At first you noticed it over a double date dinner with your new parent friends. The way she rubbed his back when she spoke and how in sync they seemed when detailing every exhausting moment of sleep training. As you looked over at your partner, you remembered how he popped in earplugs during your babe’s fifth wakeup of the night and went back to bed. Then it occurred to you, are they happier than us? Are all couples happier than us? Do their partners do more to help? What’s wrong with us?
The answer is NOTHING. The reality is that every partnership operates differently, and those new mama doubts you’re feeling over your relationship is totally OK. Moreso, it wouldn’t be normal if you DIDN’T question or compare your partner to people you meet along the way. In our ongoing series, Is It Normal, we’re shedding light on these super common, totally normal questions + feelings surrounding you, your partner and your new family. And guess what? We feel them too. So we invited Jean Fitzpatrick, our resident relationship therapist + New York-based psychotherapist to guide you on your new mama path and how you can cope with these VERY “normal” experiences.
“There’s a saying, ‘Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides,'” says Jean. “Even the couples who look absolutely golden are experiencing a profound transition with the arrival of a new baby. Imagining otherwise only leaves you discouraged. According to research, the early parenting period is often the least fulfilling time in a marriage.”
According to Jean, envy can be a valuable signal that it’s time to take action. “When you find yourself thinking that everyone else is happier, shift your attention back to your own marriage,” she says. “Ask yourself what you and your husband can do to nurture it during this new chapter in your life together. Even better, sit down with your partner for a ‘state of the union’ meeting, brainstorm ways to put more fun back into your relationship, and give each other daily attention. If you’re arguing a lot, seeing a relationship therapist to learn conflict management tools can give you a stronger, more harmonious way forward.”