Tag Archives: Pregnancy

‘Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife?’

exhausted-mother

Exhausted Wife wrote: “So I recently read your open letter to shitty husbands, and actually got my husband to read them too. It is like you are writing about our relationship. Completely accurate. A little scary actually and makes me feel sad for us because I can see the same end result happening. We’ve been together for five years, married for less than one, have a 2-year-old and one on the way.
He said that reading your letters was eye opening, and seemed to be making some solid changes… yet here we are a couple of weeks later and the same patterns resurfacing. Leaving all ‘tough’ stuff on me regarding taking care of our son, sitting on his phone/laptop constantly; myself and my son being ignored while he’s watching videos, playing video games, etc. He also has ADHD and knows these distractions cause problems, yet continues to do them. Recently began taking medication to help his ADHD, however I don’t believe that it’s making much difference.
I am at a loss for what to do. I’ve tried everything I can, begged him to change his priorities, tried to make deals with him so he gets some ‘down time,’ given as much as I can, withheld and distanced myself, gotten mad, threatened to leave, left and came back. It’s the same old story.
I’m 7 months pregnant, take care of my son full-time, work part-time and spent an hour and a half the other night trying to get my son to sleep while my husband watched videos in bed. Afterwards, because I was upset, he offered to put him to sleep the next night and give me a break, but it doesn’t change the fact that I needed him the night before but his need to relax was more important than mine. I don’t know how to get through to him. I don’t know if I can even.
Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife? I am afraid that things are never going to change and I’m wasting my time and energy with a man who is more selfish than I can handle.”

This is what the average marriage looks like and why so many are creeping toward divorce.

The classic reasons a husband drove his wife to leave him (or to become seduced by another man giving her attention) tended to be some combination of infidelity, abuse and neglect. Behaviors we all looked at and universally thought: “Wow. What an asshole!”

The majority of modern divorces aren’t like that. They’re just two regular people we all know and believed were a great couple until one of our mutual friends tells us over lunch: “Oh my God. Did you hear that Katie and Mark are getting divorced? They seemed so great together!”

Most broken marriages today fall into the generic silo of “Irreconcilable Differences.”

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what that meant. I was raised in a conservative Catholic household where divorce was considered sinful. So, mom, why did you leave dad and move us 500 miles away when I was in preschool? I often wondered.

It scared me that I might one day learn that dad cheated on mom, or hit her, or was a neglectful prick (which would have been super-inconsistent with my experiences with him).

And it turns out, none of those things happened. They just “couldn’t make it work.”

My parents were really young and poor. We lived in an Iowa trailer park.

Two kids in their early 20s trying to raise a kid and do the right thing.

I was married four years before my son was born, and my ex might disagree, but I have predominately fond memories of our pre-child marriage. The adjustment from two people doing whatever they want, to everything we do now has a “is this okay for our child?” backdrop to it, is dramatic.

I can’t even fathom how hard it must have been on two young people who knew each other for less than a year.

Historically, mothers bear the greatest burden when children are conceived. They carry the child, deliver the child, try to figure out what the shit is happening inside their minds and bodies as their hormone levels and body chemistry freak out without warning while they also secretly worry about their sexual desirability with their post-pregnancy bodies, and—oh yeah—have a new human being to raise from ages 0-18+ with no instruction manual, and it’s absolutely terrifying at first.

More things change in a permanent and scary way for mothers following the birth of a child than they do for fathers.

So many of the child-rearing responsibilities in our kids’ first year of life fall into the category of what chauvinistic and sexist men overtly or secretly consider “women’s work.” Things like feeding, and clothing, and bathing. Our grandmothers and mothers did it, so we just grew up thinking it was “the way” and ended up dumping our wives with more responsibilities without ever wondering whether it was fair, actively volunteering to help, expressing our gratitude, or providing the emotional and spiritual support necessary to help them not break down.

We men hold our babies and we feel the intense love we have for them. That’s real. But we’re often daydreaming about when they’re bigger three or four years from now so we can start doing all the “dad” stuff with them we remember doing with our fathers. That’s the stuff that really gives us the feels.

We look at our wives caring for our children and we feel the intense love we have for them. That’s real. But we’re often daydreaming about spontaneous weekend getaways, and spontaneous sex against the bathroom vanity, but most importantly—the way things used to be when she was totally into me.

Little known secret: Men often feel neglected and abandoned when their children are born and take all of their wife’s attention from him. But because, A. We love our children above all things, and B. We’re prideful and consider whining for the attention and adoration we crave a sign of weakness, we never tell anyone about it.

New fathers leave an unfair amount of work and responsibility to their wives because that’s often the arrangement they saw play out in their family, in other families, and on TV while growing up.

New mothers resent it, and when they finally break emotionally and say something about it, it comes off harsh and overly emotional, and us husbands—already tender from the radical and unexpected transformation in our relationship with her—react with prideful defensiveness, and withdraw emotionally, because that’s what we do when we feel shame from our partner’s disapproval.

The husband doesn’t understand how much he’s failing her emotionally, and that his cultural examples of mom taking care of everything was some seriously unfair bullshit, or that it’s an ineffective model for making relationships work in 2016. He’s just obliviously derpy-derping through life.

The wife doesn’t understand that his emotional abandonment and failure to meet her needs are NOT the actions of someone who doesn’t love her and can’t be counted on as a lifelong parenting, sexual, and financial partner. They are the actions of a self-centered, oblivious, entitled, immature guy who—with effective communication techniques and the right information—can become marriage-centered, reliable, thoughtful and empathetic.

‘It is like you are writing about our relationship. Completely accurate. A little scary actually and makes me feel sad for us because I can see the same end result happening.’

Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Stuff happens, then we all have a natural reaction. That needs to be okay, even when we don’t always understand one another.

However, I think the statement above is the wrong (and unecessarily cynical) way to think about it.

I had spent months sleeping in the guest room while my marriage inched toward doomsday before I started to get serious about figuring out how to save it. I began having lots of conversations with other married people, praying for miracles, and reading any books or articles that seemed like they might help. I read this book, then had the same realization that millions of other marriages are going through the same cycle and breakdown as mine. While sad, it wasn’t scary. It was a REASON. I felt joy and hope for the first time in months: Holy. Shit. This is happening to EVERYBODY. Not just us.

That means, in general terms, these marriage problems are universal.

It means YOU ARE NOT WEIRD. YOU ARE NOT FREAKS. YOU GUYS ARE NOT ANY MORE FLAWED OR DYSFUNCTIONAL THAN ANYONE ELSE.

These are profound realizations.

And unless you’re someone who believes in unsolvable problems, it means these universal marriage problems have universal solutions.

It also makes it completely illogical to assume that divorcing your spouse and eventually replacing him or her with another person will eliminate these “universal” relationship dynamics. It’s one of the reasons I’m so against divorce of the “irreconcilable differences” variety. Because unless you’re going to remain single forever, this EXACT same stuff in slightly different sizes, colors and shapes are going to crop up with the next partner.

There are no magic partners.

There are only partners willing to give the love needed to keep things together, and those who are not.

And the entire premise behind my writings on marriage and divorce is that there is a HUGE percentage of men who, when they have all of the information (Doing A = emotionally and mentally damaging your wife’s heart and mind, and will lead to divorce and you missing out on at least half your children’s lives, or Doing B = Wife feeling safe, secure and desired, knowing she can trust him to be her steady and reliable rock in good times and in bad, and will lead to a lifelong marriage where you get to grow old together and he gets to feel loved and respected instead of shame from failing at his most important job), will begin to institute changes needed to have a secure and predominately happy marriage.

‘Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife?’

Yes. Thank you for asking.

Allow yourself to question your beliefs about him. About what goes on inside your husband’s heart and mind when you don’t understand him. Question whether the ability to mine every bit of information in there might radically change your perception.

Trust that you weren’t a stupid moron when you married him. Trust that all of the positive things you once identified in him are still true and real. He’s the same man.

Believe in him. Support him. Encourage him. Doing so will fuel him as he works to overcome his selfish habits in favor of new ones which make you feel good instead of bad. He may never understand why these lifestyle changes radically change the way you feel every day, but so long as he understands that they do affect you, and that they are necessary to keep your marriage and family together, he will do it IF he genuinely loves you and your children.

Suggestions:

  1. Try to always speak kindly so that he won’t tune out what you’re saying. This is important, because him TRULY UNDERSTANDING in his mind, heart and soul how critical what you’re saying is to the survival of your marriage, and your health and wellbeing, is the only way he can learn what he currently doesn’t know. Try not to make him feel like you don’t believe he’s good enough. Try to make him understand that you KNOW he’s good enough, which is why this is all so important.
  2. Find information that makes sense to him. While I’m flattered you wanted him to read my blog posts, there is much better information out there, but he must WANT to learn it. He will only WANT to learn it once he grasps the idea that not learning it will lead to divorce and horribleness. He does not get it. Most men don’t. He thinks your mind and body work like his does. We all think everyone does until life proves otherwise. So when you try to explain to him how something made you feel, it makes no sense to him, because he would never have the same reaction. This misunderstanding is essentially the root cause of every male-female relationship breakdown in history. You don’t need to understand how one another feel. You only need to believe it’s real that you don’t understand one another no matter how many times you discuss it, and that it’s BAD. Then, because you love one another and want to stay married, you reprioritize after learning how to share thoughts, feelings and ideas without fighting.
  3. Educate yourself and him on how ADHD commonly affects marriage and relationships, and strategies for overcoming it. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until more than two years after my divorce. Sadly, I never knew how big of a factor the condition was in my habits and behaviors that drove my wife away. Your husband will not have the same excuse.
  4. Wake up in the morning and decide to love him. Expect and demand the same in return. And then, knowing there will always be emotional ups and downs through the rollercoaster of life, continue to make that same decision every day for the rest of your life. As long as both of you do that, Forever After happens.

Kindly ask him if it’s fair for you to expect him to list “Husband” and “Father” at the top of his Things I Want To Be Great At list. Ahead of his hobbies. Ahead of his job. Ahead of his competitive pursuits.

“Is being the best possible husband and father—ideologically—at the top of your life’s priority list?”

If he says no, there’s nothing left to discuss.

If he says yes, it’s time for him to figure out what to do before it’s too late.

And with the right combination of words, behavior and information, he will. I’ll be rooting for him, you and your children. Very much.

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The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done

face-in-hands

Between acting like my wife should hurry up and get over the unexpected death of her father because it was damaging our marriage, and my nonchalant denial of her postpartum depression following our son’s birth, I can’t decide which is my greatest failure on my journey toward divorce.

I wake up every day believing I’m a good person, but maybe I’m not.

My failure to adequately support my wife after losing a parent was largely a function of a million previous tiny failures culminating in her breaking point in the midst of grief. When everything hurts, you need someone you can trust to help take some of the pain away. I’d stopped being that a long time ago. I just didn’t know it yet.

I thought she had been nitpicky, overly emotional and occasionally unfair for the previous seven years. Like most guys, I was selfish and clueless.

So, here’s a secret I’ve never told anyone: I have a sociopathic trait. I lack the ability to empathize with the physical pain of others.

When I read books, or hear someone describe something I’ve never seen, my brain dials up images, but what I visually imagine is almost never what reality looks like when I get to see whatever the thing is. And maybe that’s why I struggle with relating to the physical pain of others. Because I can’t properly imagine it.

I am quite sensitive to emotional pain—especially if I’ve been through something similar to a hurting person, or can adequately imagine what it would be like to.

That matters for two reasons: I wasn’t appreciating how much physical discomfort my wife was experiencing during pregnancy, and because I was an ignorant mook, I also failed to grasp the fear, stress and anxiety she might have been feeling worrying about both child delivery, first, then the following 18 years of being responsible for the safety and wellbeing of an actual person.

I was texting friends from the chair next to her bed while she was in labor. I was updating them on her and the baby’s status, so I thought I was doing something important. My wife expressed displeasure with my choice. She wanted me to be fully present and engaged with her, demonstrating my commitment to her, and reinforcing in her mind and heart that I would always be at her side through life’s difficult moments.

These are things I understand today. They make perfect sense, because today I am less of an ignorant mook. But on that day seven and a half years ago, none of that made sense.

The mere act of marrying her demonstrates my commitment to her forever, I thought.

OF COURSE she knows based on thousands of conversations how much I value being a good father.

OF COURSE she knows she’s loved.

OF COURSE she knows she can count on me.

She knows me well enough. She knows I’m a good person.

I wasn’t illogical for assuming and believing that. I was just profoundly ignorant. I think most guys are because no one ever explains it to us in a way that ever computes and resonates.

I would never consider something more important than the birth of my son. But texting friends while my wife was in labor—no matter how uneventful or undramatic it seemed to me—felt to her precisely like I cared more about doing what I wanted than being there for her in her most-vulnerable moments.

I would never physically abandon my crying wife. But that’s exactly what I did. She cried. She asked me not to go. But I’m stubborn and moronic and had it in my head that I needed to be well rested for the days ahead per the advice of other fathers.

I left my crying wife alone in a hospital room just hours removed from an emergency C-section where she struggled to breastfeed a screaming child who didn’t want to with nurses who made her feel like she just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Why?

So I could sleep, shower, send photos to family and friends, and revel in the amazing feeling of being a father to a newborn son.

I hope you believe me when I tell you how reasonable it seemed at the time.

In the context of my nine-year marriage? It’s the single worst thing I’ve ever done.

Then I Made it Worse By Suggesting Postpartum Depression Wasn’t Real 

My wife developed postpartum depression.

My lack of education about hormone loss and the psychological impact of childbirth on a new mother, combined with my lack of respect for mental and emotional health issues across the board, were just the ingredients needed to make me a profoundly negligent asshole in the early months of our son’s life.

I thought postpartum depression amounted to mental weakness.

I thought it was something “crazy” people feel, like Andrea Yates who drowned five of her children in the family bathtub.

I thought it was tantamount to my wife not loving our infant son.

This is just a phase she’ll get over, I thought.

She’s emotional sometimes, but I know she isn’t crazy!

I know she loves our baby.

Instead of reading books, talking to other parents, researching PPD or even just actively seeking ways to help my wife in whatever way I could make the difficult adjustment to parenthood, I played a lot of online poker and watched football and convinced myself I was a good husband and father because I have a kind heart.

I hope when she thinks back on those days, she remembers at least something positive about me, but I can’t say with certainty that she can, or that she should.

She tried to talk to me about it later. About the PPD. About how sad and afraid and alone she felt in the hospital when I’d left her there. About how she wanted me to actively participate in the planning and organization of our new life as parents.

But instead of apologizing with heartfelt sincerity for hurting my wife so badly, I’d get angry with her and accuse her of looking for yet another reason to complain about me even though I was such a good guy. Good guys are well liked and get told what good guys they are all the time, so when their wives point out their shortcomings in a relationship, all the “good guys” resort to the old: “How is it that the person I married is the one always bitching about me?” Because if no one else is bitching about you, they must all be right, and your crazy emo wife must be wrong.

Postpartum depression, according to the Mayo Clinic, typically requires professional treatment, including therapy sessions and, when applicable, anti-depressant medication.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following things mothers suffering from PPD can do to speed up recovery:

Make healthy lifestyle choices. Include physical activity, such as a walk with your baby, in your daily routine. Try to get adequate rest. Eat healthy foods and avoid alcohol.

Only a mother with a thoughtful and attentive husband can realistically expect to get the sleep, healthy food preparation, and time (not to mention energy) for physical activity to achieve a healthy lifestyle and overcome PPD.

Set realistic expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to do everything. Scale back your expectations for the perfect household. Do what you can and leave the rest.

A new mother only feels like she has to do everything when her partner doesn’t have her back.

Make time for yourself. If you feel like the world is coming down around you, take some time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house, and visit a friend or run an errand. Or schedule some time alone with your partner.

There are only enough hours in the day when all of a household’s responsibilities are tended to. Time alone with a partner only works when the partner makes himself available for such things.

Avoid isolation. Talk with your partner, family and friends about how you’re feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences. Breaking the isolation may help you feel human again.

When my wife tried to talk to me about it, I basically invalidated her condition and dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. “You’re a great mother,” I kept saying, as if you can’t be a great mother AND feel uncontrollably depressed due to a variety of hormonal and psychological conditions I was largely responsible for creating in the first place.

Ask for help. Try to open up to the people close to you and let them know you need help. If someone offers to baby-sit so you can take a break, take them up on it. If you can sleep, take a nap, or maybe you can catch a movie or meet for coffee with friends.

She tried to talk to me. Several times. She asked me for help. And I denied her my help by suggesting there was nothing to worry about. Instead of trying to understand how she felt and working diligently to figure out what more I could do to help, I pretended everything was fine and left her to fend for herself.

Maybe I did that because it was easier than working hard.

Maybe I let my wife run the show because I didn’t want the responsibility or the hassle.

Maybe every single thing about our lives would be different had I made the right choices.

There were countless little moments where I failed my wife. Where I didn’t work harder to understand her or speak to her in ways that conveyed my sincere desire to be a good partner.

But until I ditched my crying wife at the hospital to catch a few winks, left all the new-parenting heavy lifting to her, and never once apologized or took responsibility for it, I hadn’t actually destroyed my family.

There’s no such thing as time travel. And there’s not enough Christmas magic to rewind clocks and unflip calendars.

But if anyone’s wondering what I’m most sorry for in my entire life, now you know.

…..

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