For John Wright, the secret to success lies in the way we react to change. “Take a close look at the changes that have occurred as objectively as you can: what is the same as it was before baby arrived (routine, fatigue, etc.) and what is it that’s really changed?”
For John Wright, couple therapist, the secret to success lies in the way we react to change. “Take a close look at the changes that have occurred as objectively as you can: what is the same as it was before baby arrived (routine, fatigue, etc.) and what is it that’s really changed?” he suggests.
Once you’ve identified the new sources of stress, you can start to talk about them and find solutions. “Some people seek outside help; others turn to books. The goal is to recognize each person’s needs and to respond to them, while accepting that problems can’t be settled overnight,” continues Wright. Conference speaker Mireille Dion offers the same advice. “The more spouses talk and share ideas with each other, the more they are able to form a team,” she explains.
In her book, Questions sexuelles pour couples actuels (Questions about sex for today’s couples), sex therapist Geneviève Parent invites parents to question themselves on their core values: how important is their relationship as a couple, their family life and their parenting roles to them. This insight can explain lingering tensions and help avert failure. “For example, many parents try to live the family life they never had as children. Above all, they want to become good parents, even if that means putting their spouses on the back burner. This isn’t always done consciously, but the impact of such behaviour is very real,” she notes.
John Wright, who is also a member of the Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Intimate Relationship Problems and Sexual Abuse (CRIPCAS), sees couples every day, including many parents, who are wrestling with questions about their intimate relationship. “About 25% of my sessions are with couples who’ve just had children, or with parents who’ve had children for a while, but who would like to make more room for their couple,” he explains.
Asked if there’s an ideal time to consult, he answers: “It’s usually best to put in the effort as soon as the first signs of tension appear, before the annoyances become deeply rooted. It’s a lot easier then to adjust and avoid more serious problems.”
Among the problems he sees with new parents, many are quite common. “It’s pretty normal that at seven or eight months post partum, a couple comes to me to talk about their exhaustion, lack of sex and sometimes, an extramarital relationship. In some cases, a couple is referred to me by a pediatrician or pediatric psychologist who believes that a child’s extreme reactions are caused by the relationship between the couple,” says Wright.
Couple therapy can often be of tremendous help. As an outside and objective observer, the therapist supports the couple, bridges differences and helps them find a balance. “Success depends in part on the couple’s ability to overcome difficulties they experienced in the past. Some couples, for example, seem to function perfectly before children: they get along, form a good team, manage their time well and so on. But if they can’t cope with stress, a baby’s arrival will be enough to throw their entire life off kilter. Conversely, other couples overcome major problems before children arrive: unemployment, illness, the death of a parent, etc. Consequently, they’ve already developed the tools to counteract stress and will be far less destabilized by the arrival of a baby,” is how he explains the therapist.
Other significant variables that can help a couple find balance are: feeling like a competent parent, the health of the child, support systems, social resources, etc. “Your entourage can also have a very beneficial influence on your couple. Sometimes simply turning to a friend who understands what you’re going through can ward off a brewing storm,” adds Wright.