• Relationship Advice

Published in Client Stories by John Smith on September 10th 2021

There will hopefully never be another time like 2020-2021, when our lives have been so confined.

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Since nobody is going out, why not have fun staying in?

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I’m fed up of you saying you’re tired whenever I try it on

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There's more to secual intimacy than sexual intercourse

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Read more …Test On Friday

Adopting Together TCCR

In the movies, the moment when a parent adopts their longed-for child generally comes at the end of the film, the ‘happily ever after’ moment. However of course, in real life, adoption and parenthood in general just aren’t that simple.  Theo and Marie* have been together for over 10 years.They made the decision to adopt 5 years ago and were matched with twin girls, Rosa and Marta whom they have had for 2 years.

Here, they tell us about the challenges they have experienced after adopting, forming a new family, how it affected their relationship as a couple and how counselling from the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships could have helped them to adjust to family life.

Before the adoption

Although our relationship was strong, the idea that we might not have children put a strain on us as it felt like we were both part of a jigsaw puzzle that had missing pieces. The decision to adopt was one that helped galvanise us. It was a good job we were so together and strong as we entered the road ahead. We simply couldn’t have foreseen the emotional twists of the adoption process, hand in hand with the heavy administration demands of the process and the sheer time commitment.

The latter part of the process of contact with the girls was what we thought it would be, exciting, nerve wracking and ultimately exhilarating. If we were honest we had been through so many different assessments and meetings and had read so much materials as well as talking to other parents we felt ‘ready’ as could be. The other side of the picture – when the girls were ours – seemed like something that would be more natural and simple. We weren’t exactly keen to consider the more difficult possible consequences of our new life.

Having the girls

Like any parents we devoted as many waking hours (and some non-waking!) to the twins. Our fantastic girls needed us and we went to every length to give them maximum love and support. With the whirlwind of friends family as well as new working patterns the first few months proved the most intense of our relationship. Although we didn’t immediately have time to think about it, there were warning signs.

Because our lives had been relatively ordered and tranquil prior to become adoptive parents we had always talked and communicated a lot about our relationship issues a great deal so disagreements and misunderstandings were few and far between. However it’s only when we look back on it now that we see that the growing number of small niggles were developing. It was something we were not used to.

In the midst of our sky high expectations of life as a family, we both seemed to forget that we still had a relationship to take care of too.

Somehow we had assumed it would all be alright, but we both had the sense that things were now different. For instance, we knew our social life would change but we stopped doing things together almost totally without the children.

Pressure on our relationship

The result was I felt resentment building up about a series of seemingly unrelated issues, such as, the time Theo got home, how often we were seeing the grandparents, and what food to give the kids, any number of issues really. Because of the demanding and tiring nature of young children the argument points were often at stressed stages of the day – bedtime, nap time, when the children were unhappy.

It took us a while but when we finally started to talk we worked out that there were a whole host of unanswered questions and concerns about our roles that we were storing up and not airing and they were bottling up and stifling open communication. These were pushing us apart as a couple and creating doubt and questions in our relationship, such as:

Am I being a good parent?

  • Have the role changes (Theo carried on working while I stayed at home) shifted the balance of our relationship, this relates to money, housework, sexual patterns
  • Why didn’t we prepare for this – should we have spent more time planning our response to adoption?
  • How do we even approach talking about the challenges and negatives – no one wanted to put a ‘downer’ on things!
  • Are we different being adoptive parents – are our problems unique or common?
  • Are our children more challenging or is our anxiety transmitting to them and affecting their behaviour?
  • Is it normal to argue this much?

We reached the point where we realised that we needed to bring ourselves together, but it was so hard finding the right balance between relationship and parenting.

Taking action – realising we were not alone

We still are not sure how we reached that ‘stop a minute point’. Eventually it seemed obvious that we just needed to stop going round our own ever decreasing circles and start to do what was normal for us, share experiences and ‘get out there’.

The first thing we did was build a small local network of fellow adopters, which we built off our own back.

Sharing experiences with other adopted parents was really helpful, especially those with kids the same age. The old cliché of a problem aired comes to mind, but what was refreshing for us was the different range of experiences we could talk about and the variety of help and titbits we shared. For instance we didn’t know that as parents of looked after children we were eligible for up to 15 hours of term time free childcare from the term after they are 2 (rather than 3 for from birth children.) and this isn’t widely communicated. Once you start sharing information like that it doesn’t take long for the more emotional issues to come to the fore too. Very quickly we built some strong friendships.

These friendships enabled us to share our problems and also freed up space for us to talk about adoption and address them together. We would continually find that our friends too had far les time for themselves and shared anxieties about being a proper ‘couple’ again and that on its own made us feel better!

Then there were more particular aspects of the new family that we found methods to cope with by talking to our group. For example, bonding issues were important to share. With adopting speaking and walking children, the rejection can seem more hurtful to the parent and dealing with that can be tough. If you have only had the children weeks or months, when they reject you and don’t want you to do things for them or want to push you away this seems more hurtful than if it was a child you have had from a baby. Many of the people we talked to expressed their surprise at how tough this was and the lack of advice on offer.

While we have those adoptive families locally that we still keep close contact with, it was vitally important to have and keep friends with natural birth children. It was a really valuable reality check that all kids are the same and doing the same things at the same time. As we are outgoing we found this easy when we focused on it but it can often be difficult breaking into the mother/child groups as friendship groups were often formed from birth.

Professional support – this could have helped

Over the last two years we have talked to many couples who really struggled and depended on the stretched resources of their social worker for support, which they could not always offer. One thing that is true for nearly all adoptive parents. After the final court order, the social workers disappear and it is all down to you.

We wish there had been some professional help with our relationship afterwards rather than having to find out for ourselves. Our extended networks took us from a place of questioning to feeling really more connected and happier as people and parents, but with the amazing journey of adoption you are never far from the next extra challenge.

Overall, our relationship is now strong and we are able to reflect on the most rewarding two years of our lives One thing is for sure though– children and parents need more support in order for the new family to bond and also to show how the adult relationship can thrive at the same time, to create the new family unit.

*Theo and Marie are pseudonyms to protect the identity of the couple and their children.

PaPCaseStudyMainsmediaWe first started to experience problems in our relationship a few months after our daughter Sophie was born in 2013. Things were blissful after her birth, but by the time she was nine months old we were at breaking point. Our relationship was in crisis and things become very ugly very quickly. There would be constant resentful arguments and angry outbursts and we were so worried that this would affect Sophies's well-being.

We decided to do an online search for counselling and contacted a couples counselling service we had heard of before. We made enquiries with a couple of different counsellors to find that not only were they really expensive, but the waiting times to see a counsellor was far too long – we needed help right away. After some further research we came across the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships. We met with Rosemary who suggested the Parents as Partners Programme (PAP). We were told that the programme was free and that a crèche facility and meals would be provided as part of the sessions. The PAP team checked that we met the eligibility criteria and conducted some simple assessments, and before we knew it we were accepted onto the programme.

We were told that a key part of the programme would be group sessions led by a group worker and other couples. We were told that we would get to share our experiences and learn from other couples in similar situations. We went to the first session extremely apprehensive and not knowing what to expect. We only knew that we needed to be there and that we would try anything to break our patterns of destructive behaviour.

It turned out that the group was the most important support for us. It quickly became a safe place where we could share with other couples the issues that were negatively affecting our relationship. From the group sessions we learned the tools we needed in order to live through our differences in a healthy way. Through real world examples and testimony of conflict scenarios we shared, commented on and observed our real lives as couples within the group.

As well as the group sessions we have had really valuable home visits from our case worker Valentina. She has enabled us to bring our difficulties to the surface in our own home and is helping us live more positively.

Since starting the programme our lives have improved immeasurably. We are able to address our problems and negotiate solutions in a peaceful way and we are also much more aware of anticipating the best times to address issues. We have become a stronger family unit capable of coping well with the work of parenting. An important skill we have learnt is how to communicate effectively. This has really enabled us to deal with differences and find solutions without launching into an attack or becoming silent. We have also learnt the importance of confiding in each other and becoming allies rather than enemies. We have discovered that recognising each others capabilities, accepting each others differences and expressing our needs in a positive way, are all the things we need to become great parents. We are both now able to enjoy the beauty of our son in a happy and healthy home.

Every day we are putting into practice what we have learnt and we are taking steps to improve our future. Valentina is also supporting us in going forward and securing our future as a couple and as parents. We have found a happy place these last few months, but most importantly we are giving Sophie a happy childhood.

We feel very lucky to have been given the generous support of Family Action through its Parents as Partners Programme. Liz, Hendrix and Valentina have provided practical professional and sensitive information throughout the course. The programme has been a gift for us – an education which we will never forget. We were so impressed with the programme and it far exceeded our expectations. We would tell any couple in a situation like ours not to hesitate in joining the Parents as Partners Programme.

 

Grace and Pavel approached Tavistock Relationships for help with their parenting.

At that time they were separated but Pavel was angry and upset because he felt Grace was preventing him seeing their 2 year old daughter, Summer. Grace and Pavel had never lived together and had only known each other a few months when Grace fell pregnant. For the first year, Pavel came to see summer most days and had spent a lot of time supporting Grace, both financially and emotionally.

Read more …Grace & Pavel’s Story

Jenny and Ahmet phoned Tavistock Relationships in August 2009. They asked for an urgent appointment and after an assessment session they were offered sessions with a counsellor called Jo.

Jenny and Ahmet had been having a rough time since his mother had come to stay from Turkey. Ahmet’s father had died in February and his mother, feeling lonely and sad had asked to if she could spend an extended holiday with them. She had been staying since April and while Jenny was keen to be supportive and caring, she was finding living with her mother-in-law very stressful.

Read more …Jenny & Ahmet’s Story

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