Have You Lost That Loving Feeling?

The kids are full on, work is draining, the housework is piling up and when you and your partner talk, it’s to snap about money, childcare or whose turn it is to wash up. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. Sometimes life gets in the way of our relationships, but much of it is down to understanding three of the main arguments that we encounter after having children, and how to deal with them...


Argument 1
Parenting style


Often our troubles are down to a difference in parenting style. Maybe he’s laid back and you like a few more rules, or perhaps he thinks television should be restricted, whereas you believe it’s no big deal and there are other issues that are more important. The way we parent is usually down to the lessons we absorbed when we were little. So this means that you may subconsciously copy your parents’ values, or instead be rebelling and adopting the opposite behaviour. Rather than continually arguing over the same issue with your partner, reach a compromise. For example, if you disagree about allowing the kids to watch TV at the dinner table, you could decide that viewing times are limited to snack-time or lunch, or to educational programmes only.

“Another idea is to say, ‘Okay, I’ll give in to this battle, but in return, I need to get my way over the argument that I feel more strongly about,’” says Paula Hall, Relate relationship therapist and author of Improving Your Relationship For Dummies (John Wiley, £15.99). “Ultimately, you need to accept that there isn’t really a right and a wrong way to parent, as both of you want your children to be healthy. You just have slightly different ways of getting there.”


Argument 2
Work-life balance


When you have children, it’s tricky to find the time for each other, especially if one or both of you are working. You may feel as though you are working too hard and are under-appreciated - whether it’s in your job, looking after the kids or doing household chores. Tired, stressed couples can find themselves bickering over how much one person is contributing – or not – to the family.

“Firstly, don’t assume that your partner knows how much you do or how stressed you are,” says Paula. “You each need to talk about your workload as it allows you to understand the other person better.” Just talking to each other calmly, without blame, may help you work out how to make things easier for each other.

It’s even more important to make time for the two of you as a couple. Spending a couple of hours alone together – with no kids, mobile phone or chores – should remind you why you fell in love. It doesn’t have to be an expensive night out – ask a friend to babysit and go for a stroll or a coffee.


Argument 3
Money

This is another issue that’s ripe for rows. Interestingly, couples argue about money whether they have it or not – although the less money you have, the more you will argue. “Our feelings about money are often rooted in our childhoods,” says Bonnie Jacobson, clinical psychologist and author of Save Your Marriage in Five Minutes A Day (Adams Media, £9.99).

“If your dad was frequently out of work and you grew up watching your mother urgently hunting through the coupon section, you may still have a lingering sense that there will never be enough money to feel secure. “On the flip side, those who are spenders to the point of carelessness often grew up without effective financial guidance. Lessons about saving and credit card overuse were missed.”

Usually we argue about money because we have different opinions on what to do with it, whether we prefer to hoard, share or spend it as quickly as it comes. Again, talking it through calmly with your partner is key so that you each understand why the other feels that way. It’s worth discussing how money was spent in your childhood, as the way our parents budgeted their cash influences our own financial behaviour. Make sure you have a spending and saving plan, so that you know how much you can spend after all the bills have been deducted each month.

Conflicts over money can also be triggered because one person has stopped working, perhaps to look after the kids or because of redundancy. It can cause resentment on both sides – the person still at work can end up feeling trapped into working harder, while the one at home can feel powerless and resentful of their dependency.
Discuss it with your spouse, and recognise that you may have to change or postpone plans and dreams.

 

Five ways to boost your relationship

1. Touch each other daily
“When we touch someone, we produce oxytocin, the hormone which bonds us to each other and makes us feel closer,” says Paula. A hug, kiss or holding hands would be perfect.

2. Have more sex
Sex brings us closer to our partner. If you’re too exhausted, don’t leave sex till bedtime but get creative and take advantage of when your kids are away on sleepovers or at Brownies.

3. Bring something new to the relationship
Sign yourselves up for a new activity, bring home a CD you haven’t listened to before or research an idea for a different holiday destination. “If a relationship is to last for 50 years, it’s important to keep introducing new elements so that you can remain curious about each other and talk about something fresh,” says Bonnie.

4. Nip problems in the bud
When you feel slightly irritated by something, talk about it so that you clear the air before it festers into an enormous issue. For the best outcome, use sentences that begin with ‘I’, rather than ‘you’, such as, “I feel irritated when you leave the cap off the toothpaste. Please could you stop doing that.”

5. Keep laughing
Laughing together is a bonding experience, and also helps us relax, releasing stress and triggering the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone. So rent a funny DVD, go to a comedy night or just find something about your day to chuckle about.


For more advice on relationship problems, call Relate on 0300 100 1234 or visit www.relate.org.uk.
 


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