Sharing experiences can make a world of difference in our lives. Stefanie C. Barthmare, a licensed professional counselor, opens up about the challenges that can arise in a relationship during pregnancy, and how therapy can help.
Written by Stefanie C. Barthmare, M.Ed., LPC
I received a call this week from a woman today who is pregnant with her first child. She and her husband had been married for about two years and they were expecting their first baby boy this summer. She wanted to schedule a session with me because they were both tired of arguing. Some of the same issues they had faced before they had gotten married were resurfacing, and they were afraid, “I’m not sure what’s wrong with us. I thought that having a baby would make us closer and force him to act more like a grown up. Now I feel like we can’t talk about anything without a fight. We need some help.”
I asked a few more questions and found out that it was actually her husband’s idea to come in for therapy. He was tired of hearing his wife complain and wanted to squeeze in a little more fun while they were still child-free. She couldn’t have been farther from wanting to “have fun right now.” He couldn’t figure out what the problem was. From his perspective, nothing had actually changed-yet. But in his wife’s eyes, everything had changed. She was carrying a new baby and she was tired of being the only one acting like they were parents already. Maybe they need a night nanny.
They each had some unexpressed and unrealistic expectations about how this pregnancy would change things in their marriage, and what the timeline would be for making any serious lifestyle changes. My caller wanted some support and empathy for all of the things she had already begun to give up when she became pregnant. Her husband wasn’t quite ready to cut back his extensive work hours or his well-earned adult play time. She accused. He defended. Each wanted the other person to see the validity of their position.
Of course, each of them had a perspective that felt worth protecting. Unfortunately, neither partner could hear what the other was saying anymore, let alone be responsive to the other’s requests. My belief is that every couple faces challenges that are a normal part of intimate relationships. However, over time, if left unaddressed, these challenges can impact a couple’s sleep rhythm, sex life, and stress level, leaving a couple frustrated, anxious or disengaged. My approach is to work with a couple in a way that facilitates each partner getting an opportunity to practice listening to and honoring their own strong feelings while at the same time listening to the message, needs, and desires of their partner. Becoming an adult in a relationship is work, but with practice, it is also one of the most rewarding and gratifying undertakings, one each partner has earned just by showing up.
Stefanie C. Barthmare, M.Ed., LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor, Supervisor
Houston, TX 77005