5 Fights New Parents Have + 5 Accompanying Tips to Tackle Them
As Drew and I come up on our 3rd year of parenting together and 5th year of marriage…I can tell you that it isn’t always easy. I do NOT think people give enough credit to how much adjustment adding parenting into your relationship can be. Essentially, your responsibilities together just skyrocketed, you’ve never practiced and you have a little baby crying while you try to figure it out. Add one or both of you going back to work, the household responsibilities…and you’ve got some firecracker that are ready to be lit.
A lot of us fall into the same new parent fights that our parents *also* probably had. If we make ourselves aware of these and talk through how to handle them, we can realize none of us are alone AND work to improve.
This has certainly been a journey for Drew and I. BUT, I have to report our lines of communication have been the best they have ever been. We find ourselves sitting down regularly (every other week?) and we calmly chat about what is working and what isn’t working. We each can say how we feel, affirm the other person if we agree and talk about how to make it better. We’re a team and both member of the team REALLY matter, how we’re each doing mentally and physically.
We KNOW the stress will go up when we add our third babe, so we’re really trying to be proactive.
I was EXCITED when I realized one of YOU were a marriage/family therapist. I’m such a huge advocate for asking expert opinions and sharing GOOD knowledge. Enter Rachel Mergo and her expertise. She graciously agreed to come onto my blog and together we picked this topic. We’re trying to add value to your lives. And I love that Rachel always affirms that even with all her therapist training, her and her husband are not immune to these fights.
We decided that I would infuse some personal examples into the post, so that y’all can relate even more so. Always willing to be the example to help y’all grow.
Here is Rachel:
5 fights new parents have + 5 accompanying tips to tackle them:
Hi, guys! I’m happy to be sharing with you a topic that is SO relevant in both my life & in many couple’s lives that I’ve had the chance to connect with as a family therapist. When Amy reached out to me to write a post about common fights that new parents have, I just knew I had to do it. The transition from being a spouse to a spouse+parent is HUGE, so you’re going to encounter some growing pains along the way. I have a feeling you’ll find each of these common fights pretty relatable – I know I do! I’ve also added an accompanying tip for each fight, with easy and useful ways to either avoid these fights or tackle them as quick as possible. Without further ado, here are five common fights you’ll most likely have as new parents, and five tips to tackle them.
1. Not communicating your needs.
•Examples: becoming resentful that your partner comes home after work and relaxes on the couch; being afraid to ask for a break because you feel the need to be in control; being passive aggressive to your partner as you finish all of the chores because they never offered help.
2. Being rude/moody/snappy to your partner due to fatigue/irritability.
•Examples: getting annoyed at your partner for doing something that never bothered you before; calling your partner names; blaming your partner for something that wasn’t their fault.
3. Not being able to admit you were wrong.
•Examples: not apologizing to your partner when you know you should; becoming defensive when your partner offers feedback; twisting the argument to make your partner appear in the wrong (“yes, but you…”).
4. Not having enough time for yourself/your relationship – and competing about who has it worse.
Examples: becoming defensive if your partner says he’s tired after a long day at work (when you’ve been home with baby); complaining to your partner that “at least they get a break at work” unlike you; feeling resentful/bitter if your partner says they had a productive day at work outside of the home.
5. Setting unrealistic expectations for your partner and comparing their imperfections to another’s perfection
Examples: nagging to your partner that your best friend, sister, and hair dresser all have a more hands-on partner when it comes to parenting; complaining that your partner is the only person you know that doesn’t know what you expect him/her to do around the house.
5 accompanying tips to tackle them:
Communication is the foundation of everything when it comes to relationships. EVERYTHING! First, it’s important to share your feelings when you first identify them, instead of when they’re about to boil over. We’ve all done this, waiting until you’re literally about to burst or racking up a tally of injustices from your partner to use in your court case for later. Stop it. The energy you waste sitting on an emotion is taking away from your own happiness. The sooner you process your feeling(s) with your partner, the less likely it will become bigger than it actually is. I don’t know about you, but looking back at the majority of arguments I’ve had with my husband, they are laughable today.
Ask for what you need: physically, mentally, intimately, whatever. If you don’t ask, chances are your partner isn’t going to know when/how to help you. We tend to hold onto the unrealistic belief that our partner is just supposed to know exactly what we need, so when that doesn’t happen we become angry, resentful, or unappreciated. When you start telling your partner exactly what you need (whether in the form of a chore, an emotional connection, help with the baby, sleep, or a physical break) they can begin to actually help you.
When you’re communicating your needs/feelings to your partner, use I-statements (I feel…”) instead of you-statements (“you make me feel…”). This will help keep you accountable for your own emotions and it decreases the chance of your partner becoming defensive. If your partner is sharing his or her needs/feelings to you, be an active listener. Listen to HEAR, don’t just listen to RESPOND. If you listen to hear what your partner is saying, you are less likely to be on the defensive and more likely to be more understanding of where they’re coming from.
Ames: Oh gosh, preach it sister! Louder for the people in the back. THIS y’all. I ran around after Maxwell and honestly even after Trey expecting Drew could just see where help was needed. He actually needs a very specific ask and plan of attack. I NOW completely appreciate that is the way he functions better and have let go of the “you should just know” attitude. That got me nowhere but frustrated and saying passive aggressive comments.
2. Don’t show up for everyone else and leave your partner the leftovers
My husband once told me that he thought I was nicer to my therapy clients than I was to him. Ouch, talking about an eye opener. I couldn’t blame him either. After a long day of therapy, the last thing I’d want to do is do more talking or listen to his bad day at dinner. But, I eventually realized he was SO right. Don’t show up for EVERYONE else in your life and then leave the leftovers for your partner. Don’t put on a smile and be kind to everyone else you encounter that day, and then leave your partner what’s left (fatigue, exhaustion, irritability). It is SO hard to balance where your energy goes, especially as new parents – I get it! Really taking a look into your mood patterns, energy levels, and schedules can be a game changer when trying to find a balance. If you notice that you are the best version of yourself in the mornings, get up a little earlier to see your partner off to work with a hug. If you know you prioritize an early bedtime now as a parent, prioritize a half hour before bed to chat with your partner about their day. It’s not to say you will get it right every time, and it may look different day to day! When I started picturing how I would feel if my husband came home & ignored me because he had too hard of a day, I knew I was wrong. Your partner should get the best of you, even if “the best of you” looks different day to day. As long as you put the effort in, it will be noticed.
Ames: This is everything. Speaking straight to my soul. This is NOT easy, but I can certainly tell you that it is worth it. I’ve shared time and time again that Drew used to walk into a resentful and overwhelmed wife during my maternity leaves. Everything changed when I started telling myself that my goal is to get ALONG with Drew every single day. Show him my best and not my worst. Our relationship has improved SO much just by paying attention to the way I greet him and then follow up with the way I treat him. Remember: it is not your spouse’s fault if your children were overwhelming that day. Don’t take it out on them.
3. Stay humble:
Your partner shouldn’t be the one you need to defend yourself to. Your partner isn’t going to leave you for being vulnerable, for making a mistake, or for not knowing it all. This one can be so hard for some people, whether due to pride or by a past where vulnerability was frowned upon. Take a deep breath when you’re about to snap back and remember you’re on the SAME TEAM. You are allowed to make mistakes, be wrong, and not know it all (and, so are they). Your partner CHOSE you knowing this!
Always work to be quick to apologize or let negativity go. Letting go of your pride is HARD (trust me, I still fail at this daily), but if we expect our partner to be willing to apologize we must expect ourselves to do the same. Whether that is with a verbal apology, an acknowledgment of your partner’s feedback, a hug, or a laugh or joke to break the ice, it is whatever works best for you. An argument doesn’t always need to end with an apology, but it does need to have closure.
Ames: Y’all, if you aren’t getting things from this blog post…I don’t know what you’re doing. Over the course of our relationship I’ve had to learn to say I’m sorry without a qualifier of why I did the action. Or, when Drew gave me feedback the other week that I’m not very nice when he asks about playing basketball during our busier weeks, I just completely affirmed his feedback. “You’re right, I can totally see why you’d say that.” Sentence has to end there, I can’t say, “But….”. We talked about how to change this pattern and I’m happy to stick to a plan after hearing his feedback.
4. Prioritize yourself & your marriage:
Make time for self-care, both together and individually. Whether your budget allows for weekly date nights, monthly day dates while the kids are at school, or a movie night in after bedtime – make it happen! Don’t look at it like it’s an option, make it a priority. Add it to your schedule, right alongside the grocery trip, Target run, workout, and soccer practice. It is SO easy to put your marriage on the back burner, but the more you prioritize quality time with your spouse, the more natural it becomes.
And, spending time alone is just as important. Find your passion and make time for it. Again, everyone’s schedule will vary, but including it as a must-do and not an option will lead to better success. For me, solo trips to Target, a Starbucks coffee & a solo drive, writing, or going for a run are my refreshers. Maybe yours is the gym, a weekend with girlfriends, a hair appointment, or spending time at a coffee shop reading a book. Showing up for yourself and feeling refreshed will consequently motivate you to show up for your spouse (and kids!) as well. Win win!
Ames: YAS! I have to say I think we’re better at scheduling our alone time than our time together. We’ve BOTH agreed that this is one area of our marriage that we’re going to work on.
5. Do not compare your behind the scenes to another’s highlight reel:
I mean, this is probably my favorite quote of all time in the social media age. Another one? Comparison is the thief of joy. It is SO easy to point out any little thing that is wrong in your marriage or with your parenting. It’s also SO easy to see the thousands of couples out there sharing their perfect marriage, children, homes, romances, etc. YA’LL. The majority of people aren’t going to highlight when they lost their sh*t over their partner forgetting diapers for the third day in a row. They will highlight the day their partner brings diapers home without being asked (typically the fourth day; after being nagged for the first three). See what I mean? It is so easy to compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel, but it’s just that. Focus on your journey, your flaws, your strengths, your kids, and your love and let go of how you think you’re doing in comparison to others. It will leave you a thousand times more happy.
Ames: YAS! YAS! YAS! Get busy living your own life and improving yourself and your relationship, rather than comparing or wishing for someone else’s. That ain’t going to happen, unless your into being a sister wife…so, focus on where YOU need to.
*Final thoughts: In the throes of parenting, remember that the love you share with your partner was the reason you decided to spend your life together in the first place, and the reason you decided to have babies. You made a choice to do LIFE with your partner and that includes the good, bad, and ugly. Marriage isn’t static, it evolves over time! You will never always love every single thing about your partner every single day. But, if you keep in mind WHY you chose this person as your life partner, it will make working towards a happy marriage WORTH it.
Endless thanks to Rachel. You can find her blog at Rachel Mergo: Life as a Mrs and Mama and on Instagram. If you liked this post, LET US KNOW by commenting or sending a message because we have a few other ideas up our sleeves.
originally published on balancedames.com