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Relationship Advice: Relationship Changes After Kids

How do we recapture the pre-dad glory days?…
 
Dear Adam,
My partner and I have been together for five years, and our son Max is about to turn one. Max can be a handful, but he is pretty fantastic. My relationship with my partner, on the other hand, feels rather limp. I’m sorry to report that our bickering has increased dramatically since Max’s arrival. Our spats often revolve around parenting styles and how we discipline Max—we both care about him deeply but get exhausted. Before becoming parents, our relationship was really great and playful. I think we both want things to improve but it’s like we can’t catch a break— we’re so consumed with the daily grind that it seems impossible to reconnect. I knew having a child would be hard, but really hoped the experience would bring us closer and not make us want to strangle each other. How do we recapture the pre-dad glory days? —Simon

 
Dear Simon,
To start simply: it’s probably never a good idea to assess the quality of a relationship in the first year (or two or 10!) of having children. Becoming a parent, while often rewarding in the long run, is usually overwhelming and disorienting to say the least. When you and your guy started your relationship, the bond between you was focused on the joys of getting to know each other. Now, with little Max in the picture, your relationship has become somewhat of a child-rearing ‘company,’ with both of you sharing the role of CEO. Like many other young families, you are feeling stretched, and there’s no way to resolve that in a snap. Here are some tips that could take the edge off:
 
Remember you are on the same team
A common pitfall of co-parenting with someone is the blame game. When one partner is up all night with a distraught child, it can be harrowing and, let’s face it, somewhat torturous. From that exhausted place, it’s tempting to channel your frustration by finding fault, and your partner is an easy target. Both of you are going to have to resist mindlessly blaming each other for the hardship of raising a child—a hardship that, even with the best parenting skills, is unavoidable. You’ll both benefit from remembering that you are aligned in wanting the best for Max, even if you go about it differently at times.
 
Be realistic—not fatalistic
It’s painful for new parents to feel so estranged from less complicated times. The fact that you two lovebirds had such a joyful start together means there is something solid to build from. But trying to replicate that carefree spirit right now is unrealistic when so much energy has to go into making your family function on a daily basis. Expecting yourselves to squeeze in lots of romance in the midst of parenting your young son would be a set-up for failure. Instead, commit to treating each other with the same love and respect you showed each other initially, and be willing to apologize when the late nights and grocery store tantrums make you lose sight of your gratitude.
 

 
ADAM SEGAL, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health questions at @relationship@inmagazine.ca.
 

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