For five years my wife and I courted each other. We loved each others company, whether it was a night on the couch with the TV, or grocery shopping. Wild sex in every room of the house, unbridaled, horny college boy girl sex. Then we get married (2007) and things are still hot and heavy, relationship going well. We were both great at keeping up with chores around the house, pulling our own weight. She'd cook dinner, I'd do the dishes, etc... Sure we argued, but nothing out of the ordinary. Three more happy years pass and then we have our first child.
After our daughters birth, and everyday since then, an alien has taken over my wife's brain. An angry, upset alien, who consistently looks at me with contempt and resentment, rather than love. The atmosphere in our home is now always tense, with a fight just one comment away. Words are chosen carefully by each of us and received with scrutiny. Our simplest daily interactions are cautiously handled because the slightest good morning or other salutation could be a setup for attack.
Since our daughters birth, I increased my house chores double time to help out with the child rearing, I try so hard to be supportive of her, helping anywhere I can to raise our daughter, nothing changes the situation. And I'm not talking about our sex life, which has changed drastically for the worse, but that's not my main concern.
Will my wife's attitude towards me ever resurface? The one who enjoyed my company? I could go on for 20 more paragraphs, but I'd like any feedback from the community. Are other new fathers going through this? Do any women on here have suggestions on how I can salvage our relationship? Any constructive comments would be appreciated. Thank you so much.
I only know it from the other end. I became much crankier about 2 years ago. It didn't relate to babies, and I knew it was not her fault. The fact that I had done so much personal-growth work helped a lot, because I knew that just because I felt cranky didn't mean it was someone else's fault.
We did a few sessions of marriage counseling. She was able to get that I was working hard to deal with this free-floating anger, and appreciate that when I shut down and didn't say much, it wasn't to punish her, it was to prevent me from saying anything unkind. As for me, I didn't gain much from that, but eventually from an online 6-week seminar on anger.
And yet I suspect that won't be her answer, at least at the start. I had done enough personal growth work to know that anger usually comes from displacement from the past. Identifying who you're REALLY angry at is the start. I did my work largely through ManKind Project (see the New Warriors AoM group), but that's not for her (or any other "her," it being a men's org).
I have heard, and believe, that one of the good things in marriage counseling is when the counselor asks about what marriage was like early on, and both spouses remember nice things, thus reminding themselves life doesn't have to be angry and stressed.
You'll also get some advice to have a date night, and better yet a date weekend. Given what you're saying, I'd say: it's good advice. Just don't expect it to be like old times when you go out, since you have to take some time to unload the stress before you can feel together -- at least, I do.
There's also the issue of stress. No matter how much you help her, your wife has just been through a lot of sleeplessness and a new role in life. She may just have a lot of crankiness because of that, and you're target #1, being the main adult in her life.
You didn't say how long ago your daughter was born. If she's less than 1 year, then your wife is possibly experiencing post-partum depression (let a licensed physician diagnose it). It's very common in women after the birth of a baby. Their body is once again reconfiguring itself - this time to not having the extra person(s), to which nutrients must be diverted. It's more than just "the blues". I really don't want to scare you, but in extreme cases of PPD, mothers have done some pretty nasty things.
I'm not a doctor. I don't present myself as one. It may not be PPD. But I'm the father of 3. My wife experienced it. See if your wife will go either to the ob-gyn who handled the delivery, or to her regular doctor, and talk to him or her about this.
Yes, it will get better!
I agree with Will and Larry, except PPD can manifest up to 2 years after birth. Like most mental illnesses, it's highly treatable.
TWO years? OH MY GOODNESS! FOR REAL?
Thanks Rebekah! I would not have known that!
The answer partially depends on how long ago the kid was born. All mothers go through the baby blues for a while after the baby is born. It is a combination of exhaustion, frustration, panic, occasional disappointment (being a mother is a lot harder than she though) ... and, possibly most importantly, she's coming off a nine-month hormone high. If you're still in the first year or so after the baby is born, just give her some time. It gets easier. She's still getting used the the schedule. She'll come around ... especially once the baby starts sleeping through the night.
If it is really severe, or really long-term -- checking into the possibility of post-partum depression isn't a bad idea. If she's hurting the baby, herself, or you (or may do so) ... then post-partum psychosis is an outlier possibility.
My first paragraph said "partially" because the rest of my answer doesn't depend on when the baby was born. You need to find a way to unplug yourselves from the kid. Get her out of the house on non-baby-related activities. Give her a chance to reconnect with you and with the marriage. Take her on date nights. Talk with her, adult conversation, after the kid falls asleep (but, don't keep her awake). Make sex a priority. Try to romance her some, but don't think its all got to be rose petals and opera music. When you've got a sleeping infant and a sleepy wife, you need to seize the day. Carpe wifem. Also ... you'd be surprised how far an occasional kiss on the neck or hand-holding can go. Women generally need several affectionate non-sexual (i.e. going nowhere) touches a day to feel loved -- so make sure she's getting them.
Y'all just need to make the marriage a priority again. The best thing you can do for the baby is to keep your marriage solid -- it is the foundation of the baby's life.
A note on chores: I know, I know, it's one of those feminine mysteries. But it's not enough to just do chores. You have to do the right chores. Maybe the dishes are nagging her. But maybe it's the laundry. Different people have different un-articulated standards for what substances make them feel icky, clutter toleration, nutrition standards, whether dishes can be left in the sink overnight, how often to change sheets, etc. If you've always had plenty of time for chores before, the 2 of you may never have had to think about this stuff, let alone talk about it. It takes a lot of self-knowledge to be able to express your chore priorities.
And Ryan, you know, it's not just about the chores, or being generally supportive. This is such an important time in your relationship -- in your life, and your wife's life -- you need to find that endless internal energy and channel it into doing MORE than is needed, or asked. Breakfast in bed. Glasses of water or healthy smoothies (breastfeeding is seriously dehydrating). Supporting your wife by letting her get as much sleep as possible. You need to put yourself in your wife's position and realise, really realise, just how physically and mentally taxing this first year (and those thereafter, but less so) is on her. It's seriously intense! Pregnancy, then birth, and now constant nurture for your beautiful, defenceless little girl. I have infinite respect for women.
Think of it as an energy imbalance. Your wife is putting all of her energy into nurturing your child, and may even be feeling a lot of pressure from you (are you asking for her attention? Even unconsciously? Now is not the time for ego!). You need to fill that gap with your own extra energy. Will yourself to be the absolute best husband and father you can be. Go beyond what is expected.
Apologies if this is out of line, or doesn't apply to your current situation (like the others said, we don't know how old your daughter is)... It's just general advice based on my past year (we have a beautiful 9 & 1/2 month old girl - Alba). I hope you both begin to find your way again.
Welcome to the "club".
What you got going on is that brew up of she can't do everything she wants to do, you're both sleep deprived, and of course, you can't do any household anything exactly the "right" way. It will get better.
One question, do either of you have some fairly close family members who could give you two a break, even if it's just for lunch every so often? That is always a huge help, and often all that's needed to break the tension you describe.
"Malt does more than Milton can,
to justify God's ways to man."
My wife sent this to me. I was actually thinking along the same lines. http://www.workingmother.com/me-time/5-steps-real-intimacy
Things are different now, you have kids, it is a different mode. Accept that and build stronger bonds. Have her read it an buy into planning time to snuggle and re-establish the bonds you both have for each other.
The relationship is salvageable but in our high speed lives tied to devices and not each other it is easy to let the connections slip to the point you exist beside each other rather then with each other.
Others have already mentioned help with chores, making sure parenting doesn't squeeze out alone time together, being extra supportive, and Post-Partum Depression. All of those are the types of suggestions that get the most air time in these situations, and for good reason.
Subsequent to those, consider these additional perspectives:
Despite the extra strain that moms assume when they become parents, they are still responsible for their attitudes. She doesn't get a pass on her bad behavior just because parenting is a tough job.
Is it possible that in your efforts to be understanding and supportive of your wife's newfound emotional struggles you've gone too far by catering to and being controlled by them? A woman can grow to disrespect and resent a man who caters to her unreasonable attitudes and emotional outbursts.
It sounds like you're being an above average husband and father by doing "double time" with chores and support. You should be proud of that even if it doesn't have the desired impact on your wife's attitude. I hope that you apply these extra efforts in a positive, charismatic, and self-respecting way, acknowledging to yourself that she's a lucky woman to have a guy like you.
Another way to look at it: Are you leading by the example of your emotional stability as you contribute to your relationship, or are you allowing her behavior to control yours? Self-pity is relationship poison.