Whether you co-parent with someone that lives in a separate home or you parent with a partner or spouse under the same roof, bringing a child into your relationship can present challenges that test your relationship or ability to co-exist. Relationships, in general, are complex and ever-changing but equipped with the right tools, your relationship with your partner can grow and flourish when challenges arise as opposed to crumbling.
Listen – Listen to what your partner has to say and don’t make the mistake of thinking that you already know. If you don’t have a particularly talkative partner, you may need to nudge them a little by asking questions. Stick to open-ended how or what questions rather than yes or no questions to try to uncover how they really feel. Listening is a part of communication that is underrated as most of us perceive communication as expressing our feelings but not receiving the other party’s feelings.
Take a pause – You’ve heard the phrase don’t go to bed angry. While this is great in an ideal world, it's not practical. Sometimes you’re not really listening to each other anymore and just going around in circles and getting more frustrated. When this happens, taking a pause can help greatly as long as you commit to coming back to the conversation the next day. Taking a pause helps you to both have time to digest what the other person is saying and reflect upon it rather than just trying to get your point across.
Try to see it from the other person’s view – In most arguments, it's not usually the case that one person is wrong and the other person is right. More likely, its that the two people have two points of view and a valid reason behind that point of view. Trying to see a disagreement about how to handle a certain situation from the other person’s point of view may help you to be more empathetic toward their point of view and meet them somewhere in the middle or explain your point of view in a better way that they’ll understand.
Be flexible – It's not uncommon to think that your way of doing something is not only the right way of doing something BUT the only way that something can be done. If you’ve ever gritted your teeth when your partner loads the dishwasher the wrong way or doesn’t get the kids to bed in an acceptable manner, chances are you think your way is the only way to do things. Being in a relationship and having shared household and childcare responsibilities means accepting that you’re not the boss but a partner in it all. Being flexible and letting your partner do things in the way that they deem best will go a long way to keeping tensions down and morale up.
Don’t assume – You may have gone into the relationship or parenthood with an idea in your head about how things would go. Without talking to your partner about it, you may have assumed that they had the same plan or idea. Don’t do this! Talk about how you envision your household to be run before your first kid and before every kid. Don’t be shy about bringing the topic back up when you feel as if the household has strayed from that plan.
Pick your battles – No one in your family is perfect and unless everyone is perfect, chances are things aren’t always going to go your way. So that you’re not nitpicking about every little thing, pick your battles. Think about what really bothers you and fight for it. Also, think about the intention behind the battle. If its because you feel very strongly about something, stick to your guns, but if its because you want to win or be in control, consider letting it go.
Appreciate the good – Our quest to constantly improve and reach that hypothetical (and unrealistic) perfection makes us disproportionately focus on the bad over the good. We’re more likely to dwell on our partner’s mistakes that they made that day, week or month than the things that they did that went seamlessly. That’s not to say that you have to put on the rose-colored glasses all day long and live in denial about anything that you don’t like happening in your household, just that you should take some time to appreciate and acknowledge what’s going right as well.
Communicate – Never stop communicating! Communication will include some aspects of all of the previously listed tools but so much more. When communicating, pay attention to your tone and the method you use to communicate. Take into account how you communicate best…is it in person or written? Don’t mistake communication for complaining. The whole point of communicating should be to reach some sort of resolution and not just a method to offload all of your frustrations.