In the postpartum period when emotions are running high and sleep is practically nonexistent, it’s easy for feelings to be hurt and tempers to flare. Research by relationship expert John Gottman, PhD, has shown that the first three minutes of a conflict discussion can predict the way the rest of the conversation will go. “So, it’s important that you try to bring up issues in the ‘softest’ way possible,” cautions Gottman Bringing Baby Home educator Katy Johnson Brookes.
When it’s time to sit down and hash it out, begin by expressing appreciation and understanding for your partner. The goal is to convey a “team” approach, Brookes says. For example: “I know it’s stressful and unpredictable being home with the baby, and I think you’re doing such a great job. But I do feel frustrated that you didn’t take out the garbage these last two weeks. What do we need to do to make sure it gets out?”
“When bringing up an issue with your partner, remember to complain, rather than blame,” suggests Brookes. “this means focusing on the issue at hand and how you feel about it, rather than attacking your partner personally.” For example: “I’m upset because I haven’t showered or eaten all day, and you came in and started watching TV without asking if I needed help,” instead of “You don’t even think to ask me if I need anything. You’re so selfish!”
When listening to your partner, steer clear of defensiveness. Try to find any part of his complaint that you can agree with. Show him that you understand his point of view and don’t think it’s totally invalid. (you’re looking for middle ground, not to win the argument. “me to we,” reminds brookes.) For example, if your partner says, “You are never home. I’m all alone with the baby, and you do nothing to help,” you may say, “I know it’s hard for you to be home alone. I feel extra pressure to work long hours now that I am the main breadwinner. But maybe we need to talk about how we can get by on less, or how we can get you more company or help in the daytime.”