“We knew we’d be delighted with our newborn. But we never imagined the impact on our relationship”
New parents have unique problems and the shift from being a partner to a parent is not straightforward in any relationship. Dealing with pregnancy, birth, and the months after birth bring stresses of their own that often add to the challenges that already exist between the two parents.
Many new parents are faced with difficulties that seem to appear out of nowhere. These include:
- Dealing with shifting roles and expectations of each other
- Relations with family and in-laws
- Concerns about equality and responsibilities in the relationship
- Financial pressures
- Career roles
- Sexual issues
Often these issues are ignored or given superficial treatment by inexperienced psychotherapists who are not familiar with the needs of new parents.
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At the Center for Psychological and Interpersonal Development, we work with new parents or soon-to-be parents using Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), a highly effective form of couples therapy. When a relationship is going well, you feel that you can turn to your partner and express things that are difficult to feel and to say, and that your partner will continue to be there for you and to accept you.
The Negative Cycle
When relationships aren’t going well, we may feel like our partner isn’t there for us when we turn to them for support. We may not even feel like they really love or accept us, and we become disconnected further from them. With EFT, we can help unlock the emotional reasons for disconnection and help change them into ways to partners connect more deeply with each other.
Anne and Chris (not their real names) come in to therapy with problems around childcare. Anne has been a mother for three months and is unhappy being the primary caretaker. She feels that Chris is absent and not taking enough care of their newborn child, and she finds herself becoming angrier and more critical of Chris. However, Chris is feeling overwhelmed as he now faces extra pressure to perform financially to provide for Anne and their child. He feels misunderstood by Anne, that he is in a no-win situation, and he tries to soothe himself by withdrawing from Anne and spending more time at work. Anne in turn feels more rejected, and she focuses even more on the child. She gets some comfort from her contact with their child, but becomes further disconnected from Chris.
In EFT therapy, we would look at the patterns of Anne and Chris in their behaviors, how attachment is being disrupted between them, how feelings of fear, sadness, loneliness and anger expressed by each partner, and look at alternative approaches for them to talk to each other. Often as a result of this process, a couple like Anne and Steven may realize that the bigger issue is not one of solving childcare problems but of emotional connectedness, and the parental issues become easier and much more manageable when they feel more emotionally connected.