Dealing with the challenges life can throw up

THERE are predictable and unpredictable lifecycle stages in the lives of couples and families.

Moving through these stages can be painful because along with joy, there is usually an associated loss, or threat to current attachments. For example, when a couple has a baby, they mourn the end of the couple relationship as it has existed - knowing it will never be the same again.

Often this kind of grief isn't talked about, and the couple don't acknowledge the impact of such a monumental change on their relationship. Each lifecycle stage involves people coming into the family system (a new baby) or leaving the family system (an adult child moving out, or the death of a family member), or shades of this, for example, entering kindergarten or retirement.

Each of these stages demands an emotional shift to manage the required developmental tasks, for example, when a couple has a child, there is an emotional process in accepting a new member into the family.

The associated developmental tasks include joining together in childrearing, financial, and household tasks, and realigning relationships in the extended family to include parenting and grandparenting roles.

There can be stress and anxiety associated with these transition points that can result in individuals displaying behaviours that can significantly impact on the couple's relationship.

One of the times posing the highest risk of separation is when a couple has young children. There is often little time for the couple to spend on their relationship. Parenting is hands-on and intensive and, it can be a financially stressful time, where often only one parent is working, and the family has to meet mortgage repayments, and other financial commitments.

There is potential for any of these stages to be threatening to the couple's relationship as it adapts to change and moves forward, because it's also important to consider stress and anxiety that is handed down from generation to generation in the form of family taboos, loaded issues, legacies, patterns of relating, and loyalties.

These times of change can be difficult to navigate and if you feel that your relationship needs extra support during such times, Relationships Australia offers a range of services to assist you. Please call 1300 364 277 or visit our website

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