Becoming parents is a time we want to feel happy and close, yet there is a deep undercurrent that brings change in our relationship with our partner, whether we want it or not. In the last newsletter we looked at how our expectations of parental roles has an impact on our relationship once children arrive. Let’s now look at why even more might come up from our pasts at this stage.
Change 3) Patterns from the Past Emerge
As our partner is suddenly a mother or father, and no doubt saying things that remind us of this parental role, deep reactions are triggered within us to this role and our own history with our parents. It’s a bit like our unresolved stuff from our childhood gets dredged up, usually without us realising. So, we are more likely to have ‘childish’ and ‘old’ reactions in response to our partner in their new ‘mother’ or ‘father’ role which have nothing to do with them at all. In turn we are likely to experience new behaviour in our partner that does not fit with the woman or man we know. No wonder it can be a confusing time on top of learning to look after a baby.
The arrival of children usually means an increased involvement with our actual parents, as they step into the role of grandparents, and this in turn can also trigger old dynamics. I guess you just have to look at how many of us struggle with our relationship with our parents and ‘family’ occasions after we ‘leave home’ to see that there is stuff we have yet to resolve.
Tip 3) How to Positively Handle our History
It’s hard to notice and be with our ‘childhood’ stuff alongside managing a newborn and all the change and sleep deprivation this brings, but rest assured being open and starting to talk, showing willing and keeping trying goes a long way in a relationship. It’s about being in the messiness of relationship and exploring how you can grow both individually and together and resolve things, rather than searching for an easy ‘fix’.
Just becoming aware that old patterns and reactions will be triggered makes a difference. It helps to notice them and own them when they happen, particularly with your partner. The more you can notice your own behaviour (rather than your partner’s!) the more likely you are to be able to express how you are feeling and to find ways forward together.
Notice when Your Reaction is Out of Proportion
You can start by noticing what emotions feel real and relevant in response to your partner in the current moment. Notice when your reaction is out of proportion to the situation as this is a clue that there is probably some link to your past, or possibly your partners, and that something is unconsciously being acted out or released. This is particularly true for rage – old anger that has been hidden inside.
You could reflect and journal on your childhood and your relationship with your mother and father, and notice any parallels you are experiencing in your relationship with your partner. Once you are clearer on what is getting triggered inside you it is easier to manage your response and separate out past and present. It will also help to notice the positive choices that you made as a result of your childhood experience, as it can be hard if this stage brings up mostly the negative aspects.
A Deep Undercurrent that Brings Change
The potential is that this is a time of discovery that can bring us new awareness, choices and individual growth, the chance to heal old wounds and hurts, and a new level of depth in relationship with our partner. And if this doesn’t happen alongside parenting a newborn or toddler, the possibility is still there for couples to explore this at any stage.
If parenting together feels difficult, or the changes it brings are causing big rifts within your relationship that you don’t know how to bridge, know you can always get some support from someone like myself.