Case Study 1 – A Case Story

Raymond and Sheila

Saturday morning, three weeks after the birth of their twins, Raymond awakes early, stretches and announces to Sheila that he has made plans for a long bike ride with three buddies. He plans to be back in the early afternoon. Sheila was stunned. Home with the babies all week, she has been waiting for Saturday. She expects to be together as a family. She is also looking forwards to time for herself — a bath or time to finally have an uninterrupted phone conversation.

A year later, she points to that morning as a turning point in her relationship with Raymond. Increasingly, she feels left on her own, unsupported by Raymond. Her most intimate conversations are with other new mothers. Raymond, on the other hand, feels his life is going well, except that Sheila seems increasingly irritable. She is much less attentive to him than she used to be; she always seems to be so tired. He sees her as tender and sensitive with the babies but neglectful of him.

What happened to their relationship? One way of thinking about that Saturday morning is to reflect on gender socialization. Many heterosexual couples, before they have children, create relationships different from those they witnessed a generation before. They examine traditional relationships and decide, at least in some ways, to do things differently.

But once a child is added to the mix, many couples unwittingly find themselves falling into traditional parenting roles. In the process they may lose the initial relationship they carved out for themselves. Prior to parenthood, for example, Raymond and Sheila prided themselves on their negotiating skills. However, once Sheila became a stay-at-home mom, assumptions rather than negotiations became the rule. As a result, communication and eventually, imtimacy eroded.

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