I have meltdowns, too. I feel overwhelmed, too. Right now, while writing this, I’m eating a dark chocolate bar—and it being dark doesn’t really make it better if I eat it all.
Having a child comes like a hurricane on the relationship. I know with every cell in my body that Alex and I will end up together, grey and old on that bench in front of the sea, one day. We’re too smart not to. But. But we’ll sure have to use all our energy, patience and rationality to get there.
Since Oliver came along, we’re fighting a lot more often than before, for stupid things. We’re less of a team sometimes. It feels like we’re more competitive than before, the “I know how to do this, why don’t you do it like I do it?” kind of competitiveness. Sometimes it feels like a best parent competition. We misunderstand each other more. We give each other more of a hard time. We surely hurt each other more.
We go into a blurred state of mind. I ask, “Aren’t there any nappies left underneath the changing table?”. He hears, “Why didn’t you tell me the nappies were almost over?” so he answers, “Didn’t you see it yourself? You change Oliver way more often than me”.
He asks, “Until what time is your dance practice on Sunday?”. I hear, “I can’t believe you have dance practice again on Sunday!” so I answer, “You knew I was going to have practice on Sunday, so why do you have to give me a hard time now?”.
I just wanted to know if there were nappies left, so I could buy more.
He just wanted to know what time I’d be home on Sunday, so he could have lunch ready.
It’s a vicious cycle. When we get into that blurred state of mind, the more we try to talk it out and fix it, the more we dig up things that annoy each other. But. But luckily, we’re both rational people who know that a marriage is hard work—we know that it’s compromising, not just love, that keeps it going.
Lack of quality time for the couple is always the source of all our problems
We’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I think there are three main problems: no time for the couple, guilt and expectations.
It’s quite simple, really. I feel guilty for going to dance practice on Sunday and being away from my family, so when Alex asks about it, I snap. He feels I expect him to tell me when there are no nappies left and when I ask about it, he snaps.
If you feel guilty, but you don’t admit it and recognise it openly, you might run over people like a steamroller when you’re questioned. And expectations, well, those are good for nothing and we should just erase them from the vocabulary of emotions.
But really, I think the main problem, the source of all the others, is lack of quality time for the couple. Not doing the things we love doing together—just him and me, like we used to. Watch a movie, go out and have a glass of wine, take a stroll holding hands, talk about the meaning of life over an ice-cream, go out for a meal and remember our story.
Most likely, now we’d talk about Oliver. We can talk about Oliver, but not always being with Oliver and for Oliver and about Oliver. We need us, our team. We don’t need anything more than that.
If you’ve been a team once, you can be it again
We’re a team. That’s how we solve our problems. We both want to see through the commitment we made when deciding to spend our lives together. Being happy with each other is what makes us both happy, but it doesn’t work if it comes only from one individual. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
Unfortunately, I discovered that a couple doesn’t always manage to be a team: sometimes we forget how to. But I also discovered that if you’ve been a team before, you can be a team again: you just have to both want it and work together.
Writing helps us reflect before communicating our emotions
We rarely write to each other: we prefer to talk about the good and the bad. But this time talking was hardly going the way we wanted it to, so we decided to write emails to each other. We told each other what we’re annoyed by, what we did wrong, what we want to improve of ourselves and what we’d like the other to improve.
His first email started, “I can’t work properly without getting my thoughts out… Which is why I’m writing you: my crush, my girlfriend, my fiancé, my wife, and the mother of my son”.
Too often we go through life with the person we’ve chosen, only thinking of who they are today, but forgetting who they were and what they were to us—when we fell for them, when we moved in together, we he/she proposed, when we got married, when we decided to grow our family.
Alex’s words put everything in perspective: I am still all of those people to him, like he’s to me—we shouldn’t let ourselves forget that.
The email continued with some of our first pictures together—taken almost 10 years ago with Photo Booth in his apartment—and a long file with all our messages from the first months.
Although I felt quite embarrassed reading them (as my English was rubbish back then), I was left with one thought: where did those people go? I want them back or, actually, I want a better, 10-year more mature version of them.
And I actually realised that thinking of those people will always bring us back together. Until we are willing to fight for those people—who chose each other over billions of others in the world, were crazy in love, and dedicate their life to each other—nothing and nobody will ever come in between our current selves, no matter how stubborn, annoying, impatient and snappy they are.
The couple is made of two individuals: let’s take care of them, too
On Sunday, after my dance rehearsals, Alex left to the office. While Oliver was sleeping, I sat on the couch, watched Grey’s Anatomy, read, rested my mind. No phone, no internet, no social media, no blogging, no commitment.
I needed that. I needed a bit of Carlotta. Alex is at the office every day: he works hard, but when he needs some time-out, he takes it. I feel like I haven’t had time-outs in over a year: lately, I’ve been a mum, a wife, a blogger, a teacher, a (lousy) housewife, and a socialiser. I thought my me time was going to my dance classes, but even there it’s not just me, it’s more people and more socialising.
Maybe in the future I need to remember that among all the other things and people I take care of—Alex, Oliver, Colbie, my blog, my work, our health, my body—I also have to take care of Carlotta. Of my mind.