We Before 3: Why Family Planning Starts With Your Partner
Teamwork is necessary and essential for a healthy relationship.
Posted September 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- Your style of parenting and communication will likely be different from your partner's.
- Even with the best intentions and preparation, we may not know how we’ll feel about something until we are right up to it.
- Each person in the relationship needs to figure out what buttons, triggers, and protectors may be pushed and what will surface as a result.
Families come in all manner of wonderful forms, and while this post will talk about a duo’ed pair that embarks on having a child (via biological or adoptive means), I do not mean to insist that that is the only, nor the best, way to have a family.
You hear it all the time when talking to parents about struggles they are having with young kids: whether it’s in parents' groups, workout class, church, or on the therapist’s couch, you hear the exasperated frustration of one parent about the other due to their “differences” in [parenting/communication/discipline] style.
A once completely in-sync couple will feel shocked and dismayed by the sudden divergence of how to handle very important life events. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until disciplining a young child comes into play. Sometimes it happens when starting the discussion around having children in general. Either way, there is nothing more frustrating than being opposed to the person you love the most.
We get a taste of these situations when we are dating or engaged. We learn how to argue and how to fight, but rarely in the beginning stages of a relationship do we have to face truly big challenges that require big decisions and big cooperation of choice.
We see things heat up and the waters tested when we face life events such as buying a house or having kids.
It’s in these moments that our baggage can come to the surface and our emotional protectors attempt to fight off anything that threatens the peace of self.
When two parts of a couple are at different ends of a position on a decision, those protectors are not only fighting off a threat, it can feel as though we are fighting off our loved one.
This is not a new or recent development in terms of relationships, but it is one that needs our utmost attention when we are considering starting a family.
Each person in the relationship needs to be able to figure out what buttons, triggers, or protectors might be pushed and what will surface as a result. Anger? Rage? Retreat? Resentment?
Even with the best intentions, and preparation, we may not know how we’ll feel about something until we are right up to it.
Recently a married couple I was seeing was about to move out of state for the first time. They both were excited and planning and were looking at homes in the new state until they found one they loved.
They put an offer in and everything imploded. One of the partners began to have second thoughts about moving, instantly. The other partner, frustrated that his husband wasn’t honest with him, lost trust and hope for what their future was going to look like.
After much deliberation, it came to be that the husband had a lot of unresolved trauma from his own past, and for him, this big move represented those fears. There is no way he could have known that this would have been a trigger and it was only after the decision was right before him that he could see it.
In a situation like this, had he been a single man, he would have had the freedom to take step back, do some healing work on his own, pause the move, and if he wanted to, re-try when he felt comfortable. But in a partnership, there are more feelings and factors to consider—these came in the shape of his husband who was more than eager to move and had no issues with it.
Despite the eager husband's displeasure at the detour, he needed to be aware that his newly anxious partner wasn’t doing this on purpose. Our eager husband was free to make a choice: ramrod his desire to move through at the expense of his anxious husband’s mental well-being, or approach his relationship with his husband with love and care and be willing to work with him on a timeline and circumstances that would be a benefit not only to his well-being, but also to their relationship as a whole. To both their benefits, he chose the latter.
Compromise can happen, but understanding and value clarification need to precede it.
Many would argue that having children is a much larger decision than buying a house, and the same principles remain.
For this couple, they simply had to withdraw their purchase offer, halt the move, and give themselves more time. After all, a house and move are more like business transactions. But the stakes raise, and more intentionality and awareness needs to take place, when the situation carries greater weight.
Children—these little lives—are not business transactions. Knowing how to navigate the push and pulls, the differences, the “style” choices, and the potential triggers now will improve your situation, then.
The couple above had no idea that moving would cause such a problem for them, and so they had to learn in the moment what to do. With children, while lots of learning on the job happens, it can benefit you to try to plan ahead for these scenarios.
So think hard:
- What will having a child bring out in the both of you?
- What will the strain on finances after a child trigger?
- What will the reality and intricacies of having to discipline a child trigger?
- What traumas from how you were parented, or treated as a child, may get triggered?
We cannot prevent complications of parenting from happening, but when we ask ourselves the above, we then follow up with:
- How then will we address this as a team?
- How can we talk about financial strain when it comes up?
- How can I support you if your memories of getting parented are too much when it comes to disciplining our child?
- How can we support each other when neither of us knows what to do?
Teamwork is necessary and essential when you’re not doing this alone. It will still be hard. You will be tempted to look at your partner and see a brick wall that you just want to punch through to get through to the other side, “the good side.”
You will be tempted to make that hole in the wall to escape, and that’s OK. But before you make contact, expand your view, look with your heart, remember that you’re a team, and in time that brick wall will once again take the shape of your best friend and life partner, and together you’ll be able to navigate the challenge before you.