It’s tragic, but true, that the first baby often sinks a marriage. You’d think that it would be the other way around, that a baby would draw a husband and wife closer together. However, there are very good reasons why children in general, and babies in particular, tend to make marriages worse, not better.
It has to do with problem solving skills. Prior to the first arrival, a couple’s ability to resolve conflicts is not really put to the test. Peace and order usually reign in marriages before children arrive. There may be conflicts, but they are few and relatively easy to resolve. After the first child arrives, a couple is faced with conflicts they’ve never seen before, and they often do not have easy answers.
Dear Dr. Harley,
I have a 3 month old son, who I love sooo much that I’m having mixed feelings about going back to work full time. I’d like to find something part time or work at home if possible. My husband is now bearing the stress of only one income coming into the house and sometimes he drives me crazy with his constant complaining about money.
I’m getting to the point where I am starting to resent him. I want to know if this is normal when you have one working partner and the other partner is currently staying at home to take care of the baby. I lose my patience with him and I also get mad that when he comes home, he only plays with the baby a little bit and then gives him to me to hold or calm down. I’ve tried explaining to him that when he comes home, it feels good for someone else to take care of the baby so I can do other things, like take a shower or watch TV. I don’t know if I am into a type of postpartum depression or what but I need some input on why I’m starting to resent him.
Since you became pregnant with your first child, your life has completely changed. Your goals have probably changed, your needs have probably changed and your resources have undoubtedly changed. All these changes have required you and your husband to make new decisions every day. And with every decision you make, there is a risk of conflict between your interests and the interests of your husband.
Your new baby has forced you into a new lifestyle. He has been a 24 hour a day responsibility from the moment he was born, and your life will never be the same. Your letter reflects the stress you and your husband are under trying to adjust to your new way of life.
Your letter also reflects a growing resentment. You feel abandoned by your husband when you need him most. Here you are faced with one of the most demanding and stressful responsibilities of your life, and where is the man? Watching TV, no doubt. Then, to make matters worse, he is grousing about not having much money since you took a leave of absence from your job to care for your baby. Why hasn’t he been more supportive of you during the first three months of your son’s life? Why does he seem distant at a time that you want him to be emotionally connected to you?
The answer to those questions is found in the way you and your husband make decisions. With every problem you face, there are an array of solutions. You have solutions and your husband has solutions. A reasonable solution for you may not be reasonable for your husband. What may work to your advantage, may work to his disadvantage. When that happens, you have a conflict.
Conflicts are very common in marriage, but much more common when the first baby arrives. That’s because you become flooded with new decisions that must be made quickly, decisions you’ve never had to make before. It is the first real test of your problem-solving skills.
The success of your marriage will depend on your ability to resolve your conflicts with mutual consideration. That means whenever a decision needs to be made, the feelings of both you and your husband must be taken into account.
Sadly, that’s not the way most married couples resolve their conflicts. If you bear with me, I’ll first explain what most couples do to try to resolve their conflicts, and then I’ll explain what couples should do. Finally, I will give you some advice regarding the care of your baby.
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