Let’s just start this article by saying I am 100% not a relationship expert. I am however a 30-something year old woman who has had a few relationships in her time. And royally screwed up along the way. It probably wasn’t my fault back then. I was operating to the best of my ability with the skills that I had which, in hindsight, you could say were somewhat lacking in self-awareness, had a whole heap of unhealed wounds playing their part and I was basically – 'young'.
We all have our childhood story, teenage transitions and if we know no better we carry that shit with us straight into our marriage which often is the relationship that we have decided will 'fix it all'. And at the start it does. It makes you feel good, it fills the holes, it makes you feel WHOLE. And for a while everything is awesome. It’s the ‘honeymoon period’ and no matter how much you push him away in your fucked up, “I want you to know what I want without me telling you what I want and in the process I want you to fix all of the things in me that I don’t yet know I need to fix and then we will live happily ever after” kinda way… Ha.
Then when we are living in this state of unconscious bliss we decide to have a baby. A BABY. Because a baby will make you even more WHOLE than you already are as a couple (a couple that has a whole heap of shit they need to work out they just don’t realise it yet – or at least one of you does – I speak only for myself when I write about my relationship, as this is the only part I know is true for me and have authority to comment on).
And so everything is fine and everything is happy and you have a baby.
And then it changes.
The baby bliss bubble keeps you going for a little while. Before it becomes the baby “this is so fucking hard, I haven’t slept in 3-months, no don’t touch me, my nipples hurt, my vagina is closed and I don’t even know who you are any more” bubble that isolates you from the rest of the world.
Your relationship has changed forever. And you may even think it’s over.
For us, when our youngest was 3 years old it was over. And it was over for the 3 years that followed.
We lived in different places. We drew up childcare and financial agreements. We signed divorce papers and began new relationships.
Things had changed, feelings had changed and we thought we had lost each other forever. We thought it was over. We didn’t know that maybe it was just ‘changing’.
With the gift of hindsight, back then we did not know how the impact of unhealed childhood ‘stuff’ (pretty much all mine) and how the introduction of little people into what we thought was a great relationship was gong to shake it up and change it all. It was going to force an evolution and that evolution was going to make us so uncomfortable that the only way was out.
Maybe there could have been another way.
I choose not to live in that space because I know everything happens for a reason, BUT I choose to say it because if YOU resonate with what I have said so far, maybe there is another way for you that means you stay together but give each other the gift of awareness and space to do whatever you need to do to ultimately come back together. And maybe it will be stronger and better than ever before. Which it is for us. It’s damn hard and it’s still messy but we are both IN. In the mess for the long-haul – there is no out. But there is a HUGE opportunity to grow together (and apart when we need to).
So with my gift of hindsight here are a few of my best thoughts that might help you on your own journey...
You have to do you own work – if you have shit in your childhood, teenage years or anything, you HAVE to deal with that stuff otherwise it will influence the way that you are your WHOLE life. No, we can’t undo stuff but we can become aware of what we do, why we do it and CHOOSE another way (reaction) – this is NOT easy. But it IS worth it.
You don’t have to both be into ‘self-development’ OR travel at the same pace if you are – this is a head-fuck and it challenged me on so many levels for so long. In fact, in many ways I would say it was one of the fundamental things I thought told me that we were not compatible and would never work for the long haul. Now I know that one of the biggest parts of a relationship is being able to travel independent journeys alongside the togetherness. Sometimes each of these will come in ebbs and flows, but it doesn’t mean you are broken, nor does it mean you are not compatible. In fact your deep-diving into self alongside their stability and slower approach might be the exact mix you need for the long term. Celebrate your differences.
Children will make it really hard and will not fix anything – in fact if you are considering children to band-aid anything in your relationship know that it is most likely to result in a full scale bleed-out. Even the most solid relationships will be challenged when children come into your world and demand love and attention like you’ve never before experienced. I don’t know how you truly fix this aside from trying to talk to each other even for the shortest time about real stuff, not just logistics and baby wrangling.
You will enter friend-zone but if you hang in there you’ll probably come out the other side – this was a huge one for me. Let’s be honest, when you have a new baby sex is the last thing on your mind (for the woman that gave birth at least), but you do expect to just magically come out the other side with absolutely no effort at all… I wanted a physical relationship that I WANTED – I didn’t want to live with my ‘best-friend’ (eye-roll). I also thought that a fulfilling physical relationship was one with fireworks and highs and lows and if that had gone away then it was never coming back. What I now know is that I DO want to live with my best friend AND I want to want him and I can have both. BUT we have to make the effort. Ultimately this is a much healthier relationship than needing all of those crazy highs and lows to ‘feel alive’.
Don’t be afraid to find help – no one teaches us this stuff, and if you didn’t have a solid example of a ‘happily ever after’ relationship when you were growing up, chances are you don’t have much to model your own relationship on. We all do the best we can with the tools we have and if you have run out of tools there is no shame in seeking out more. After all your relationship/marriage is one of the biggest investment you chose to make yet when you consider the big picture many of us put the least amount of effort into it - duh!
And finally – whether you make it through the baby-transition or not know you are now a role model. How you choose to conduct yourself, in partnership or not, living together or living separately, you have little eyes and ears watching and learning. We cannot expect them to grow into the type of human we are not willing to become ourselves, so know – the work you are choosing to do now, on yourself and on your relationship is also an investment into their future.
Ben and I renewed our vows in 2016 after three years apart. We live happily and messily ever-after.
Mum-focused author, educator and business owner, Jen Dugard is on a mission to ensure every woman is safely and effectively looked after when she becomes a mother. She is a highly qualified trainer and fitness professional educator and has been specialising in working with mums for over a decade. MumSafe is the go-to place online for women to find mum-focused fitness services that are all accredited, experienced and partnered with women’s health physios so you know you are in very safe hands.