Hilary Silver knows that there are times of scarcity when you’re married with kids. It’s time to start talking about it.
“Another one bites the dust.” That is a post I saw on Facebook recently. A friend was commenting about the news she received of yet another divorce among her cohort. We all get triggered when we hear this sort of news. It sparks fear and anxiety because we wonder if it can happen to us: especially if the divorcing couple hid their discontent really well.
Young families are a vulnerable population. 67 % of all marriages become distressed in the first 3 years of the first child’s life. Add in another child or more and, without adequate preparation and tools, the stressors on the marriage can take a toll.
I tell the truth about marriage with kids— not to scare anyone or be a downer, but to offer a realistic perspective about the endeavor ahead. You wouldn’t sign up for a race not knowing the distance or the obstacles involved. You need to mentally and physically train for it: be prepared so you can handle what challenges may come. And, if you are already in this race feeling fatigued or nearly ready to quit, I hope this will help.
A good relationship is NOT easy. Most of us are taught to believe that a good relationship should be easy and not require a lot of effort. Wrong! This could not be further from the truth. Most relationships that don’t make it are a result of not understanding this concept. It takes effort every single day to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings, to share our needs with our partner thoughtfully, lovingly and directly and to take care of ourselves and make compromises with our partners.
It takes effort to pause and breathe before addressing a sore spot with our partners so the conversation can be productive instead of ending up in an argument. It takes effort to carve out time for ourselves and for time with our partners, sans children. Is this resonating?
As we watch our children go through developmental stages, we should bear in mind that we, too, are in the midst of a very challenging developmental stage ourselves. Making the decision to have kids means we are committing to making tremendous sacrifices for a lengthy period of time. I call this the “time of scarcity.” In these slim years, we find there isn’t enough time, money, sleep, independence, fun, freedom, spontaneity, patience, romance and energy.
There is joy of course, but sometimes it can only be found with the use of a microscope. Even for the most child-oriented person, keeping balance while having an infinite number of balls in the air at one time is difficult. If we don’t care for our relationship, it will be the first thing to crumble under the stress. This is the reality for ALL of us who find ourselves in it right now.
If you are connecting with these words, it will then also help to know that you are not alone. As an advocate for truth telling, I can only encourage everyone to be honest with our friends and family about the daily struggles we face in raising kids and in our relationships. It helps keep the humor and perspective while also feeling supported and connected to others experiencing similar challenges.
As a relationship expert, there are any number of tips and tricks I can offer to strengthen and fortify a marriage. The one I find most important in keeping the foundation of a marriage in tact something I call: Tell the Truth and Tolerate the Truth.
Telling the truth means that every day we show up and share our full truth with our partners. We don’t deny our truth to ourselves by avoiding or distracting with alcohol, busy-ness or stuffing it away. We acknowledge our own thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, or wants and express them to our partners.
So often one or both people in a relationship tell lies, either directly or by withholding, acquiescing or omitting. Why would someone do this? Common reasons are to avoid an argument or potential conflict and to spare hurt feelings or disappointment. One may not think of this as lying, but it is; and over time, it is extremely destructive. Our partners trust us to tell the truth and want to know our true selves, not who we think we “should” be to make them happy.
On the flip side of this truth telling coin is tolerating the truth. It is each partner’s job to make it a safe place for the truth to be told. If we react with anger and yelling or fall apart in tears or become dismissive whenever we hear something unpleasant, our partners are likely to avoid the entire drama and tell a lie.
There is room for both partner’s experiences and wishes in every relationship and it is important for each person to create that space.There will be many times when the truth is hard to hear because it presents some major change, consequence or shift but we need to sit with this discomfort, keep the focus on the partner speaking and not immediately turn the focus back to us and our needs.
Providing this safe place invites the truth; because after all, we may really want Chinese for dinner or to buy the leather couch but bullying our partners into agreeing so to win in the short term is a sure way to lose in the long run: which would be having a partner who is happy to be in a relationship with us.
Hilary Silver also keeps it real when talking about sex. She’s Coming at 10. Is Scheduled Sex Sexy?
Photo: Bernard Goldbach/ Flickr