When I work with couples in counseling, we often discuss communication.
Scratch that - every time I work with couples in counseling we discuss communication.
I remind the couple that female brains and male brains are different. Men and women are emotionally different, and yet they can work together beautifully if
they are motivated to really understand each other and communicate. This means each spouse needs to understand themselves as well, before
they go into a potentially heated or emotional conversation. For more tips on handling disagreements, check out my blog post here
Anywho, back to pregnancy fears. . .
There's a story that I think I have told every couple I've ever worked with, because it highlights the issue of self-analyzing and then appropriate emotional disclosure. And it all began with a pair of baby shoes.
When we were about eight months pregnant with our first child, we took a trip to Target. I wanted to look at baby clothes. While we perused the aisles, I saw an adorable pair of little newborn shoes. Exclaiming "Awww, look at these shoes!" to Johnny, I fully expected him to share in my excitement about their cuteness.
However, his reaction was, "But didn't you just tell me that you read in the parenting books that babies aren't supposed to wear shoes until they are walking? And that they shouldn't even wear shoes unless they are walking on a surface that could hurt their feet, in order to help them learn to walk naturally? Why would we spend $7 on a pair of shoes that our kid won't even wear?"
I was immediately shocked at his reaction (although I had recently read to him all about baby shoes and walking.)
After the shock, I became frustrated and angry. We finished walking the baby aisles and headed for another aisle to complete our shopping trip, and with every step I allowed myself to become more and more irritated with his comment.
When we got home I played the classic, yet unhelpful, move of not talking to him. I wanted him to "figure out" that I was upset. (See, even counselors aren't perfect.) It took until bedtime for him to realize something was bothering me, and I told him it was because of his comment about the shoes.
He replied, "We can go back tomorrow and buy the shoes, if that's what you want."
But immediately something didn't feel right.
I didn't want to buy the baby shoes. I knew I wouldn't put them on our son, because of what the baby book said. Suddenly I realized that I was not mad because he complained about the price of the shoes.
"It's not about the shoes," I said.
He was confused, and I was confused.
By now I was calm enough to realize that he wanted to help me, but I knew that buying the shoes wouldn't solve my frustration. However, I didn't know why I was still bothered.
I explained that to Johnny and told him I needed some time to figure out what was wrong, because it wasn't about the shoes.
It took me a couple days.
And then I realized my problem!
I asked Johnny to go for a walk with me after dinner. During our walk, I brought up the baby shoes and apologized for getting so mad. I acknowledged that it wasn't about buying the shoes. . . my frustration came from his not exclaiming how "cute" they were.
I explained to Johnny that as I pondered about the problem, I had realized that I was nervous and afraid for our child to be born. I talked about my fear that my life would change forever, my normal routine would be different, and my sense of freedom would be altered. I was afraid.
Because I was afraid, I needed him to be extra excited to counter-act my fear.
I didn't need him to buy the baby shoes to appease me; I needed him to say they were "cute."
Johnny smiled and said he could do that. He reassured me that I would be a great mom, and told me how excited he was to be a father. And he promised to show excitement at all the baby stuff.
So why do I tell this story to my couples in counseling?
This story shows the importance of understanding where your own emotions are coming from, before you explode on your spouse. Once you know the root of the problem, it becomes solvable.
Johnny calmed my fears. I felt reassured. Problem solved.
Unfortunately, many couples get stuck in a pattern of fighting back and forth, without listening to each other, seemingly trying to determine who is "right."
Insults are traded instead of emotions, and the conversation only ends in more pain.
It is important for couples to take time to analyze their own feelings - whether they be feelings of fear, inadequacy, hurt, jealously, unimportance, etc - and then feel safe enough to share those feelings with each other. Figure out what's underneath the behavior that bothered you.
During pregnancy, a woman's hormones are wacky anyways. The more she can determine what emotion is affecting her, the easier it will be for her husband to help.
Anger usually stems from hurt or pain. Anger is closely related to fear.
Common pregnancy fears include:
"What if I never regain my shape, and he stops being attracted to me?"
"What if I'm not cut out to be a good Mom?"
"What if the baby isn't healthy?"
"How do I balance my time as a mother and a wife?"
Think about the pregnancy fear, and determine what emotion is underneath. If anger is present, analyze what is fueling the anger, and how the problem can be solved. Then, ask for quiet time to discuss your insights with your spouse.
It's probably not about the baby shoes. (=
Labels: Emotional Health, Marriage, Parenting