Why Being A Parent AND A Spouse Is So Hard...


Why Being A Parent AND A Spouse Is So Hard...
Facing struggles that plague new parents when trying to balance marriage & parental responsibilities

Sophia stirs in her sleep as she hears the insistent whine from her daughter Jenny’s room. “Mommy, take me to the bathroom please…Mommy”. By this time Marcus is already wide awake. “Take her, please” he says “I have to be up in an hour”. It’s 4 am.

Now Sophia is wide awake. “She’s seven. She can learn to take herself” she snaps. Marcus angrily throws off the covers, and storms out to take Jenny downstairs to the bathroom. Once he comes back, the two argue until dawn, when Marcus heads off for his early start.


By the time they visited Imago relationship therapist, Marcia Ferstenfeld, for help, their relationship was verging on the rocks. “He just doesn’t know how to set limits” Sophia cried “It’s ruining our daughter.” Marcus muttered darkly under his breath “And your obsessive behavior is ruining our marriage.”

“I stop couples right there” Marcia told me, “and teach them a different way to talk about things called the Imago dialogue.”  Many couples have a great relationship until they become parents, and then suddenly to their horror they discover they have dramatically different ways of relating to their children. “One parent may take the role of the limit setter, whereas the other is eager to give the child space” she told me, “The Imago dialogue can be used to develop deeper understanding, and use a conflict like this as an opportunity for creating a deeper connection between everyone in the family."

Step 1: End blame and criticism
Parenting is a subject that people hold strong opinions about. It’s important to them to get this right. After all, a child’s future is at stake. So it’s natural to feel that it is right to criticize a partner who seems to be consistently spoiling the child with their lack of parenting skills, and to blame them when the child acts out. But to move forward as successful parents, the first step is to eliminate this negativity, and instead to shift the conversation so that you can reconnect.

Step 2: Become curious about what is going on for your partner
Marcia taught Sophia and Marcus the Imago dialogue, which is a safe way of talking about things which have a lot of emotional content, such as how to bring up your child.

Sophia started by explaining to Marcus why setting limits is important to her. Usually when I listen to someone I disagree with I use all my listening time to work out a good response. But using the Imago dialogue, Marcus was coached to just listen, and then show that he had heard by mirroring back Sophia’s words. Then he would ask “Is there more?”

Article contributed by

Imago Relationships


Imago Relationships International helps couples have the conversations they need to change their lives together.  We've been saving relationships for 30 years, ever since our co-founder Harville Hendrix, PhD wrote the best-seller "Getting The Love You Want".

Today you can find an Imago weekend workshop in 25 countries, or get help from over 1200 Certified Imago therapists.  We give you the communication skills and understanding you need to forge a deeper and more loving connection.

Try our some free relationship help online at www.GettingTheLoveYouWant.com

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: MA
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Dating/Being Single Support
Other Articles/News by Imago Relationships:

Schwarzenegger, Divorce, And An Old Joke About Directions


The break-up between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver reached such epic proportions of tragedy this week, that I prefer to start this post with a joke. I was visiting Washington, DC , and got horribly lost. I asked a passer-by directions to the White House. He looked me up and down and finally said "Well, I wouldn't start from ... Read more

We Love Each Other. How Can We Stop Fighting?


Lisa settles into the couch, rests her hand to her stomach, and smiles when she feels a tiny kick. Late afternoon sunlight filters across gleaming tables, and the neat array of family photos, and spotless ornaments. Minutes later she’s on her feet screaming abuse at Geoff. How could he come home like that, dump his coat onto the chair, grab a beer, ... Read more

Getting Your Sex Life Back In Gear

By ,

“Is it just a natural part of getting older together that our sex life is going the way of the Dodo?” asked Brenda and Simon. “We really care for each other, but on the rare times it happens, sex is pretty dull.” Tammy Nelson made quite a stir in 2008 with her book Getting the Sex You Want in which she applied Imago Relationship ... Read more

See More

Latest Expert Videos
Must-see Videos
Most Popular