One of the many changes during and post-pregnancy is a couple’s identity. Sought-after individual, relationship and sex counsellor Lynett Oliver gives us indispensable advice on Emotionally preparing your relationship for parenthood.
When we realise we are becoming parents, we go into stress mode. Sometimes this includes a happy dance, and other times it involves a moment alone in the bathroom, garden or mountaintop as we come to terms with this reality. We start questioning whether we’ll be good parents or even ready to be parents…and then the prep begins. Finances are scrutinised, the safety of baby products investigated, our homes are baby-proofed, books read, and weekly updates on the development of your future offspring are followed with great interest and excitement.
Almost all conversations either start or inevitably ends with “the baby.”
The one thing we are not preparing for is our relationship. We’re in agreement that all the baby prep work is necessary. However, so is emotionally preparing our relationship for one of, if not the most significant and permanent, changes it’ll ever undergo.
We are entering a world where uncertainty, at least in the beginning, is the norm. We’ll constantly try our best, fail, try again, go through periods of sleep deprivation and irritability and do “the fairness check”, where we compare what each partner contributes.
Our challenge becomes (1) keeping our little one alive and well, and (2) redefining our relationship by creating ways to maintain the couple’s identity.
Here are some tips to get you started on the journey:
- Assess your relationship dynamics. What defines you as a couple and makes your relationship work? An intimate interplay between couples is underlined by their couple’s identity. Have a conversation about what sets your relationship apart.
- What defines your individual identity? What makes you feel good about yourself, and what detracts from it? These will be fundamental areas once your little one has arrived. We’re working towards creating awareness of what will be under “attack” to create growth opportunities and healthy coping mechanisms. Remember, our expectations will appear most robust once they aren’t met.
- Redefining relationship roles, discussing and navigating expectations in the face of change. This area is such a great place for personal and relationship growth. Create a safe space to discuss your current relationship roles and expectations going forward and negotiate your way around your perceptions of parenthood.
- The best advice is to get ready to become flexible. And this is good. There is movement and growth in flexibility. Wave a brave farewell to rigid beliefs and get ready to sail the open seas. Have fun and honest conversations with those you love or parent support groups (a great idea is to make friends with those you attend antenatal classes with, as you will pretty soon be going through the same experiences) and see the humour in the unplanned. My journey in accepting I’m fallible and seeing the humour in the unexpected started the day my daughter was born; actually, she wasn’t even born the way we planned!
- Dismissing and replacing the “date-night” concept. I wrote a blog about date nights a while ago. We want to reintroduce fun into the time we spend with our partner. Life post-birth can become very serious very quickly. We have a little human who solely depends on us for survival.
- Sex post birth. This is such an extensive discussion. Educate yourself to know what to expect. Have an open discussion with your partner about how you’ll navigate this. Remember to be flexible whilst being informed (which is the best kind of flexibility)!
Little ones deserve happy parents. Contact me for info on my online workshop “Emotionally Preparing your relationship for Parenthood”.
Lynett Olivier is a leading individual, relationship & sex counsellor with a private practice in Johannesburg. She is passionate about helping individuals and couples work through different stages of their relationship, their concerns, struggles, and the changes that come with having a new baby. www.lolive.co.za