When you get married or are in a long-term committed relationship, you are part of a two-person team. Before you have children, you and your “teammate” will probably work together on things like buying a home or fixing up a place, making a budget, working through arguments, etc.
For some couples, though, parenthood can threaten to change that teammate dynamic, pinning you against each other in an unspoken competition.
In the postpartum months, you might find yourself arguing over who is working harder or who is doing more. Maybe you claim that you get up with the baby more times during the night while your partner counters with the fact that they work every day to bring home a paycheck.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s essential to understand that life, marriage, and parenthood isn’t a competition.
You Have a Common Goal
When your marriage starts to feel like a competition to prove who has it harder, you’re doing a few things to yourself and your partner.
First, you’re putting pressure on yourself. By suggesting that you do more or work harder, you may start to feel as though you have to keep up a constant effort to “stay on top.” That can burn you out quickly, cause unwanted stress, and change your whole mindset into something that resembles a competition.
You’re also not supporting your partner. Remember, you have a common goal of giving your child the best care, love, and attention possible. You’ll both have different ways of doing that. You’ll both excel in some areas and be weaker in others. That’s why working together matters so much.
When your partner feels like they aren’t supported, it will create discord within the relationship. You might find yourselves arguing more about things that weren’t issues before.
One partner might start to feel guilty about not doing “enough,” while the other might start to feel overwhelmed because they’re doing too much. It can end up creati
ng mind games within your relationship, whether you ever intended it to or not.
Parenting is difficult, especially with a newborn. You and your partner need to support each other now, more than ever, to give your baby everything they need.
How to Support Each Other Instead of Competing
Having a new baby can put a strain on even the most secure marriages. That’s why it’s more crucial now than ever to be supportive of one another, instead of competitive.
You can do that by being appreciative of everything your partner does, no matter how big or small the task. If you notice they’re feeling overwhelmed, step up and help them. Offer to do things because you have the ability and because you care, not because you’re trying to “one-up” them.
Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to each other about your struggles.
Sometimes, when you’re competing with your partner, it could be because you’re having insecurity issues, or you’re worried about not doing enough for your baby. That can lead to overcompensation. When you feel like you’re doing more than your partner, it can help to keep those feelings at bay.
But, you’re both going through the same situation. Talking to each other, and even commiserating, can allow a great weight to lift off of your shoulders.
It will also make it easier to see just how vital your support of one another is. You know how heavy and overwhelmed you feel at times. If you don’t want your partner to feel that way, support them instead of trying to win a non-existent game.
If you’ve recently had a baby and everything between you and your partner feels like a competition, feel free to contact me. Together, we can work through different ways of supporting each other as you both work toward the same things. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you in general during your parenting journey, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!