How Can I Learn To Love The Amazing Man In My Life?
Having a baby is an amazing experience, but most parents will admit that adjusting to parenthood can take some time.
One of our readers is struggling to fully commit to her relationship and to family life. Margaret Dunne, our sex and relationship expert, has some advice:
My partner and I have been together for two and a half years and have a beautiful nine-month-old daughter together. She is my absolute world and I am so thankful to my partner for helping me bring her into the world. He is an absolutely incredible father. But part of me has always struggled to fully fall for him. I love him for giving me my daughter, but I’m not sure if I am fully in love with him and it breaks my heart. I think it might be because he is not the type of man I had envisaged myself being with. As wonderful as he is, he just doesn’t tick all of my boxes. We met after I had been dumped by my ex, and had lots of fun and really clicked in terms of similar interests and values. My pregnancy was a bit of a surprise to say the least! I am not completely over my ex. How can I move on and learn to love the amazing man I have in my life?
People often look back on previous relationships with rose-tinted glasses. From my experience working with clients, they often feel that they cannot fully move on because they still “hold a torch” for their ex. Some connect with their ex on Facebook or similar social media and almost invariably end up disappointed, hurt or disillusioned as re-engaging in the relationship or trying to rekindle the relationship does not work out or make them happy.
You say that your partner “doesn’t tick all of my boxes”. You also say that, “he is not the type of man I had envisaged myself being with”. How many people can say that their partner ticks all of their boxes or meets all of their requirements and needs? It sounds like you had a preconceived perception of the man you were going to spend your life with. As human beings we grow and develop and sometimes we outgrow ideas we had previously and other priorities become more important.
Someone once said “you can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want”. I believe that to be a very helpful mental attitude both in life and in relationships. It enables you to focus on the priorities that are truly important to you – in terms of what you wish to achieve and make of your life but also in seeking a life partner with the attributes that are truly life-giving to your relationship.
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There has to be a bit of flexibility in the relationship and in how you relate to your partner. If a relationship is to last, it must progress to something deeper than infatuation. It must progress to a state where both of you are active, not passive participants. We often talk about falling in love as if it was something that happens to you – that you did nothing, that you were a victim, that it just overcame you and you did not enable it in any way. This is in fact just infatuation and is the first stage in a relationship.
The next phase of a relationship is where there is power adjustment between the two people in the relationship. This is the stage where each person in the couple learns to compromise on everything to do with the relationship from needs through wants to wishes. This is the phase where relationships often break up as the couple or either of the people in it cannot compromise, or the power struggle never resolves satisfactorily and the rows never finish.
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The third phase of the development of a relationship is mutual respect and this is when the romance has now matured and stabilised. At this stage, you recognise that your partner is the person most qualified to help you grow and to become your best self.
The fourth phase is acceptance – there are no more mind games at this stage. You can be honest and know that you are fully accepted as you are.
The final phase is equilibrium and this is where the couple are on the same team and are ready to face challenges together.
What strikes me is that you have in fact got through a lot of these phases already. You say that you have both really clicked in terms of similar interests and values. That is very important. You really cannot overestimate how critical it is to have similar interests and values as your partner. In the end, your partner should be a really good friend. It sounds as if there is already a lot in your relationship and it may be that you need to change your attitude from being somewhat passive and wishing him to fill all your needs to a state where you more actively engage in the relationship to build on the positive attributes it has.
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In short, I would encourage you to focus on the positives of your relationship. You may wish to choose to enjoy what you have rather than what you perceive yourself as not having. You seem to enjoy his company and have fun. Don’t forget that having a baby, while a tremendously positive event, does have a significant effect on the relationship. Allow yourselves to find your feet again in your relationship. Your daughter is only nine months old and time is on your side to actively encourage a deepening of your relationship and to enjoy the qualities of your partner that you like best.
Margaret Dunne is an accredited psychotherapist who specialises in fertility, psychosexual and relationships therapy. She has twenty years’ experience as a fertility counsellor and psychotherapist. Margaret has appeared on various radio shows. www.sextherapydublin.com