Navigating Parenthood as a Couple

The toughest stretch in a new marriage

As a first year MFT student and newlywed who planned to get pregnant ASAP, I remember being shocked by a study that found the highest rate of divorce is AFTER your first child! What?!! Yes, becoming parents is probably the toughest stretch most of us will face, and it can either tear a couple apart or help forge a powerful partnership.

Children can have a major impact on “Us”

It’s 3 am and you’re exhausted. Baby isn’t sleeping well, you have an early appointment at 8 and, shoot – you just tripped over your partner’s clothes while stumbling back into bed. Don’t they understand how hard you are working to make this all work?!!

You come home after a LONG day at work and are immediately handed off the kids, as your partner tries to finish up dinner and homework with your eldest. You haven’t had a moment to yourself all day, and yet you can tell your partner will be upset if you don’t step up and help out.

You’re finishing up the fifth load of laundry that day and realize it’s past 10 pm! You can hear your partner getting into bed and cringe – not now! Sex is the last thing on your mind. Why couldn’t they have said something earlier? You know it hurts their feelings to say no; yet it’s starting to feel like another chore, and this isn’t what sex is supposed to be like… right?

You hear your partner wrapping up the laundry, and you climb into bed… man you miss your partner and wish they would want to have sex with you. How long has it been? Weeks, months? It feels like your partner is trying to avoid you at night; and when you do make advances, you end up shut down more often than not. Pretty soon you aren’t going to have the strength to ask again…

Teenagers are SO intense! You thought this would get easier as they aged. Yet here you are; still struggling to connect with not only your kids, but now also your partner. It’s like you’re ships passing in the night, only dropping an anchor to compare transportation schedules or to deal with kid-related issues. What’s gonna happen when the kids finally leave the house? Will we even want to be with each other then?

So quiet… they are gone. Those kids you both poured your hearts and souls into are launched! So why does it feel like a hollow victory? Why aren’t we celebrating together? Why does it feel like we’re strangers or, worse, roommates? What happened to us? Where did we lose sight of our own needs? Of each other’s needs? Of our couple-ship’s needs?

And sex! You want it more than ever yet find yourself unsure of whether your partner still finds you attractive. This isn’t your first rodeo, and yet you feel so unprepared for the next leg of the journey!

“Loving is not just looking at each other; it’s looking in the same direction.”

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Raising Up Us

A healthy partnership takes commitment; intentional shared vision; and regular check-ins, clearings, and grace. So why is it so tough to navigate parenthood and grow together as a couple?

As wonderful as kids are, they can derail one’s focus and commitments in a heartbeat! They also come with unmet needs, and it’s our job to keep them safe and help them grow.

Depending on how you were raised, you will bring into your relationship a mindset or stories about how things should be done. For example, whether your partner comes first or your kids? Bedtimes, sleep overs, whether it’s okay to have sex with baby in the room, etc.

These stories reveal your values or what you hold to be important. They also may point to how you see your role as a parent, partner, lover, friend, etc.

For example, if you grew up with a mindset that men only want sex when being affectionate, you will be hard pressed to see his advances as bids for connection with you – YOU. The incredibly, smart, spunky, outgoing partner that he committed to love and cherish till the end.

Couples start to distance when they can’t resolve challenges, and yet parenthood is ripe with challenges! It is the most perfect laboratory for building your resilience skills, problem-solving, and mutual attunement to one another’s needs.

Carve Out Time Now for “Us”

You love your partner. You two are a great fit. No matter what’s been going on with the kids, you both want this to work.

In couples therapy, Dr. Estrella will work with you both to tune into whatever blocks or barriers are coming up around intimacy – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and sexually. You will learn how to talk about your needs in a way the other finally will get, as well as how to provide the comfort and reassurance that your partner is looking for.

You will be encouraged to use parenthood as a mirror for the rest of your life – one where you two are co-CEOs. You’ll receive guidance to chart a course that inspires you both, one that is based on values you share, rather than being an effect of the storms of life.

It’s not easy to stay grounded when your five-year-old tantrums, and yet it’s not much easier when your boss at work loses it. Learn ways to harness valuable lessons in leadership and partnership through your marriage into your work and community relationships.

The strongest union out there is like iron sharpening iron. Bringing your hearts, challenges, fears, and dreams to each other throughout the crazy journey called parenthood will only strengthen your stand for your family. And please note that it doesn’t have to be bad to benefit from couples work.

Dr. Estrella and her husband made a promise when they married to take on something forwarding each year for themselves individually as well as for their couple-ship. Prevention is powerful, especially in this age that is FULL of distractions and stressors. Invest in your marriage, and you will see your life transform abundantly.

Don’t Wait Any Longer

Call today to learn more about how couples therapy could help you and your partner find your way back to each other.