‘I can’t stand being around my wife and child’
Tell me about it: Since our four-year-old daughter was born, I feel completely left out
You want to be at the centre of your family's lives, to be included, wanted and loved, but your actions mean you are getting the opposite. Photograph: iStock
Question: The marriage was good the first year. But things started to change after our kid was born. She is four years now and I find myself not happy at all around my spouse and the kid. And for the past six months, I even found myself disliking them being around me. I know it might be just my problem, and mine alone.
First, I hardly remember the last time the three of us sat down together to have a regular meal at home. My spouse wanted her own ‘healthy’ food that I can barely swallow. The other thing is the way the kid has her meal. She would finish her meal in a moderate speed if the food is what she likes to have, or it would take forever if it’s not. And sometimes, the kid would just say she’d done with dinner, and ask for snacks half an hour later, which I normally disagree with. As time goes on, I have stopped talking about this at all.
Second, for the past five years, starting with her pregnancy, I have found less and less common interests between me and my spouse. Before that, we used to watch TV shows, movies, or go out together. But now, there’s no good conversation between us. I have expressed my feelings, telling her that I do not feel like we are living together as a family. I felt like it’s her and the kid, and I am the person who is required when needed, and mostly in financial matters, as there’s no normal conversation, no common interests, nothing at all except the kid and her. And I have to find hobbies for myself to be at least somehow happy – tennis, guitars and piano are three major things I do in the extra time I have besides work.
Third, there’s no intimacy after her pregnancy. The couple of times she wanted sex it scared and disgusted me. Scared because she wanted to have a second child, and in a way it’s not intimacy but an ‘extreme request’. Disgusted because she sees the act as to ‘have’ another child instead of compassion or anything close to it.
These are just some of the things that makes me not feel well every day. And now I don’t really feel like I want to be at home. I am happier being at the office, having coffee/food with friends or even strangers, playing tennis with other people, or locked in my own room playing music.
I tried several times talking to my spouse about this, but seems to me nothing ever changes.
Answer: What you are experiencing is not uncommon when a first child is born. One spouse can feel very left out as the other bonds so completely with the child. However, children need both parents and any parenting course will educate and direct you in this area. In fact, it might be a great idea for you both to go to a parenting course as it would give you something to do as a couple and you would get expert advice that is not focused on either of you combatting with the other.
You are feeling excluded, lonely and unwanted and your spouse might be feeling alone in her parenting as you are distancing yourself from the home. This situation is unlikely to lead to romantic intimacy so it is important that you both face up to the reality that your relationship is on the brink of separation, but there is a lot you can do before that final step.
Does your partner know you miss romance and attraction? Have you asked her on a date and reminded her how attracted to her you are? You may need to emphasise how you much you appreciated your early couple-hood and instead of resenting its loss, you could invoke its beauty. If you distance yourself from your child, it is likely your spouse will make up for this loss by attaching herself even more to your toddler. Can you set up times when you are alone and enjoying your daughter? This will solidify your relationship with her and allow your spouse space to re-connect with her non-parent self.
Your current answer to your family issues is to remove yourself from your family and the effect of this is that they will feel abandoned and hurt. Is this what you wanted when you got married and set up a family?
It seems that what you want is to be at the centre of their lives, to be included, wanted and loved but your actions mean you are getting the opposite to this. There is no doubt that your family is in trouble but it only takes one person to initiate change and as you are the most dissatisfied, you are the one to take the initiative.
Book a parenting course for you and your wife. Tell her of your extreme unhappiness, ask for her help by inviting her to couples counselling with you (familytherapyireland.com). The loss of intimacy leaves you feeling hurt and rejected but there is no doubt your partner shares these sentiments but with different causes.
There is a way back to intimacy but only if one or both of you are willing to engage fully in changing your patterns. The small things, like mealtimes, are triggers for how excluded you both feel so these situations can be assisted by your commitment to creating a future together. Now is the time to fight for your family and make them feel the force of your desire for unity.