Communicating with Each Other
July 27, 2004
by Armin Brott, Pregnancy & Baby
As your pregnancy continues, it's critical to learn to talk and to listen to each other. Here's a few topics that should be on your list of important things to talk about.
Pregnancy is not only a time of great joy and anticipation. It's also a time of great stress. And even though you and your partner are both expecting at the same time, you're not experiencing the pregnancy in exactly the same way or at the same pace. This can lead to an increasing number of misunderstandings and conflicts between the two of you.
Adding a baby to a family is like looking at the family through a magnifying glass: everything that's good about your relationship gets better and everything that's bad gets worse. As the pregnancy continues, then, it's critical to learn to talk and to listen to each other, and to find ways to help each other through this marvelous, but emotionally bumpy, experience.
As men, we've been conditioned to try to protect our partners from harm. And when they're pregnant, protecting them may include trying to minimize the levels of stress in their lives. One way men do this is by not talking about their own concerns. Sometimes it's because we worry that mentioning our own fears may not only cause our partner stress; other times it's because we don't want to expose how vulnerable we are at a time when we're supposed to be strong and supportive.
There are some fairly negative side effects to this kind of thinking. First, by not giving yourself a chance to talk about your concerns, you'll never learn that what you're going through is normal and healthy. Second, your partner will never get the chance to find out that you understand and share her feelings.
On the other hand, men who talk about their feelings and getting their partner's emotional support during pregnancy have better physical and emotional health and are better able to maintain good relationships with their spouses than men who don't get that kind of support.
So talk about your excitement about having a child, your dreams, your plans for the future, your fears, worries, and ambivalence, and how satisfied you are with your level of involvement during the pregnancy. But don't forget to ask your partner what she's feeling about the same things. Have these discussions regularly -- what the two of you and your partner are thinking and feeling in the third month may be completely different from what you'll be thinking and feeling in the fourth, sixth, or ninth months. As difficult as it may seem, learning to communicate with each other now will help you for years to come.
Here are a few important things that should be on your list of important things to talk about. Not all them are important to everybody, but if you haven't discussed them already, do it now.
Your involvement in the pregnancy: Are you going to stay on the sidelines and be a bystander? Are you emotionally involved in the pregnancy and do you see yourself as a full partner? Are you going to micromanage the whole thing, planning every medical appointment, every meal and every trip to the gym? Whatever you decide to do, make sure to talk it over with your partner. After all, she's pregnant, too.
Your involvement in family tasks: How much child care are you planning to do when the baby comes? How much is your partner expecting you to do? How much are you expecting her to do? Several studies have shown that to a great extent, women control their partners' involvement at home. If a woman wants her partner to take an active role in child care, he generally wants the same thing. But if she wants to keep these activities to herself, he usually expects to be less involved.
Religion: Both you and your partner may never have given a thought to the religious education, if any, you plan to give your child. If you have thought about it, make sure you're both still thinking along the same lines. If you haven't, this might be a good time to start.
Discipline styles: How do you feel about spanking your children? Never? Sometimes? How does she feel about it? How you were raised and whether your parents spanked you will have a great deal to do with how you raise your own children.
Sleeping arrangements: It's never too early to give some thought to where you want the baby to sleep: In your bed? In a bassinet next to you? In a separate room?
Work and child-care expectations: Is your partner planning to take some time off after the birth before going back to work? How long? Would you like to be able to take some more time off? How long? What types of child-care arrangements do you and she envision?
Finances: Do you need two paychecks to pay the mortgage? If you can get by on one, whose will it be?
About the author: A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is also the author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year and several other books. He's also the host of Positive Parenting, a weekly radio program which airs in the San Francisco Bay Area and is also available on the Web. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit his site at http://www.MrDad.com.