I feel like I hardly know you now! Who are you anyway? What has become of the person I married? Sound familiar? These are just a few examples of the statements that spouses may regrettably exchange during the challenging moments of the transition to parenthood. During the first few years after we grow from couple to family, we grapple with the usual suspects — sleep deprivation, fluctuating hormones, no time to ourselves, and minimal quality time together as husband and wife. As we flounder in the midst of these challenging stressors, many of us start to notice that we are not so sure what makes our spouse ‘tick’ anymore. And, we may have moments of believing with certainty that our spouse has lost track of those things that make us tick. This can lead to a host of relationship difficulties. As resentment and disconnect infiltrate marriages, feelings of loneliness emerge and couples perceive that they have suffered a great loss — their best friend
Friendship is essential to a marriage that endures the test of raising children. Couples who celebrate silver, gold, and diamond wedding anniversaries inevitably attribute their triumph to their friendship. Unfortunately, parenting young children often renders us nearly incapable of exchanging complete sentences without interruption. This begs the question, how do we preserve our friendship with our spouse in the midst of endless diaper changes and sleepless nights?
In their book, And Baby Makes Three, Drs. John and Julie Gottman admonish couples to savor their friendship with each other. They recommend that couples use open-ended questions to inquire who their partners have become through the process of becoming a parent. Friendship is based in the experience of truly knowing and being known by your comrade. Given the metamorphosis that becoming a parent involves, it is crucial that we endeavor to learn about who our spouse has become now that he or she is a parent. The characteristics by which we define ourselves change in both subtle and obvious ways when we become parents. Our priorities shift and most, if not all of us, are forever changed through the experience. How does this change impact the marriage? Quite simply, the marriage also changes. The solution — husbands and wives need to be curious with each other so as to answer the question, who is my husband now that he is a father? And, who is my wife now that she is a mother? In an effort to understand who your spouse has become you may ask:
* What has been the biggest surprise about becoming a dad?
* How do you envision our life a year from now?
* What is your favourite thing about our daughter?
* What is the greatest challenge about being a mom?
Take a moment to reflect on the conversations you had with your spouse on your first few dates. Most likely, you had an insatiable curiosity about their preferences, ambitions, heartaches, and most memorable life experiences. In an effort to preserve friendship within a marriage, it is important to revive these curiosities on an ongoing basis. This is particularly important during the transition to parenthood so as to prevent the distance and disconnect that many couples experience after having their first baby. Ultimately, the best way to minimize the use of those alienating statements about not recognizing who your spouse has become is to actually ask (with appreciative curiosity of course), who have you become? After all, who better to share the completely miraculous and also overwhelming experience of becoming a parent with, than your best friend?