Babyproofing Our Marriage
I'm not sure if this is just a taboo topic, or if my marriage was the only one in the whole wide world to sh*t it's pants when we brought home our little bambino, but I have got to talk about this. Mom blogs, instagram profiles, and all the baby books on the shelves prepared me the best they could for the lack of sleep, the postpartum needs, and the milestones of every month. BUT, nowhere did I read about the strain and massive learning curve that your marriage has to conquer. In hindsight, its pretty obvious I guess, but both Brandon and I agree that the most challenging part about becoming new parents wasn't the lack of sleep, the loss of "me" time, or even the financial shift.. it was for sure our marriage. Finding your groove within the new role of Mom and Dad, as well as how support looks differently as husband and wife was definitely difficult (and still is from time to time). Of course being sleep-deprived is certainly not the best time to have any productive conversation around..umm.. how would I word it...constructive criticism? (LOL).. but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Hahah, I kid you not I can remember having to consciously not hate Brandon for not having wonderful milk boobies. LOL.. like no sleep is hard right? But what's even harder is not resenting your handsome, wonderful, charming husband as you feed your newborn every. two. hours...that's hard. The poor guy is literally doing nothing wrong, just peacefully sleeping in the middle of the night as every other person in the world does, and I had to consciously stare at him and say I love him, I love, him, I love him. Sure I have a newborn bobbing for my nipple like he's bobbing for apples and pissed he can't find it.. but Brandon hasn't done anything wrong and its ridiculous to sit here stewing at the fact he doesn't have breasts. Enough now. Hahah I swear, anything that happens past 2am is worth leaving there.
I'm not sure if people feel embarrassed to talk about the hardships within marriage, or worry about judgement so they create a perfect picture, but I want to be open around the real and raw struggles that we've experienced. It was a lonely feeling thinking all my friends partnerships were barely effected by their new family member, and if I can make you feel better than I did, then that would make me a happy camper. I'm in the boat too you know, not just chilling on the island telling you to paddle faster.
Learning to adapt, challenging our perspectives and forcing ourselves to step out of our comfort zone were only some of the first few steps we took to strengthen our marriage and continue to put the work needed into it. After chatting with Brandon, we've narrowed down three main aspects we continually practice (with "gentle" reminders from each other from time to time) to babyproof our marriage.
OVER COMMUNICATE (Underlined. Bolded. Italicized. Capitals.)
Simply put, over communication immediately erases assumptions and expectations. It clearly identifies needs, frustrations, gratitude, and becomes second nature when practiced daily. From the small tasks to the larger commitments over-communicating allows both of us many opportunities to tune in to each other and stay on track. We keep a calendar at the top of our stairs that both Brandon and I write our commitments in (pre-covid was a busier life for sure), and by doing so we both get a quick snapshot on what the month looks like for us, both separately and collectively. Communication is one of the quickest ways to feel heard. Setting time aside to intentionally have conversations will both figuratively and literally create positive energy and intimacy within your partnership. Feeling heard, voicing concerns, expressing exhaustions all provide opportunities to support and validate each other.
Listen to Understand, Not to Respond.
Harriet Lerner, a psychologist who focuses on concepts within family and women psychology encourages us to "listen with the same passion to which we want to be heard". How powerful is that. I like it as a gentle reminder that the world doesn't revolve around me. Listen with the same passion to which we want to be heard. How many times has someone spoken to you and you've already started thinking about how you're going to respond? Better yet, how often during disagreements are you so quick on your tongue that you've spit out something before your partner even finishes their sentence? If we take a minute, and actively listen, half our battle is won. Active listening, with the intention to understand instead of respond changes your entire body language and ergo the direction the conversation will go. This promotes insight, connection and gaining a new perspective. It has the ability to alleviate tension and stress. The impact of simply listening is astronomical. So often I catch myself (and Brandon) jumping the gun on things that are fully rooted in a nice blended soil of assumption and ego. I'm so tired, today was a long day. You think you're tired! Buddy, I was up feeding the baby every 3 hours last night AND all day. I'm frustrated that Beau won't take a bottle from you if he hears me talk. Ugh Ellie, you think that's frustrating!? Try being the one feeding him and he keeps pushing it away. I'm feeling weak and drained from breastfeeding around the clock. At least you get to be at home all day, I have to go to work. I'm tired of all the drama at the shop. At least you get to socialize with people, I'm home during a pandemic and can't see anyone. Now. Both statements are true, both valid and both obviously weighing heavily on our minds. However, if Brandon says he's feeling tired, what he isn't saying is "I'm tired and you aren't". If I say I'm frustrated, what I'm not saying is "I'm frustrated, and Brandon isn't". So many times I catch myself having to put my two-cents in justifying that I'm feeling x too. And while that may be true, it isn't about me. I'm not actively listening, nor am I listening to understand when I'm jumping the gun with "Pfftt, you think you're tired? Yeah well at least blah blah blah... You have nothing to be complaining about.. wah wah wah". Like my goodness. People are allowed to be feeling crappy at the same time. And when someone shares their struggle they are not implying that they are the only one with a struggle. Give the space for your partner to vent and express themselves if they've had a crappy day . When you serve your partner, you are serving your partnership (whatever that looks like).
Give Grace, Forgive Often and Say Your Sorry
Listen Linda, let me be the one to tell your beautiful sleep-deprived, over-worked, overwhelmed self this: your partner isn't being unhelpful on purpose. They aren't knowingly being malicious and annoying, and I promise you they don't stay up late at night thinking of all the ways to inconvenient you tomorrow and ruin your day. I'm not sure if it's the weight of expectations, the spiralling tendency sleep-deprived brains have or just a moment of playing victim, but stop assuming the worst in your partner. They are treading water just like you are. Give them grace. Give your marriage grace. Give yourself grace. It's a learning experience for everyone, and I promise you, both yourself and your partner are just trying their best. I know- I've been there! Hell, I still find myself there sometimes- it feels like they should just know...but sometimes they don't. Unless you've got a mind-reader on your hands your communication game has got to be on point. One of my favourite mantras is they don't know what they don't know. How can you expect people to prioritize, be helpful or learn if you don't share valuable information. Brandon often reminded me in the first few months that the time he spends with Beau is such a small amount in comparison to the time I spend with him. I get to practice daily, I get plenty of opportunities to learn his cues, get some kind of routine established and be more efficient. I kid you not, Brandon simply said you're better at this than me right now, and you have to let me learn just like you did. Ughh broke my heart. It's true you know, even if my intention is to communicate things that I know will work, help or fix the problem I have to be mindful with how I go about sharing that information. If you're giving grace chances are you receiving it. Forgive often and apologize just as much. If you give your partner the same love and support you want, you will most likely receive it back tenfold. We mess up. We make mistakes, get flustered and snappy, and when you can put your ego down and learn together, I know things will be smoother than if you choose to branch out alone.
With each day we learn more. Each bump in the road provides a great learning opportunity which only leaves us better in the end. Sometimes it can be difficult to be vulnerable with your partner (especially during a sensitive time where you're simply in survival mode), but when you are, you invite opportunities to continue to build trust, empathy and self-worth within your marriage. The best part of a partnership dedicated to growing together, is the confidence that when we fall down-and we will fall down-we get back up together. Invest in your family, it is the best investment you'll ever make.
All my love,