A baby brings immense joy, but it also brings a tsunami of changes that inevitably affects the dynamic between the couple. Hormonal changes, self-identity shifts, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, doubting oneself and learning how to take care of an infant, decreased libido and desire, all of this, eventually take their toll on the couple relationship.
Two frequent, hot topics for new parents are:
Whether or not they are carrying an equal burden of responsibility in terms of parenting and housekeeping, and
How much supported and understood they feel in their relationship.
If this hits home, then I hope knowing that you are not alone and that most couples face the same issues may bring some relief to you. But it is equally relieving to know that you can use the power of language to change this.
Sharing the responsibility of parenting/ house chores, and feeling supported and understood, are two interconnected issues. For both to get resolved, there needs to be effective communication between the couple, where both partners express with clarity what they need and how precisely their needs can be met. Where both partners make clear Requests.
There are two ways you may be blocking the way you ask for support. Two ways you may “hide” your Requests in the language you use:
“Complaining” or expressing frustration.
Do you find yourself talking to yourself or talking to your partner about how the laundry keeps pilling up, or the kitchen is always in a mess, how you still have not managed to have a shower or eat your lunch, etc.? By expressing your frustration, you are perhaps hoping that the other person will pick up the cues and offer to help you. This is not necessarily done consciously, on the contrary, it is usually an unconscious hope of “getting rescued”. So, the first action you can take, is to stop and think, what is driving my frustration? What is driving this “complaining”? What do I really want to ask? What is my hidden Request? And then make sure you clearly express this Request to your partner.
Offering is another way we “hide” our Requests.
When we are sincerely offering to do something for someone else, there should be no expectations attached to our offer to get something in return. We should normally feel at peace if our act of kindness is not reciprocated. But if we are secretly expecting something in return, it is not really an Offer. It is a hidden Request.
For example, if you are offering to rock the baby to sleep today but expect that your partner will volunteer to take the turn tomorrow, you are not clearly voicing your request - “I need a break, please, take care of the sleep routine tomorrow”. This can lead to you feeling unappreciated, unseen, unloved and your partner may feel frustrated or confused about where he/she is falling short.
So next time you offer to do something, think how sincere is my Offer? Am I at peace if I do not get anything in return? Or do I really want to ask for some sort of support / reciprocal act? Then again, make sure you clearly express this Request to your partner.
There you go! Two remarkably simple but powerful ways to become more aware of how you use language to drive equal distribution of responsibilities and to get the support and understanding you need.
Using Requests and Offers effectively is only possible if you feel comfortable asking for the support you need. I do want to acknowledge that making Requests may feel awkward, embarrassing, distressing, or even daunting for some people. Usually people tend to feel more at ease Offering, than Requesting. But this is a separate and deeper issue and the reasons behind this vary from person to person. If you cannot bring yourself to ask for what you desperately need or if you are having difficulty to establish healthier communication patterns with your partner, then we can work on these together!
Becoming a parent is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and for a deeper couple connection. I would love to help you tap into this new world of possibilities.