Part II: Resolving Relationship Conflicts
When you attend to the positive feelings that you have about your relationship, it becomes easier to honor it with the resources it needs.
The Relationship Trinity
Every two-person partnership is made of three living, breathing components: you, your partner and the relationship itself. In order for a relationship to work, each of the three components needs to receive approximately equal amounts of TLC. In all likelihood, the emotional resources that you and your partner have left at the end of the day are scant—and that makes it extra important to pay attention to where you spend those leftovers.
Part I: Identifying the Problem
I was recently talking to a friend who is a new mother. We were laughing about motherhood and all of the ways in which being a parent can change you, when suddenly, her mood became somber. “You know,” she said,“ I knew that this was going to be hard on me. I was prepared for not sleeping, and for the way my body would change, and for the spit-up and the poopy diapers. But I never realized how hard this was going to be on my marriage.” Her words gave me pause. She is right – it seems that the impact of parenthood on relationships is something we just don’t talk about.
John Irving wrote in “A Widow for One Year” that having children taught him how to fear. I think that this statement is a profoundly true assessment of the way in which parenthood can throw into high relief the uncertainties and unpredictability of life. Because, above all, our lives are uncertain, built on things that we have little control over. On your way home from work today, you could be in a terrible car accident that leaves you in chronic pain for the rest of your life. Your husband could be having an affair. Cancer could be lurking inside of your cells, eating its way through the healthy fabric of your body so insidiously that by the time you notice that something is wrong, it is too late. Your best friend could be talking about you behind your back.
Earlier this summer, I was walking in downtown Chicago, on my way to meeting an old friend for dinner. As I approached the CSO, I saw a mom with two children walking toward me. The baby, snugly tied to her mother’s back in a sky blue Moby wrap, held one of the mother’s riotous brown curls tightly clenched in her little fist. The mother’s right hand held the hand of a preschool-aged girl with wispy blonde hair, and her left hand held a violin case.