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When To Call It Quits In a Marriage

When To Call It Quits In a Marriage

Sonya Jensen is a marriage counselor, premarital counselor, relationship coach, and breakup recovery counselor with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. Her practical, positive approach helps couples succeed, and individuals create positive changes in their lives.

When To Call It Quits In A Marriage?

I picked up the phone to reach out to a potential new client for couples counseling. After introducing myself, the clients first question for me was, “When do you know to call it quits in a marriage?”

This question didn’t catch me off guard because it’s the same question many couples ask me at the beginning of marriage counseling or couples therapy.

With these couples, communication problems, lack of sex, and emotional intimacy have been going on for quite some time. Attempts to fix these issues with or without professional help can leave couples feeling exhausted and hopeless.

I’m the biggest cheerleader for relationships. The investment both partners have made to keep a relationship going isn’t worth throwing away at the drop of a hat. However, there are some key signs to look for when trying to decide if continued investment in the relationship is worth it for both partners.

Top Signs You Should Call It Quits In A Marriage:

Unwillingness to Communicate

No matter how hard you try to engage your partner it doesn’t seem to work. You try the nice voice and the sweet thoughts. You try the yelling and the threatening. It doesn’t matter. You get little to no response. [More: “How to Communicate When Your Partner Shuts Down”, and “Are You Trapped in a Codependent Relationship?”]

Consistent Negativity

You don’t seem to communicate outside of what is necessary and even then the content remains negative. Most of the things you say to each other reflect black and white thinking, “You never” or “I always”. At this point you probably can’t make decisions on seemingly insignificant options like where to go for dinner or who is picking up the kids.

You Feel in Your Heart the Relationship is Unhealthy

You’ve tried everything you know to do to improve your relationship. Talked to your friends and read too many relationship books. In your heart you know that you can’t keep going on like this. You can feel the energy between the two of you isn’t getting any better, in fact its either the same or worse. [More: “Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?“]

Unwillingness to Change

It takes two to tango. You’re not perfect, neither is your partner. You both see areas in yourselves that need to change in order to make the relationship work. However, neither of you seems to have the motivation to make those changes.

Won’t Seek Help

You’ve begged your partner to see a counselor. Maybe you’ve gone to one or two appointments without much buy-in from your partner. Overall, you feel a strong resistance personally or from your partner to engaging in counseling.

Maybe you can identify with some or all of these red flags. You may be asking yourself, “What do I do next?” Every couple is different but if you see these things in your relationship, things have to change. The relationship problems won’t resolve on their own. Here’s what to do next:

Get support

Even if your partner won’t come with you, reach out to a couples counselor or relationship coach. Whether you stay or leave this relationship you need help to process your emotions, set healthy boundaries and expectations, and take steps forward. There are divorce and break up recovery groups online and maybe in your area. Do your research.

Get informed

I know its scary to think about all that will change and if you’re even up for it. Gain as much information as possible from an attorney or research the state laws. The more information you have the better decisions you can make about your future.

Take your time

Don’t rush a decision. If you don’t know what to do about your situation, then seek support until you find clarity. For many couples the problems have been ongoing for years. A few more weeks or months won’t change anything. Take this at your pace. There is a lot to grieve, process, and plan.

Every couple is different, as well as every situation. I believe that if both partners are willing to work towards a healthier relationship, there is hope, and there are tools. [More: How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage] Exhaust your options, arm yourself with knowledge, and have accountability. No matter how little the step, its still moving forward. You don’t have to stay stuck.

Warmly,

Sonya Jensen, M.A., LMFT

Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Mindful Self Compassion

MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION: As you may know, in addition to my work here as a therapist, couples counselor and life coach, I love addressing listener questions on the Love Happiness and Success Podcast (not to mention the wonderful questions that you guys leave for me on our blog).

A while ago, one brave listener reached out with a heartfelt email, sharing a bit about her life, and asking how to handle some really difficult things, like:

“How do I forgive myself when I’ve hurt someone?”

“How do I break my old patterns so that I don’t do harmful things again?”

“How do I stay emotionally available when I fear being hurt?”

These are important questions that many people wrestle with, and I decided to tackle them on the show. We’ll be discussing:

How to Forgive Yourself When You’ve Hurt Someone

While so many resources are there to help you if you’ve been hurt by someone else, or need to forgive someone who has betrayed you, or how to rebuild trust in a relationship, few resources exist to help those suffering with feelings of guilt, regret and remorse. This is unfortunate, because who among us hasn’t done something they regret? The worst is when you’ve hurt someone you’ve loved, and maybe lost a relationship as a result of it.

We’ll discuss how to apply self-awareness and mindful self-compassion to this situation in order to find forgiveness for yourself, by putting your actions in context of both your life experience and your inner experience. We’ll talk about how to practice self-compassion, and also some self-compassion exercises to help you develop this skill.

Resources: Here’s the link to the attachment styles article I mentoned. One of the other resources I discuss here is our “What’s Holding You Back” quiz to help you gain self-awareness (here’s the link if you want to check it out).

How Do I Break My Old Patterns?

The crux of any personal growth process is using your self-awareness and your feelings to get clearer about your values, help you guide your future behavior and future choices. But all we have is the present moment. We’ll talk about how to combine compassion for yourself, empathy for others, and mindfulness skills to manage yourself in the moment so that you create better outcomes in the future.

Resource: Mindfulness, For People Who Hate to Meditate

How Do I Stay Emotionally Available in Relationships?

When you’re feeling fragile and emotionally reactive, it’s hard to have healthy relationships. Instead, we usually fall into either losing ourselves and being dependent on another for our feelings of self-worth. (Which too often leads to emotional enmeshment and codependency). Or, we swing into self-protection, lashing out, shutting down, or breaking off relationships. The key to finding a middle path — connection, and confidence — is through loving yourself and strengthening yourself.

Resource: Here’s the link to the Self-Love article I mentioned. Also, an article about cultivating healthy vulnerability in relationships.

At the heart of all the ideas, skills and strategies here for forgiving yourself, and using your mistakes as a launch pad for growth is the concept of mindful self-compassion. I hope you keep that idea with you, on your journey of growth and healing.

Your fellow traveler,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mindful Self Compassion: How to Forgive Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Attachment Styles: How Do You Connect?

Attachment Styles: How Do You Connect?

Jenna Peterson, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, couples therapist, premarital counselor, therapist and life coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She has a friendly, light style, and uses effective, evidence-based techniques to help you achieve your most important goals for your life and your relationships.

What Are Attachment Styles? Why Do They Matter?

Attachment styles impact the way you “do” relationships. Do you tend to push your partner away when it gets emotional? Do you get anxious when your partner walks away from an argument?  Do you do both? There are four different patterns of adult attachment styles that start in childhood and continue into our adult relationships. Take this mini attachment style quiz to find out which one you are — and how to manage it!

Attachment theory, based on the research of John Bowlby,  began as a way to understand children and the different bonds they form with their caregivers as “patterns of attachment.”  

However, we now understand that attachment styles show up in adult relationships as well and can have a negative effect on a relationship if not understood and attended to appropriately. As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I often keep attachment styles in mind as I’m working with couples eager to improve their relationships.

The Four Attachment Styles. (Which are you?)

Secure Attachment Style

Those with secure attachment tend to have the ability to trust and feel trusted by their partner with ease.  They view their partner as their “secure base” and tend to feel comforted in an intimate relationship. In romantic relationships, they can express themselves and their feelings. A securely attached person is also likely to be self-aware and have an understanding for what triggers them. Additionally, they have empathy for others too.

Paradoxically, a secure attachment style makes it easier to have space in a romantic relationship. A person with secure attachment can be left alone by their partner for a period of time without feeling abandoned. Or if they do feel anxious or concerned, they talk about their feelings openly (and appropriately).

Though securely attached people seek to get to resolutions when problems occur, that doesn’t mean they don’t argue with loved ones.  People with this attachment style may get angry and frustrated with their partner, but they try to resolve issues with their partner’s needs in mind. They also tend to calm down more quickly after conflict.

At the core of a secure attachment style is self-love. [More on this topic, read: “What is self-love?”]

Avoidant Attachment Style

People with avoidant attachment usually prefer to not argue at all and may walk away from conflict, rather than engage.  Shutting down and becoming silent can be common for people with this attachment style.

Even though people with an avoidant attachment style may seem like they don’t care, the truth is that they often feel threatened and overwhelmed in emotionally intimate situations. Therefore, they may distance themselves emotionally from others and withdraw once a situation requires vulnerability.

Though people with avoidant attachment styles may long for closeness and intimacy with their partner, the urge to protect themselves and avoid feeling painful emotions become the ultimate motive for their behavior.  

Anxious Attachment Style

An anxious attachment style usually involves a person who deeply desires closeness with their partner in order to soothe the anxiety that distance creates.  People with anxious attachment styles often make bids for attention and connection (which is good!) but sometimes to the point where they may be perceived as “needy” in romantic relationships.

A person with an anxious attachment style may become insecure and jealous of their partner if they perceive that they’re not getting what they need, particularly around emotional support. They may feel fearful when their partner leaves for extended lengths of time. Although they desire closeness and connection, their attempts to communicate their pain may be perceived as angry or even hostile by their partner. [Check out, “Getting Anger Under Control”]

Unfortunately, because people with insecure attachment styles tend to worry and struggle with trust,  they may accuse their partner of inappropriate behavior, with or without evidence. People with this style may feel as if they show their partner love far more than they get in return.

Disorganized Attachment Style

Disorganized attachment tends to have a mixture of avoidant and anxious attachment styles (it’s also known as “fearful avoidant” attachment).  People with this attachment style often pull their partner in, but when they start to feel vulnerable, shut their partner down.

It is difficult for a person with a disorganized attachment style to feel secure in a relationship, sometimes even when their partner is supportive and caring.  A disorganized attachment style may demand attention and intimacy from their partner, then withdraw and shut down once they receive it.

Though it can be challenging, it may help to understand that people’s attachment styles are rooted in early childhood experiences. Keeping this in mind may help you to have empathy for your partner’ attachment style.

What is Your Attachment Style? What is Your Partner’s Attachment Style?

In reading through these attachment style descriptions (aka, our mini attachment style quiz), you may have noticed already that you have one attachment style and your partner has a different one.  That is very common! As a couples therapist and marriage counselor, I often work with couples with different attachment styles. I know this can make understanding and communicating with one another all the more difficult, but it’s a solvable problem.  

Different Attachment Styles in a Relationship: Tips For Bridging The Gap

  • Strategy 1: Express Yourself – Do you know what your partner needs from you in order to feel fulfilled and supported?  Have you told your partner what you need? If not, that’s a great place to start. Sit down together with some paper or a whiteboard and write down what each of you need.  
    • For instance an example might be, “I’d like you to tell me I look nice, or compliment my appearance more often.” Or, “I’d like you to initiate sex more frequently.”  The more specific you can be, the better!
    • If things start getting tense, take a cool down and come back to the list when you feel calm.  If you can hear what your partner needs from the relationship you can better understand how your attachment styles are coming into play!
  • Strategy 2: Recognize Your Attachment Style – Start to notice what attachment style you are and when it comes up.  When it does, explore it!
    • Examples:
      • Did I just walk away from a fight? What made me walk away? What would I have needed to stay in the room and continue the conversation?  
      • Or, when do I feel most anxious about my partner?  Why am I so upset when I don’t hear back from my partner for a few hours?  What could my partner do to make me feel more secure in this moment?

(FREE ADVICE FROM A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR:  Before you do any of these exercises, each partner has to agree not to get defensive, and do their best to hear what their partner needs.  This isn’t a time to list grievances and tell the other what they’re doing wrong, but to tell your partner directly how they can make the relationship even better for you. If you try to have this conversation and it disintegrates into a fight, this could be a sign that it’s time to see a professional couples counselor.)

If you try these strategies you may have an easier time understanding your partner and also yourself.  By paying attention to how attachment styles come up in your life, you can increase your overall awareness and more easily replace old patterns with new ones, keeping your partner’s needs in mind.

Over time, as you both work on empathy, responsiveness, and taking ownership of the way you show up in your relationship, you can create a safe, secure attachment that feels good for both of you. 

Warmly,

Jenna Peterson, M.A., LMFTC

 

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC is a kind, compassionate marriage counselor, therapist and coach here to help you create your very best life. Ana specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts so they can create fulfillment and joy in their lives.

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

Even before I became a Denver marriage counselor and online couples therapist, I would have described myself as being a “hopeless romantic” and had grand expectations in a relationship. Growing up, I loved the idea of love. To me, the movies I watched made relationships seem easy. You know, the ones where both partners overcome some kind of obstacle to finally realize their need for the other, they confess their undying love then live happily ever after.

I loved this idea growing up, because it just seemed so natural. It seemed like such a stark difference from the real-world relationships that were falling apart all around me. I realized that my idolization of relationships in the movies led me to develop some unrealistic expectations about relationships in my own definition of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Here are some of the biggest expectations in a relationship that may prevent you from experiencing fulfillment with your partner:

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #1: “I have to be perfect.”  

Have you ever felt that you can’t let your partner see your faults or weaknesses?

As a couples therapist, I work with many couples who feel this pressure to be perfect for their partner, oftentimes stating their fear that sharing their weaknesses will somehow diminish the quality of their relationship.

These feelings of insecurity often leads to one or both partners tip-toeing around each other, neglecting to share their needs or fears, forfeiting the opportunity to experience a true, genuine connection with each other.

The myth of perfection is detrimental because it assumes that humans are faultless beings. Which we are not. Furthermore, perfectionism results in unsatisfactory relationships because there is a lack of depth and meaning when you are only sharing what you believe to be the best parts of you. In fact, vulnerability connects. 

A partnership is about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, it’s about sharing life together.  To share life with another person is to offer them your whole heart with the hope that you are both able and willing to accept and love each other fully — accepting the good with the bad.

When this kind of intimacy happens, it creates a true partnership, a bond full of depth and meaning with a person who you feel safe to rely on, through both the difficulties of life and the joys.

Tip: Try making a list of your top three insecurities and sharing them with your partner, while allowing space to validate each other’s vulnerabilities.

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #2: “This relationship is about meeting MY needs.”

Living in an individualistic society, we can often place more emphasis on what I can get out of a relationship, or where our partner is failing to meet my needs.  

What I so often see as a marriage counselor and couples therapist is that both partners have needs. It is important for partners to understand how to meet each other’s needs in a way that provides safety and security in the relationship. I also believe that we can be so focused on what OUR needs are, that we fail to see what our partners are needing from us and wind up neglecting them.

Partnership requires togetherness. Togetherness requires the courage to see beyond yourself into another person’s world. Consider your partner’s perspective, what they need, and how you can fulfill them. Doing this can create a community dynamic in your relationship, where you know that you and your partner are looking out for one another, that you’re not in this alone.

Tip: Try spending a day focusing on filling your partner’s “love tank” by doing what makes them feel most loved without expecting anything in return.

Unrealistic Expectation #3: “You should be my everything.”

In my role as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I’ve noticed this narrative increasing in the couples I’ve seen: a relationship expectation that their partner needs to be their everything.

This unrealistic expectation often leads to someone feeling lonely and hurt when their partner is unable to meet their every need. This mindset also puts an intense pressure on both partners to become something that is often unattainable.

I believe that, much like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to keep a strong partnership. Having more people in your life besides just your partner, and a shared community where both partners’ feel safe and supported by a number of people, helps to lessen the pressure that you both have to be everything.  Having a community creates an environment for your partnership to flourish as you realize that it does not have to be just the two of you against the world.

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community.

Have you had some expectations in a relationship, like the ones I talk about here, that have gotten in your way of having the kind of happy relationship you want? I hope that this article helped shed some light on them, and offered you some tips for how to break free of some unrealistic relationship expectations.

If I can do anything else to support you in creating a great relationship, you know where to find me!

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

The Stages of a Breakup: How to Heal a Broken Heart

The Stages of a Breakup: How to Heal a Broken Heart

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

The Stages of a Breakup

 

The Stages of a Breakup: How to Heal a Broken Heart

We get so many breakup questions on our Growing Self blog and through Facebook from broken-hearted people looking for breakup recovery advice. More than anything, they want to know how to get over a breakup. They have questions like:

“How long does it take to get over a breakup?”

“How do you get over a breakup when you live together”

“How to cope when your Ex moves on?”

“How to stop thinking about your Ex?”

“How to get over a bad breakup?”

As you know if you’ve ever listened to my podcast, I have a special place in my heart for people who are in the midst of a bad breakup, and I really want to help. (You can read my own horrible breakup story here.) I thought that, instead of trying to answer so many specific breakup questions, it might be more helpful to everyone to learn more about the stages of a breakup. My hope is that in learning about the stages of a breakup, you can identify where you are in this process and get some direction for how to move past your breakup.

The Stages of a Breakup

Breakup recovery is not an event, it’s a process. Learning about the stages of a breakup, and what the breakup recovery process actually looks like, will provide you with a more robust answer about what to expect.

Breakup Stage 1: Craving Contact With Your Ex
In this stage of breakup recovery, you’re in intense pain. You can’t stop thinking about your Ex, you’re craving contact with them, you’re idealizing your Ex, and you’re often wishing that you could get back together. This is the “withdrawal” stage of breakup recovery, and it’s bad. Worst yet, people can get stuck in this stage for a really long time. We’ll talk how to take your power back, and break free from this stage so that you can truly begin the process of healing.

Breakup Stage 2: Grieving
Once you’ve decided for yourself that the relationship is really over, then your healing process begins with honest grieving. We’ll talk about how to use the power of grief to release your attachment to your Ex, and work through the pain of heartbreak.

Breakup Stage 3: Releasing Anger
Once you’re past the hardest parts of withdrawal and grieving, the deeper layers of healing can happen. Most people, when the dust starts to settle, become aware that they still have feelings like anger, guilt, and even shame related to their relationship. Until you work through these feelings, it’s hard to fully release your attachment to your Ex.

Breakup Stage 4: Repairing Your Self Esteem After a Breakup
The next stage of breakups often involves turning away from the focus being on your Ex, and turning towards yourself. Most people going through a bad breakup feel like it’s taken a toll on their self-esteem. Learning how to love yourself again is the foundation for being able to truly rebuild and move on after a breakup.

Breakup Stage 5: How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex
Once you’ve worked through the dark emotions of a breakup, craving, grief, anger, shame…. you’re free to move on. AND, annoyingly, many people still find that they are thinking about their Ex. They might even have intrusive thoughts about their Ex. In this stage of a breakup, there’s no continued reason to keep thinking about your Ex… but it’s easier said than done.

Breakup Stage 6: What Did I Learn?
When you’re feeling clear and strong, you have a wonderful opportunity to gather up the learning experiences that you may have uncovered through your healing process. Keeping these life lessons in the forefront will give you the power to create a better future for yourself in the future. If not, you’re destined to repeat the mistakes of your past.

Breakup Stage 7: Learning to Trust Again
The last stage of a breakup is learning how to create healthy new relationships in the future. For many people, this requires learning how to trust again after a breakup. What many people discover through this healing process is how to trust themselves.

The Stages of a Breakup & How to Heal From Heartbreak, On The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast

Today, I’m putting my breakup recovery coach hat on to address your breakup question and put them in context of the stages of breakups. I’m also taking this opportunity to answer a few listener questions.

All of these stages of a breakup require intentional skills and strategies to work through effectively. Some stages of a breakup take longer to work through than others. For example, many people stay stuck in the first stage of a breakup, craving contact with their Ex, for a very long time. However, getting stuck in any of the stages of a breakup can prevent you from being able to move forward.

I also hope that learning about the stages of a breakup will provide you with guidance about how to move forward after a breakup, no matter what stage of breakup you’re currently in. I’ll be sharing tips on how to move through each stage of a breakup on today’s show.

We’ll be talking about specifics related to how to get over a breakup when you live together, how it takes to stop thinking about your Ex, how to get your confidence back after a breakup, and how long it takes to get over a breakup.

I hope that this breakup advice, and the breakup success stories I share help you find your way forward too.

Yours in healing,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: I discussed many resources to support you in YOUR journey through the stages of a breakup. Here are links to all of them, if you’d like to learn more:

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The Stages of a Breakup: How to Heal From Heartbreak

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a Denver Marriage Counselor, Online Couples Therapist, Premarital Counselor and Life Coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families create health and happiness, and flourish —  together.

How to Have a Great Relationship After Baby?

Plan Ahead.

 

As a Denver marriage counselor, online couples therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist and married mom of two I know that bringing a new baby into the family is truly one of the most amazing life transitions. We spend countless hours preparing for our new little member by creating a perfect nursery, talking about a birth plan and reading book after parenting book, but often we forget to think about our relationship after baby. It’s vital to prepare your marriage for a child, too.

How Does Having a Child Change a Relationship?

Let’s face it, having a baby requires a major adjustment in our relationship, including the way you communicate, work together as a team, and even show each other love and affection. I should know, I have two children…under two years of age! (But that’s another blog post.)

Making space for a third, or fourth member of the family brings growing pains in a marriage and often it is the one area that gets overlooked. This is a problem, because your relationship after baby can need some TLC too. It’s important to strengthen your relationship before welcoming a new child, so that you both have the most positive experience possible.

We increase our ability to have a smooth transition from a family of two to a family of three or more only if we plan for it. Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the path from partners to parents.

One: Identify Your Support System Before Baby Arrives

As the age old saying goes, “It takes a village, ” and I honestly believe that it does. The first couple of months of newborn life can be challenging. No matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, parenting is the true definition of on-the-job training. Not only are you trying to climb the learning curve of this new job but you’ll be doing it on very little sleep. It is imperative that you have a support system that you can rely on when you’re tired, overwhelmed, worried or downright terrified that you’re doing it wrong (don’t worry, you’re not).

Figure out who is your individual support and who is the support for you as a couple. I cannot stress enough the importance of support for new moms specifically. Being postpartum coupled with the sometimes challenging experience of breastfeeding (if that is your choice) can be especially hard, and being able to lean on others that have gone through it, is life saving.

Encourage your friends and family to check in on you two, accept any and all offers for meals, cleaning, a break for a nap or a shower, and know who you’re going to call when you just need a minute to cry/vent/complain etc. Remember that asking for help is the truest sign of strength and not weakness. Being willing and able to know when you’re at capacity and need to tap out can assist in avoiding symptoms of depression and/or care fatigue.

This will help both of you as individuals, and as a couple. Having someone to support you both in taking “time-out” together can help sustain your relationship after baby. Also, having support to prevent either of you from becoming so depleted that you don’t have anything left to give to your partnership is very important.

If you don’t have a natural support system with friends and family to lend a hand, consider making your own — Ideally, as part of your pre-baby prep plan. Check out in-person or online postpartum support groups for emotional support. You may also consider finding opportunities to connect with other young families in the same situation who would welcome the opportunity to trade childcare from time to time.

Two: Employ Your Empathy

The practice of cultivating empathy for both yourself and your partner is one of the most important tools you have. Let’s be honest, sleep deprivation is an actual tactic used for torture. So when you are feeling highly irritable, overly emotional and that your brain closely resembles a fried egg reach for your empathy.

What’s empathy? Empathy is understanding how another person feels, and having compassion for them (as opposed to criticism or judgment). When you’re adjusting to a new child, neither of you are at 100%. You’re both going to make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or do something that will annoy each other. This is the time to give each other a pass. [For more on this topic check out “Empathy: The Key to Communication And Connection”]

Remember that it makes sense that you’re feeling on edge, or that your partner seems more easily agitated. Remind yourself that it is only temporary. You will sleep again, your distress tolerance will come back, your ability to think clearly will re emerge but in the meantime you will practice patience with yourself, and those around you.

Be thoughtful about the fights you choose, allow space for tears, and be gentle with your words for both yourself and your other half. Ideally, begin intentionally cranking up the empathy in your relationship well before baby arrives so you have lots of practice being more tolerant of each other before stress and sleep deprivation shorten your fuses.

Three: Negotiate Your Roles Before Baby Arrives

One of the biggest challenges of any transition is a renegotiation of roles. Bringing another person, albeit a small one, still brings along a whole new set of tasks. Your relationship after baby can look very different in terms of who does what around the house. Before baby is born, spend some time with your partner considering how you are going to split those tasks up.

Questions to ask each other before baby comes:

  • Will one person be solely responsible for night feedings and diaper changes or will those tasks be divided?
  • Will both of you be responsible for washing bottles? Or will one person be the keeper of all things milk?
  • How will you make sure that you both are getting time to take a break and check out of parenting duties, even if only for 10 minutes?
  • If you have pets in your home, consider who will be in charge of their needs while you’re adjusting to the needs of baby.

Remember that these roles can always be renegotiated as you go, but starting off with an initial idea of what household roles and responsibilities will look like will decrease the chance of a 2 AM screaming match about who should be changing a dirty diaper. Tackling the responsibilities of parenting together will also help keep feelings of resentment at bay and protect your relationship after baby arrives.

In my experience the first two months are the hardest part of the transition. At about 8-10 weeks it feels like a fog lifts and suddenly you re-emerge into the world of the living, but the initial weeks can feel like a whirlwind. Having a plan with your partner will at the very least give you a road map of ways to navigate the sometimes treacherous path so that you can spend more time enjoying your new baby, and become a stronger couple (and family) in the process.

And… congratulations!

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching