaining about what you can’t do!”)
The impact of this change was amazingly good! We are happy to support each other with these requests. And we really appreciate each other’s efforts.
We stopped fighting and started being a team again.
The way we communicate may seem unimportant but it has a huge impact! Our words can disconnect us and make us feel hurt. Or they can build a connection between us and help us overcome the struggles.
For me, communicating in a positive and clear way changed everything! It helped us overcome the vicious circle that was destroying our relationship. And it allowed us to find our happiness again!
This doesn’t mean that we don’t ever fight anymore! Of course that we still have difficult moments sometimes, as every couple. But this small change made the difference in our life. And, most of all, it gave us the confidence that we can also overcome other difficulties that will come up in the future.
We learned to support each other and to be sincere and empathetic in our relationship. And this matters a lot!
If you struggle the same way as we did, I totally recommend you to try this! Giving up of all the reproaches and replacing them with positive communication can really save a relationship!
Additional resources for a happy relationship
Here are some additional resources that I’ve discovered and I found really helpful:
How I Saved My Marriage – an inspiring article from Huffington Post with a great idea for saving a relationship
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts – a wonderful book about the different ways in which we are showing and receiving love
Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples – the author of the book is one of the creators of the Imago Relationship Therapy, a powerful healing process for couples that helps partners reconnect and build a strong relationship
I hope that these resources will inspire and help you too!