Pregnancy. A time of intense hormones, unpredictable moods, rapid bodily changes, and high stress. Not exactly the ideal time to have relationship problems, especially with the future parent of your child. So how do you deal with it? In this article I will explain not only that, but how to keep yourself from falling into the pitfalls and traps of an intense or unhealthy relationship while pregnant.
Ideally, if you are experiencing a “planned pregnancy”, you have discussed and worked on many of your relationship issues already. These could include but aren’t limited to; communication, intimacy, trust, financial, and sexual problems. In this article, I would like to focus on only one, communication.
Obviously, if this issue was present before your pregnancy, it is going to be present and more troublesome during your pregnancy. With that said, how do you deal with this issue while pregnant, even if it is present to a lesser degree?
First of all, there are what I call “predictable” , and “unpredictable” pregnancy symptom triggered behaviors in relationships. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses by saying that behaviors and actions are “pregnancy symptom” triggered, I am just explaining the facts. When you are pregnant you will generally experience, (although each woman is different), the following; morning sickness, low energy, sore back and joints, variable moods like increased sensitivity, loss of short term memory, increased/decreased sex drive, low self-esteem, strange food cravings, sore breasts, weight gain, irritable bowels, and an increased desire to sleep. These negative symptoms, will obviously effect how you interact and communicate with others. I suppose this was how the “moody” pregnant woman stereotype came into effect.
So, if you know for sure that these symptoms are going to happen, then you can better prepare for their effect on your psyche, and thus how you will choose to project their effects onto others (specifically your partner).
For example; if I feel a loss of energy coming on or like I just want to take a nap, I know for sure that I will not have much patience to make serious decisions. So instead of coming home and telling my husband, “Hey honey I’m ready to discuss the financial part of that remodel that you want in the kitchen.” I say something like; “Honey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m not 100% today, it has been a rough pregnancy day, and I would really appreciate it if I could just go to bed. Could you make yourself something to eat?” What this does is avoid a “predictable” argument that would be the result from my “lack of energy and patience”, during our discussion. Basically, the idea is that you are thinking ahead of the game. Planning for the worse. Sound pessimistic? Let me explain.
What if an “unpredictable” pregnancy symptom like spontaneous crying happens? What am I talking about? Well, sometimes pregnant woman get a sudden unpredictable urge to cry because they feel emotional. It could be triggered by something as stupid as a beer commercial, or as unrelated as a cool breeze. How do we deal with that? What if your partner is sitting on the couch as you start to cry? Let’s say they don’t comfort you at just the right moment, and in response you say something like; “You just aren’t there for me, I have to do everything; carry this child, clean the house, and handle the bills!” Your partner begins to feel rejected and angry and the interaction spirals downward from there.
How could an “unpredictable” and “spontaneous” situation like that be avoided? Well, by doing what I call a mind, body, and soul check in. First of all when you are pregnant you need to take responsibility for your emotions and behaviors by constantly checking in with yourself. Ask yourself where you are at emotionally and psychologically. Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten. One being that you are feeling; tired, emotional, or insecure. Ten being that you feel; energized, happy, or excited about your pregnancy. Since you can go up and down daily in your pregnancy moods, you need to monitor yourself several times throughout the day. This way, when an “unpredictable” pregnancy symptom like constipation creeps up on you, you know that you are not going to be able to handle much on your plate. Your best decision in that instance, would be to avoid over stressing yourself. For example, limit the amount of things you do that day, get extra sleep, and avoid stressful discussions with your spouse.
There are other things in addition to monitoring yourself, in order to decrease your pregnancy symptoms like; exercise, naps, eating nutritional snacks, pampering yourself with a pedicure, or reading yourself positive affirmations.
In addition, it is really important to communicate with your partner and utilize him/her as a support. For example, ask him/her for a foot massage, words of encouragement, or if he/she could do one of your house hold chores for the day. If you don’t ask, you won’t get your needs met. Many pregnant women try to be Super Heroes and do everything themselves. It is just not reality. You are functioning on low gas in your tank, don’t ride on empty it will not benefit you in the end!
Lastly, how you support your partner will make a difference in how you survive your relationship during pregnancy as well. Utilize “I” statements and “reflective listening”. Your partner’s needs will be different then yours during pregnancy. Remember, they don’t “feel” the same as you do during your pregnancy-although people say they do experience some similar pregnancy symptoms. Your partner might be going through a whirl win of different emotions and feelings like; nervousness, uncertainty about being a parent, fear, worry and concern for you, financial stress, insomnia, eating disturbance , weight gain, and loss of previous identity. If you communicate with him/her and find out where he/she is coming from, it might help you support him/her better. This in turn will lessen the overall stress within your relationship and make your pregnancy a more positive experience.
Here is a quick communication exercise to practice with your partner. Sit next to each other and look into each others’ eyes. Now pretend that you have switched bodies and you are the non-pregnant person, and they are the pregnant person. Take about a minute to answer the following questions as “the other person.” Tell me about your pregnancy thus far; how many weeks along you are, how do you feel, what is partner feeling during your pregnancy? You will find this interesting being in the “other person’s shoes”, for a bit. After you complete the exercise, check in with each other. Were you accurate about each other’s feelings and thoughts? If the answer is no, then you know that you have to work more on your communication.
Remember, pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time for a couple, but it can put a lot of strain on a a relationship. Working on your communication as a couple before you decide to get pregnant, is your best bet. But if you can’t, start today, heck start yesterday! Good luck and remember, when in doubt and in the middle of what seems impossible argument, laugh! Have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
-by Andrea Guzman, LMFT