How is it possible to completely prepare a couple for the underground atomic implosion that usually occurs in a relationship post-baby? Let’s be frank about it — you can’t, not really. Just as you can’t really prepare for a death, it’s difficult to prepare your relationship for post-baby bliss!

In a recent poll, 40,000 men were asked to identify a woman’s ultimate fantasy. 98% of the respondents said that a woman’s ultimate fantasy is to have two men at once. While this has been verified by a recent sociological study, it appears that most men do not realise that in this fantasy, one man is cooking and the other is cleaning.

Unknown Joker

Yes, yes, you already know you’ll need to endure tremendous new stress, tension and worries as you adapt to the instant metamorphosis from being a couple of two, into being a family of three.

I am not going to attempt to give you the ultimate answers: that’s impossible.

However, there are certainly aspects of the woman–man relationship that can be worth reviewing, in an attempt to diffuse some of the landmines concealed within the grassy meadows of first-time parenting that you are both about to walk across. Here goes . . .

Dear Dad-to-be

It’s no secret that men-folk find we women a mystery with our complicated minds and complex emotions, we know — there are endless jokes bouncing around the planet via email sites that reiterate how confusing men always find women.

But, once you know the mechanics of how we tick, you will have a better understanding of our logic . . . we really are not that hard to comprehend. Let me explain.

We women tend to define ourselves by our relationships — not by the results of what we achieve. And we get this sense of self by receiving respect, care and reassurance through our relationships. (We naturally want to offer advice — it’s one way we show we care.)

We are empowered when we receive compassion and empathy and we are motivated when we are given understanding and validation. We hate being ignored, dismissed and forgotten.

With men, on the other hand, when something is troubling you, it’s pretty normal for you to feel a need to back away somewhat, becoming introspective (or what partners will often describe as distant, preoccupied or unresponsive). Your head needs the space to think about your problem and find answers.

But we women, we’re just not like that!

When something is troubling us, it affects our emotions, and we can feel hopeless and overwhelmed. The cure, though perhaps bizarre to men, is for our hearts to bottom-out. For us, this means being able to experience our feelings, and express our emotions verbally, which enables us to cathartically cleanse ourselves.

At rock bottom we can seem needy and insecure — but we don’t need you to fix us! When we want you to fix something, we’ll ask you — ‘Honey, I need you to fix the lid on the rubbish bin’ — but when we’re bottoming-out, all you need to do is listen empathetically, without making ‘Mr Fix-It’ suggestions. Then pretty soon we float back up towards happiness again.

Another thing — please don’t take us literally on everything we say. We embellish and exaggerate — it’s our way. For example, if we say ‘I’m exhausted, I’ve got no energy left at all’, it actually might mean ‘Right now I’m rather tired, and need you to offer to finish dinner and the baby’s bath, so I can put my feet up for half an hour. Then I’ll be fine again.’

Now that I’ve explained how bottoming-out first can be an important part of the process of how we women get to feel better again, it is really important for you, as a new dad, to keep this in mind as your partner enters motherhood. There will be times when she appears to be overwhelmed. But that’s OK. You need to listen patiently, without getting frustrated. Then, when her ‘emotional housekeeping’ is over, she will once again be able to see everything that’s great about her life . . . and you will be her noble hero.

Dear Mum-to-be

Now I won’t go so far as to say that men are more simple to understand than women but I will say that they are more straightforward. Theirs is a far more black-and- white world — that’s why they love us, for our colourfulness. Men have some pretty basic rules:

  • When your man is going into his ‘cave’ (as described in John Gray’s book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus) just back off and let him do his mulling. Don’t keep asking him what the matter is. Just shut up. Give him the space he needs to process his thoughts and ponder, because the more you talk, the longer he’ll take.
  • Don’t offer him advice, or try to force him to talk about it — just leave him alone. All he needs is space and peace right now. Later, he will return from his ‘cave’ as if nothing happened and nothing is wrong; and this is the right time to talk to him if you need to.
  • John Gray’s next golden rule is a beauty, because it’s so simple. When you want your man to do something, don’t start by asking him ‘Can you . . .’ or ‘Could you . . .’. Men unconsciously find that offensive, because it implies they may not be capable of doing the task to your exacting standards. Instead, when you need something done, start your sentence with ‘Would you . . .’ , ‘Will you . . .’ or simply ‘I need you to . . .’ — to a man, this is far more courteous!

This is important basic information for both sexes to understand about each other — though of course there are loads more resources such as books, courses and counselling available to assist couples with their relationships.

Now for a final gem of advice from John Gray’s book (it’s worth having your own copy):

One of the nicest things a woman can say to her man is ‘it’s not your fault’. Three of the nicest things a man can say to his woman are ‘Uh-huh’, ‘Oh’ and ‘Really’!

Excerpt from Kathy Fray’s best-selling book ‘OH BABY…Birth, Babies & Motherhood Uncensored’

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Kathy is a wife; mother of three; north Auckland self-employed midwife; weekly Parenting columnist; founding director of BabyOK™ Products (producers of the renowned Babe-Sleeper); and author of NZ’s No.1 guide for new mums “OH BABY…Birth, Babies & Motherhood Uncensored” and the sequel “OH GROW UP…Toddlers to PreTeens Decoded”. You can find out more about Kathy on her website.

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