My husband and I are sitting opposite each other at the dinner table. Avery is about 4 months old. I'm feeling lonely, unloved, and this was unexpected. So unexpected.
We were so in love. We were so connected.... AND the last thing that I expected was for us to feel distant... grow apart.
I was struggling with the dissatisfaction in our relationship.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, how inspired do you feel about our relationship?". I asked.
He looked at me. I could tell he didn't want to hurt my feelings and he knew that he had to tell me the truth.
"3 or 4. I guess I'm not that inspired by our relationship at the moment." John replied. He looked down - and then into my eyes. "How about you, how inspired do you feel?"
"I am about the same. 3 or 4. So on a scale of 1 - 10, how loved do you feel?". I asked. I felt sad. Really sad - how did it get to this? We were always celebrating our love. I was besotted by him... and so grateful to be his wife.. and there was nothing we couldn't communicate through, until now. I didn't get it.
John answered, "3 or 4. I didn't know it, and I guess I don't feel like I deserve your time or energy at the moment, and I just feel that you need to focus on Avery."
My heart sank.
Research has it that 85% of couples experience a decline in satisfaction in their relationship or marriage after a baby.
I searched and searched for an answer. How do we fix this?!.. How do we get through this.
I asked friends who were parents; "This is normal" they would say. "This is just how it is....We don't talk.... we are like ships in the night... and we're just both so tired."
I couldn't accept it. We didn't choose the path of parenting to grow apart and I can see how easy it is to do so.... and I thought with all the self-development courses under my belt, the books I read, and heck, I'm a leadership coach with relationships/ communication as my specialty, how did I not know how to navigate this?!
I came to realise that if I'm suffering and lonely in our relationship, chances are, so is my partner. What I'm feeling, he is feeling. This pivotal moment taught me to check in. We are not going through this alone. We can navigate this together. Just this simple realisation started to shift things.
I learnt that empathy is the access to connection. That we have to make an active choice to make our relationship and connection a priority. John was missing "us" as much as I was missing "us". It was nice to know that we were both missing each other.
With the new challenge of raising ourself as parents, we are to create new ways to show love and remind each other, that we're in this together.
Yes the date nights may not be possible at this moment in time however we can spend 10 minutes at night holding hands in bed, acknowledging each other and being grateful for each other, and this is a time where it really is about all the little things.
It's the hugs in the kitchen while we are cleaning dishes, it is the cleaning of the dishes together. It is the sitting on the couch from exhaustion and holding hands.... and commiserating with a delirious smile that this gig is filled with the unexpected... and being hopeful that bub sleeps!
When parenting hits, our relationship with our partner transforms.
Transformation is hard at first, messy in the middle, and beautiful in the end.
It takes courage to be vulnerable and check in. Know that if you're missing them, they are missing you too.... This is a beautiful realisation that you are not alone. It starts with the small awareness... asking the hard questions... and remembering that you are both on the same team, wanting the same thing.
... So if you're missing them, and struggling, go give them a hug. Tell them you miss them, that you miss "us".... and check-in.