Do you feel your partner does not understand your struggles as a mother, does not contribute as much as you need or want, does not provide emotional support? Read on to see how this can be addressed.
Life is brand new for you as a mother. So it is for your partner too. Though he may have witnessed your struggles during labor and while caring for an infant, he may not understand your struggles. Or he may understand and choose to ignore as the demands of these changes could be too overwhelming.
Anger, despair and feeling unloved is natural. You may even question your choice of partner.
5 step communication
- Step 1 : Venting
- In your mind, talk to your partner about everything bothering you, of the help you are entitled to but denied, of your feelings of being unloved and thereby disrespected, your frustration at the aloofness, about your misgivings about the choice of partner, fear of the future, impact on the child. Everything. Let this conversation run for hours if needed. Write it if it helps you.
- With this exercise you know what you feel.
- Step 2 : Timing
- Do not talk just after waking. No one wants to hear a rant first thing in the morning.
- Do not talk just before bed. The tiredness might induce regrettable words. It would be hard to sleep without a resolution. However, a night’s sleep loss is better than making a bad situation worse.
- Talk when the child is asleep or out safely monitored.
- Ensure you have had food. It would be good if your partner has eaten too.
- Step 3: Deep breaths
- Whatever calms you, do that. Walking, music, exercise, anything. You need to prioritize this. It is for only one day.
- Take calming breaths before you enter the room.
- Step 4 : Communicate without provocating
- Talk calmly, factually without attributing fault. Finding fault will put your partner on the defensive and he will either shut down or justify. No use in that.
- State how you feel and what you need. Not what you think he is not doing. Instead of saying “you don’t help me with chores” say “I feel overwhelmed with everything I have to do. I need help”. Instead of “you don’t love me anymore”, say “I feel unloved and that makes me immensely sad. I need the reassurance of loving words or gestures”.
- Let him know how this affects the child. “I get hardly any rest. That makes me irritable and I am afraid I will show it on the baby.”
- Step 5 – State options
- Suggest options for the future while taking his obligations into consideration. “Would it be possible for you to take care of laundary on Wednesday and Friday because I know you have meetings on the rest of the days.” “It will help me defuse if I could catch up with my friends once a month. What time might work for you?”
- Negotiate till you can find a middle ground.
Doesn’t this seem highly anti-feminist. As if mothers should be scared of speaking their mind.
On the contrary, this method I believe helps us model what we want from our children. How would you want your children to ask you for more help when they feel overwhelmed? You would want respect, understanding of your obligations and weaknesses with workable solutions.
(Tip – If this concept is hard to accept, think that you are communicating with the child in your partner.)
We can’t be gentle parents without being gentle humans first. Just like gentle parenting, let us practice gentle spousing! It’s practice for having difficult conversations with children.
I would like to add that despite your best efforts, if your partner does not budge or is abusive, you should consider other options that safeguard your dignity. It could be separation or relationship counseling.
What do you think about this strategy? Have you dealt with such situations? How did you cope? Let’s talk about that!