September 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm , by Lauren Piro
A death in the family could easily put a new relationship on the fast-track. Add becoming parents into the mix you’d hardly recognize your own life. Alison, 31, and Trevor, 35, had only been dating eight months when his sister, Yvette, was killed and they were left to raise Yvette’s four-year-old son, Donovan. Years later, they’re still overwhelmed with grief and the parental learning curve, creating a schism that has each questioning their relationship—big time. Read the full story in our October issue, on newsstands now.
Alison’s turn: After Yvette died, Alison immediately stepped up to be a mother to Donovan, but feels like Trevor isn’t even trying. She knows he’s grieving, but can’t understand why he isn’t acting a like a father figure for his nephew, who desperately needs love as well as discipline. Trevor won’t even talk about Yvette and his pain, and Alison feels abandoned. She’d rather spend time with friends, they never have sex, and she feels like taking on the role of Donovan’s mom without Trevor’s support has left her lost. She won’t leave Donovan without a mom again, and that’s the only reason she wants to stay in her marriage.
Trevor’s turn: Yvette’s death crushed him—she was his closest friend. He wishes he could be as close to Donovan as Alison (and knows he’s lucky Alison’s there for his nephew), but one look at them playing together and all he can think of is his dead sister. Unlike Alison, he’s a laid back, deal-with-it-later kind of guy and feels attacked when she pushes him to talk about his grief. He doesn’t feel comfortable talking about personal stuff before he’s ready, and Yvette was the only one he trusted because she didn’t push. And don’t get him started on Alison’s demands that he help more with household chores. He’ll pitch in when asked, but stonewalls when Alison picks these little fights as a way to channel her anger at him for how he’s been acting. Still, he thinks that because they’ve been through so much, maybe they still have a shot at making it work.
The counselor’s turn: Trevor and Allison’s core problem was one that many couples may struggle with at one point or another: a break-down in communication. Because they differ in how they cope with and solve problems, each thought they were being clear about what they expected from each other, but neither was really listening. Trevor was willing to help with chores and raising Donovan, but he needed Allison to make him a list and not blow up at him for things he didn’t even realize he was doing wrong. Alison needed recognition and emotional support from Trevor, but felt betrayed when her super-private husband wasn’t up to talking about his feelings. Their relationship became a pressure cooker of hurt and anger. Counseling helped them move past the day-to-day fights over chores and parenting (Allison finally did make that list for Trevor), and start understanding their insecurities and the pain they were causing each other. When Alison gave Trevor space to deal with Yvette’s death on his own, eventually he did open up with his feelings. Today, by sticking with counseling, their relationship is stronger and easier, and they both feel they have a partner in life again.
Did your marriage change drastically once you had children? Tell us in the comments section below.
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