Children | Family | Couples Therapy

Children | Family | Couples TherapyDespite the many positive aspects associated with having children, a recently published study revealed that 90% of couples feel their relationship is worse after they have had children.  The birth of the first baby was followed by the magnification of some common relationship problems, which include:

  • Increased criticism
  • Increased withdrawal
  • Decreased intimacy and sex
  • Lack of communication between partners
  • Decreased confidence that their marriage would last
  • Decline in overall satisfaction with the marriage

Talking about what is difficult in raising children is filled with the stigma of shame.  It can be frightening to talk about feeling lost and overwhelmed after having a baby:  “Why is it so hard for us when other parents seem to be doing fine?”  Some primary caregivers (biological or adoptive) struggle with “baby blues” or postpartum depression.  This takes a toll not only on the caregiver, but also on the partner and the rest of the family.

One fact that is rarely named is that when a child is added to your relationship, your partnership becomes a triangle.  In addition to sleepless nights, learning to parent, and huge disruptions in routine, a demanding third (or fourth or…) blows your cozy primary relationship apart.  The non-primary caregiver can feel left out of the new union between the primary caregiver and the child.   We have also seen parents who begin to compete with each other over who is the most competent parent, and whose way is the “right” way.  Every person in your life, including your own parents, feels entitled to critique your parenting.  On top of everything else, many of your childhood issues are re-experienced through your child.

As children grow, their stages of development will challenge your skills.  From navigating the terrible twos and threes, to deciding on pre-school, elementary, middle and high schools, and on to college or vocational schools, many of these decisions can be daunting.  Kids can go astray with drugs, alcohol, premature sexual behavior, getting connected to the “wrong” crowd, etc.  You may become a single-parent family, or need to integrate step-children or step-parents into your blended family.  For most of these changes there is no real handbook and you have to make do as best you can as you go along.

If you are contemplating having children, keep in mind that you are not just preparing for a baby, but for a whole new family.  Most childbirth classes do not address issues beyond breathing exercises and diaper changes.  We help you address questions of finances, living situation and extended support system, how life realistically looks like after the baby arrives, and how you may feel about this huge change in your life.  Are you both on board and have you honestly discussed how having a child will affect your relationship? This is the time for a tune-up of your communication skills.  It is also important to take a good look at how you handle conflict, make decisions and handle priorities.

If you have children already and are struggling with feelings of inadequacy, lack of appreciation, communications issues, diminished intimacy, less or no sexual connection, you are not alone.  Being able to rely on someone to listen when you’re upset, miserable, depressed, or grieving is critical to your well-being and happiness.

Even if your energy is stretched, and you may have a sense of hopelessness, we encourage you to take the first step towards making sure both you and your family have the life you deserve.  Emotionally fulfilling relationships to yourself, your children, your spouse or significant other, and others are key components to your health.  We can help.

Questions for Thought

Below are a few questions that are intended to help you consider your personal situation more closely.  If your responses cause concern and you want to make changes, we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.

  • Do you both agree on how many children we would like to have?
  • Have you discussed your assumptions about how you are going to take care of a child?
  • Do you feel like your household responsibilities are balanced?
  • Are you comfortable asking your partner to help with chores?
  • Do you agree on how many children you would like to have?
  • Do you agree on how to handle issues with your in-laws and siblings?
  • Do you agree on how involved your extended family will be with child rearing?
  • Do you feel taken advantage of in your relationship?
  • Do you discuss money issues in an open way?
  • Have you discussed the kind of schooling you want for our children?
  • Do you agree on how to handle a child who is being difficult and defiant?
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