Are you concerned that you and your partner aren’t on the same page?
Do you wonder if your family think it is “all” worth it?
It’s easy to get complacent, to think your family life is running smoothly. Then you turn around and discover too late that the solid foundations you thought you were building, aren’t as solid as you had hoped or expected. Which is why it’s so important to build meaningful relationships that support your family life.
The good news is, it’s never too late to reflect on what your version of “Christmas Future” looks like and make changes. This is especially true if the answer to either of those questions is Yes.
Getting it right matters as friend of mine, let’s call him Toby, illustrates evocatively about his relationship breakdown:
“If there’s one thing I wish we’d done better, it would have been to have those really honest discussions – rather than the more off-hand comments and observations – about the work life balance for both of us, including as a couple and as parents.
But hey – we live and learn, eh?!”
Meaningful relationships require open and honest conversations.
Maybe you used to talk about the future, but life got super busy and now you are worn out and drained and it’s tough to find the time, let alone the energy to properly talk about what you want to achieve as individuals, as a couple and as a family.
Sometimes it feels like you are just surviving, especially when the pandemic is still very much with us.
It can be painful to have open and honest conversations for the first time, especially if you and your partner’s visions for life aren’t aligned, but if you want to build and maintain meaningful relationships, then it’s something you are going to have do at some stage and the sooner you start, the better.
When you start to have open conversations, it is natural to feel vulnerable as you start to be honest about how you feel, but you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.
Once you have started that process of communicating and understanding how each of you feel about the reality (or perceived reality) you face, you can use this as a springboard for each of you to ask for what they need and create plans to ensure everyone is happy.
Meaningful relationships need shared purpose.
I stumbled across this quote many years ago when I was preparing my wedding speech. It perfectly captured what I felt was key to a successful relationship and my opinion hasn’t changed 13 years later.
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- How to create shared purpose
1) Be honest about your life.
How satisfied are you with each of the important aspects of your life?
Health, wealth, and relationships. Work, home environment, and the future
2) Make a list of all the things you want to Be, Do and Have.
How does achieving these make you feel?
3) Narrow it down to the 5 things that are really important to you.
4) Talk to your partner – ask them to repeat the process.
(maybe involve the kids too, if they are the right age.)
5) Spend some quality time with your partner.
What things are both your lists?
6) Jointly decide on your top 5 priorities.
Write them down and refer to them; these priorities are your shared family priorities, your lighthouse. They are the reference point you can use to help decide how to plot your approach to big decisions.
Good relationships require equality at home.
Equality at home isn’t necessarily about being “equal”. In families with a single breadwinner, it is likely that the “non-worker” will be doing significantly more unpaid labour. As a two-time stay at home dad, I use the term “non-worker” cautiously!
However, dual income families are really common, with 75% of women with dependent children working, equality really matters. The time and emotional energy required for “the mental load” is a significant barrier to women in heterosexual relationships being able devote mental capacity to work.
If you and your partner are not sharing the domestic work that has to happen, you are storing up significant relationship tension and resentment.
Key things to build equality at home:
- Understand your partner’s daily pressure points.
- Make sure domestic responsibilities are shared fairly.
- Be proactive, don’t wait to be asked.
- Your partner is not the house project manager.
The Impact of Covid
With schools and childcare being unavailable and many people trying to work from home, with kids at home, men can’t just shut the door to the “office” and retreat into our work bubble.
It’s literally all hands-on deck. For men, the sheer amount of mental and physical energy required for a household to function might come as a shock, especially if you tend to leave that stuff to your partner.
Get it wrong and you’ll feature on Mumsnet…
“I am currently working from home (no shock there), whilst my DH is at home since his place of work is closed. He is off on full pay for the time being…
I’m just about losing the plot with him. It turns out it is a struggle to get him to even do the basics… I am becoming so very resentful working full days in a stressful job whilst he lazes about on the sofa doing little more than the bare minimum.”
It doesn’t matter how important your job is to the family finances, if you are aren’t educating yourself about why domestic equality matters, and making changes where necessary it will all end in tears.
How to build meaningful relationships with your children
It’s never too early to start. Solo 1 to 1 time with your children is the foundation creating confident dads who aren’t nervous about being on their own with their children, regardless of the child’s age.
These early bonding experiences are key to avoiding that painful and frustrating dad experience of children who only want Mummy.
Focusing on the moment, putting our phones out of reach, and really listening and engaging, because they know when you are aren’t listening.
In my experience it’s much easier to manage your emotions when you are in the moment, instead of snapping at being distracted as you get pulled away from that email you just had to reply to.
Quality or Quantity Time?
We can’t always control how much time we have available to spend with our children, but we can control what we do in that time.
The truth is that children often aren’t as bothered by the “quality” of the time as dads are. In fact, the self-inflicted pressure to have ‘quality’ moments, perhaps as a substitute to quantity of time can lead to disappointment. Far better I think to keep it simple, and find ways to carve out more time or better presence.
Things to try
- Learn about their hobbies.
- Listen to ask questions, don’t listen just to find your time to speak.
- Help them feel like they have some control.
- Create rituals.
Pancake Saturday, washing cars together, working the dog? Whatever form your ritual takes the benefits can’t be overstated.
- Check out the Dadvengers Tips on being a good Dad post.
- Have a look at David Willans’ excellent Being Dads website
Watch the relevant Dad Chats Live Episode
If you’d like to watch and listen to Ian talking about this subject don’t forget you can check out his guest appearance on Dad Chats Live. Our Weekly parenting chats hosted on our Instgram Account.
Whether you’re an expectant dad, new father or a wise old owl, discover my “5 Ways to Achieve Your Ultimate Purpose” – FREE Essential Top Tips For Working Dads at www.inspiringdads.co.uk