Updated: Mar 1, 2020
As we end off the month of “LOVE” I want to share a little inspiration that I got from on of my professional encounters. Last week I saw my first couple client and it was AMAZING! Of course this couple does not have everything together, because they are in therapy, but from that session I gained some insight that I just wanted to take a minute and share with you.
First of all let me preface by saying, before a couple can work on being effective parents, I believe they first have to work on their relationship with each other, which is why my tips have been outlined the way you’ll see below.
Tip 1: Before you can love each other, you first should respect and genuinely like each other.
I believe that this is one of the strongest attributes of a healthy couple. Things are not always perfect, but a couple should have a genuine care for each other and desire to do their best to support each other. As a couples therapist, it is so encouraging when I can clearly see that underneath the love each partner feels, they have a respect and honour for each other that at times may be difficult to sense above their problems by the time they make it to therapy.
Liking the good things you see in your partner and accepting them for their shortcomings will go a long way on the days when your love for that person does not feel as strong and as prominent.
Tip 2: It is important that you as a couple foster your fondness and admiration for each other.
This tenant was one that I learnt through John Gottman, and I thought it was golden. When two people first meet, more often than not before they love each other they first grow to like each other. They learn the little intricacies about their partner and they typically spend a lot of time together.
However, after being together for a while, those little things which you found endearing about your partner tends to become major sources of stress, frustration and annoyance. If a couple continuously loses sight of the admiration and like they feel for each other, it makes the relationship between the two of them that much harder to maintain.
When a couple has a child or children together sometimes the relationship between parents suffers because the child/ren becomes the focal point. A child being central is not a bad thing; however, your partner also wants and needs to feel valued and appreciated.
You need to make time for your partner, especially when you guys have children together.
Remembering why you fell in love in the first place, remembering the things your partner does that you love, remembering what you can do to make them feel appreciated and seen, intentionally spending time with your significant other, even remembering the things that annoy them or frustrate them.
All these things increase the fondness and admiration two individuals feel for each other. Therefore, when life gets crazy, you won’t necessarily get crazy as well.
Tip 3: Remember and understand that your family system is ever changing.
Within a couple’s relationship before a child comes along, their family system is primarily just the two of them. However, when children are added to the equation, the system changes and it becomes easy to project frustrations onto each other as opposed to dealing with the real issue.
One of the toughest things for parents to adjust to is how to adapt to such a big change within their system, and they adjust differently. For example, a mother could possibly feel an innate drawing to her child and a father could actually wind up feeling left out and unloved.
Depending on the age of the child, interventions and strategies for the couple may differ. For example, if the child is a baby, the parents can probably look at both being present for the nursing of the baby, so while the mother breast feeds or bottle feeds, the father may hold the baby’s hand, or stroke their scalp.
Another option could be having both parents present for baby’s baths or diaper changings; these may seem like very small acts, but the effects could be very comforting and reassuring for parents.
If the child is older, some strategies for adjusting to the system could be maintaining open communication between children and parents, ensuring that the parents intentionally spend time alone together, or asking the child/children how they would feel most loved and honoured within the parent-child relationship.
Every child differs, but every child wants to feel loved, heard and seen.
Tip 4: Set Good boundaries… they are crucial.
Ensuring that healthy, clear boundaries are maintained in the family system is important to the functionality of the entire system. There are three types of boundaries; diffuse, rigid and clear, however, clear boundaries are ideal for a family to function well and as a unit.
Diffused boundaries: there are little to no limitations on the content shared between parents and children. Children are aware of private things between the parents and at times children may be indirectly placed in roles that they should not be. For example, if a child becomes parentified in the parent-child relationship, the child becomes the parent within the dynamic instead of the other way around.
Rigid boundaries: there are heavy restrictions on what is shared between parents and children, which leads to a lack of affection and support within the system. This is pretty much the opposite of diffuse boundaries.
Clear boundaries: there is an appropriate exchange of information between parents and children, paired with love and support for each other.
Tip 5: You both must present as a unit.
Finally it is important for parents to present together as a unit with their children and with parenting. If this doesn’t happen, parents can take sides, children can possibly take advantage of the disunity between their parents, and it can result in a total dysfunction within the family system.
Parents may not always agree on every detail of parenting, but it is important that their children see respect and unification between them, even if they disagree. Mutual love should always be present.
Now this all just scratches the surface, but I do hope it has helped I some way! Until next time!
Have you been thinking about going to Couples or Family Therapy? Kathilia’s outlined some pretty good points in her post above to help improve both your relationship with your significant other and your children. What are your thoughts about it all? Go ahead get the conversation started and share your thoughts below.