The dynamics that have been set up between you and your husband can make a massive difference to how you feel about your parenting experience.
It is common for mums to feel like they are not understood, are devalued, not supported and belittled, especially if you are a full-time stay at home mum not earning any income.
Working out what you are thinking about your relationship and becoming aware of how you are perceiving things between you and your partner is the first step to changing it.
Way too often we can get stuck in believing that it is all our partner’s fault and if only he would change then things would get better. However, us ladies have a habit of thinking a lot deeper than men ever do and this can often be our own undoing.
Use the Mind TRACK to Happiness process to start changing your perception on the relationship with your partner and start becoming solution focussed about what is going on in the relationship.
The catch cries of many mothers out there are:
- “My partner doesn’t give me enough support”
- “My partner doesn’t show me any love”
- “My partner treats me as less worthy because I don’t bring in any income”
- “My partner treats me like a slave”
- “I resent the fact that he gets to do what he wants while I’m always stuck at home with the kids”
- “We have nothing in common anymore”
- The reality of the situation: Your relationship is at where it is at because of everything that has unfolded leading up to this current moment. Both of you (through the individual beliefs you have and your perceptions on life) have contributed to the current dynamic playing out. It’s not about who’s fault it is, because that doesn’t matter. You are here now, doing what you do and interacting with each other the way that you do. As you move forward with this TRACK process you can start to determine what your aims are how you are going to achieve them.
- The reality of being a parent: Be sure that you are aligned with the reality of your new life yourself before you commence speaking to your partner about the current arrangement. Are you accepting that your life has changed to the way it is? Are you accepting that you agreed to be the stay-at-home mother while he worked, or that you personally decided that you didn’t want to go back to work part-time or full-time? Are you accepting the reality of raising children that it does take a lot of work and that you need to change your approach to how you ‘plot and scheme’ doing what you want to do around your children? Be mindful of how you are thinking about the situation you think is causing the problem in your relationship.
- The reality of life: Just like in life, relationships are going to have their ups and downs. What exactly is it that you are looking for out of your relationship? Is it realistic? Are you trying to obtain the ‘happily ever after’ that you were conditioned to believe exists from fairytales? Are you neglectful of the reality that relationships are about constantly realigning the two individual belief systems that are trying to integrate harmoniously together? Do you feel like your relationship is completely disastrous simply because you are currently transitioning into the new stage of life that includes children? Be careful that your thinking is in alignment with the reality of how relationships work.
Also, try thinking about what you are grateful to your partner for? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of what is wrong with your partner, and what’s not happening, but what IS happening that you are liking? How is your relationship matching your expectations, rather than diappointing them all the time. There are always two sides to a story – the pros and the cons. There will be some pros, you just need to start looking for them and sending your attention in that direction, rather than thinking it is hopeless all of the time.
- The reality of self-worth What do you think it means that your partner and you are going through this problem? How is your self-worth tied up into this situation? Do you think that you are being belittled, undervalued, not appreciated, taken advantage of? Do you feel like you are the lesser party (or being treated like it) because you are not earning any money in the household? If so, then you need to upgrade this line of thinking.
What defines self-worth again? That’s right. Learning and how you contribute to the unfolding of life. Everything that happens in life is made up of different variables that enable it to function. A family unit comprises of several people working together, playing different roles and helping each other out.
This is how a successful family works. No one person in that family dynamic is more important than another. When you are talking about being a stay-at-home mum, then most probably your responsibilities are about raising your child, keeping the house functioning, cooking meals and any other extras that need to happen or be organised for the family to function. Perhaps your partner’s role is to provide the money to pay for the household to function. Both parties are equally important to the successful running of this family and if you believe that he is more important than you, you will teach him to treat you this way.
However when you believe differently, your actions, reactions, conversations with him etc will change too and he will learn to treat you with the respect that you believe you deserve.
Your beliefs and perceptions about your self-worth and what treatment you believe you deserve will come largely from what you were taught as a child. How could you possibly know any different? This was the information that you observed and experienced and this is the information that formed neural pathways in the brain.
If you had parents who constantly bickered, got violent or where one or the other was being controlled and bossed around, then you will likely copy that and repeat this cycle in your own relationship. Even sometimes it can happen inadvertently when you have been determined that it wouldn’t.
This happened to a friend of mind that was determined not to marry a man that was controlling and who hit out at her child, however, ever so subtly this has started to become the norm. It happened over a 15 year period, not over night. It is highly likely that you will create the same patterns of a relationship that were displayed to you as a child, and once you become aware of it, identify your own thinking and become aware of your contribution to how this current dynamic was set up, then you can begin working on changing it.
But you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge so you have to begin being really honest with yourself about your part and your beliefs and then upgrade your thinking before continuing on the Mind TRACK to Happiness steps aim – choices & Know your Plan and action it.
In step three – Aim – you begin to look at what you want. Stop focussing on what you don’t want and what you aren’t getting and start focussing on the ideal of the situation. Make sure you are really specific in this step as the more specific you are, the clearer you are on what you are trying to achieve and the more likely you are of achieving it.
- Do you want more time out – if so how much? Be specific (1 hour a week, 2?)
- Do you want more affection – if so how much?
- Do you want to start distributing the chores more evenly? How would you do that in an ideal world? What do you think is fair?
- Do you think you need to spend more time as a family, or perhaps just one-on-one together time? If so, how much time?
What exactly are you looking for? If the fairygodmother came and waved her magic wand and granted you your ideal relationship, what would it look like?
When you have established exactly what you want, it’s now time to start researching how to get it. There is a lot of preparation that needs to happen before negotiating change in a relationship and also rebuilding a crumbling relationship. It doesn’t just happen by itself.
Again, I refer back to a business analogy. When there is an agreement between two parties there is often a set of rules that each party needs to follow, there is an agreement between them about conduct, aims, plans on how to achieve their aims and outside of this agreement there are regular meetings that discuss how these plans are going and to iron out any problems along the way.
Also, before this agreement is signed and accepted, often there is a mediation process whereby both parties negotiate the terms of the agreement.
This is exactly what needs to happen in your relationship. It’s all about give and take, setting up firm rules and boundaries with each other on what you expect and what you will contibute that makes BOTH parties happy. However, of course, in relationships it’s a little bit less formal.
That said though the fundamental principles are the same for business and relationships with anyone. Not just with your partner, but with friends, relatives and work colleagues – even social ettiquette lends itself to agreed terms of acceptable behaviour.
Negotiation, compromise, agreements, alignment and boundaries are the foundation of a solid long-term relationship and if you don’t know how to create these things in your relationship, then this is what I would be focussing on learning before you begin trying to save your relationship.
Begin change with the skills you need to work with your partner at getting what you both want. Find out what he wants and what his ideal relationship looks like so you can decipher how you are going to compromise to give him that and get what you want in return.
Have an aligned goal that you are working on together that excites you and keeps you both interested in each other. It’s good to have your own individual goals that you are working on, but it’s equally important that you have a joint goal that you are both working on too.
The final step on the Mind TRACK to happiness process when it comes to relationships, now that you have thoroughly resourced lots of information on creating a successful relationship, is to put together an action plan of how you are going to first initiate conversations with your partner on making changes, but then work with your partner to create a plan of agreement on how you are both going to work together to make these changes.
Chapter Thirteen of The Happy Mum Handbook gives you a complete 40-page explanation of exactly how to use each step of the TRACK process in the area of your relationships, so that you can learn how to negotiate, communicate and actively change your relationship to be what you want it to be. So if this is one of your issues, I urge you to check it out.
One final note on relationships that I’d like you to remember: Your partner is not your enemy. At some point in your relationship you came together because there were qualities about that person that you liked, and vice versa.
Yes things change over the years, people change and goals change, but your relationship needs to grow and adapt to these changes too. You have two people who are each after the same things; happiness, love, acceptance, appreciation and peace.
As I say in my book:
Relationships are a team effort. You can’t handle these
issues in a selfish way, nor allow your partner to. You are two individuals who are integrating your lives into a partnership that will allow you to be the individuals, the couple and the parents that you both desire to be.
You can create your relationship to be what you want it to be. You just need to learn how and change how you’ve been taught to have a relationship from your own upbringing.
The list could go on and on.
My response to all of these comments is: You teach people how to treat you. In my book The Happy Mum Handbook (which you have a copy of as part of this program) I show you an example of how this is set up.
A mum, tied up in the excitement of a new baby, can often teach their partner that their help is not needed because they can either do it quicker, know their baby well (because they spend most of the time with the child) or are happy for their partner to go off and do other things because they are happy to visit friends and show off their new baby.
After a while, things settle down and the normalcy (and sometimes monotony and pressure) of life continues and because of this current dynamic (you’ve got it covered) your partner thinks he is doing what you wanted. Meanwhile your resentment is rising until an outburst is imminent and when you do, he has no idea of what just happened. This is because you helped to set up this dynamic in the first place.
It’s important to understand that whatever is happening in your relationship right now, you have contributed to it as well. Somehow you have taught your partner that this is okay, it’s acceptable that he behaves this way and now your mission needs to be (if you’re not happy) to change this dynamic.
Start looking at what you are thinking and doing and be really honest with yourself about how you are contributing to the current problems you are having and how you may be able to change your approach and make things better. This will require a lot of honesty from your part.
Sit down and write yourself a half page on what you think is ‘wrong’ in your relationship, what you think you are ‘missing out’ on and what you think should be happening or your partner should be doing.
After doing this, you now want to start using the reality thinking model to upgrade this thinking.