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Postpartum Relationship Difficulties

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > Postpartum Relationship Difficulties


Questions

Marriage problems after having first baby

October 2007

My husband and I were married 19 months ago. In the time since we have been married, we had a child who is now almost a year.

The problem is this -- we are not getting along and have only had sex twice in the last year. We fight most weekends about chores. I care for our child and do most other things around our home in addition. I am exhausted, angry and finding myself resentful with my husband.

My husband is a competent, successful professional. I am now a SAHM and have been since our child was born. When it comes to matters around the house, my husband doesn't ''feel like doing them''. He is resentful of how much time the family takes up, that he doesn't have more free time, that ''marriage is hard work'' and that the baby has a schedule of naps and eating times that he perceives messes with his desired weekend play time. I have proposed a schedule when we can each go out and be with friends or relax but he hasn't ever taken me up on the offer.

Because he ''forgets'' what I tell him about what the baby can wear, what the baby eats, etc., he will ask me over and over again so that basically I do not get any kind of break on the weekends when he is supposed to be watching the baby.

I am concerned I made a mistake in the choice of a man I decided to marry because I do not feel that there is a partnership OR that he is willing to work towards one. We were together many years before marriage but there are many things I see now that I didn't see before -- or didn't realize would be so bad once we added a baby to the situation.

We are in counseling but have spent the first 7 sessions trying to work out an agreement that my husband will take out the garbage every day without being asked by me. My husband's mother did everything for him and he doesn't understand why he has to have any responsibilities at home. My husband says I am a ''great wife'' and give him everything he could ask for.

I am lonely, sad, depressed and feeling isolated. Has anyone been through something similar? I have heard the first couple years of marriage is hard -- is this typical?

SAHM in Bay Area


It sounds to me that you are both anxious about the changes a child brings to the family. When we are anxious, we protect ourselves. When we protect ourselves, we don't feel appreciation and we don't take care of each other. My recommendation is to work with someone who can teach you the principles of the human experience so that you know where relaxation, peace of mind and appreciation come from. When you both know that, it will be much easier to stay on track with each other! You can contact me for further information. I teach this but can also refer you to other practitioners as well as web sites, CD's, and books so you can study yourselves. There are many, many couples who are currently stress-free from coming to this new understanding. My own marriage was saved 24 yeaars ago!
My heart aches for you. I don't really have advice, but I just wanted to say that I've been there! Your description of your marriage sounds exactly like my 4 year relationship that just ended a month ago. We too, tried therapy and setting up special times and dates for us to have time together and alone. For us, adding not a kid, but a dog! seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. He was resentful that the dog had to be walked so much, etc.. I kept thinking, 'oh my god, he's being such a baby about the dog, what's gonna happen when we have a kid?!' I started nagging more and more and became someone I didn't like. Of course, the problems were about way more than the dog. I felt lonely all the time, and resentful. Everything blew up about a month ago and now I'm alone and feeling desperately so. BUT, I realize that I deserve a fully committed PARTNER, in every sense of the word. As for your situation, the only real advice I have is to make sure you love your couples therapist. We tried two that didn't help that much. I finally spoke to one on the phone who said that she sees a lot of couples who have tried others and didn't feel that they helped and became more desperate and discouraged about their relationships. She sounded amazing and I found her on this site while looking for therapists that modeled their work after Dr. David Schnarch, who wrote, Passionate Marriage. That book was truly amazing, too!! But anything you try will take the full willingness and responsibility of both of you to succeed. I'll be thinking of you and trying to send goodwill out to the kooky bay area universe for you!
My heart goes out to you. The first of many red flags that jump out at me are ''only had sex twice in last year'' comment. This is not a good sign. How was your sex life prior to marriage and baby? Are you in love with him is the first question you need to ask yourself. Perhaps you are falling out of love because your feelings are clouded by anger and resentment at being a SAHM with a partner who doesn't feel he needs to partake in the rearing or your child or help with household chores. You mention you two were together for many years prior to marriage. Was he unhelpful around the house then? Most likely the signs were already there but you chose to ignore them.

I suggest taking more control over the direction of the counseling sessions. Seven sessions spent on discussing ''taking out the garbage'' is not productive. Have you each gone separately? Maybe you should each go once on your own and then regroup. Please be very honest about how you feel in these sessions. Don't bury your feelings. If indeed you do feel you've made a ''mistake'' in choosing a marriage partner, don't beat yourself up about it but begin to take control of your situation. Don't have more children until you are absolutely sure this marriage will remain in tact. If he won't help out around the house, tell him you will hire a housecleaner to come in once a week. I hate to say it, but your husband sounds very immature and I suspect these signs were present before you married and had a child together. Marriage and kids require constant compromise. You're suppose to be a team working together. I sense this is not happening and you feel all alone. A frank, honest discussion about whether you two are in love with one another and how you two envision your future together should be the focal point of your next therapy session....not ''garbage'' talk. Marriage can and should be a beautiful and caring partnership. This should be a time where you two are sharing the incredible joy of bringing a new life into this world that you both created. If your husband cannot embrace his marriage and family from that perspective, instead of as a burden, it's best to come to terms with that now. You deserve to be happy. Good luck to you


Dear SAHM, The first few years of life after having a baby are a huge transition and very stressful. What we want and need in a partner often gets re-evaluated in light of the new circumstances. It's great that you two are in therapy together. That can make all the difference in working through this transition together rather than apart. I wonder if you would also be interested in individual therapy for yourself? It can be an important and useful adjunct to the couples counseling.
I remember similar arguments and resentments during the first year of parenting and that was after being married for ten year beforehand. I also remember the feeling of thinking I had the wrong spouse. Hang in there. You are in counseling which shows a commitment to the marriage from both you and your husband. I could go on and on about how I think your husband needs to get with the program, but reality is that you need to find what works for you as a family. Each family is unique and there is no right answer. I finally settled into the fact that I married my husband for his good and bad qualities and that if we can reach a place where we have no resentments, then we are doing pretty good. I have stopped looking at others for what is right and trust trust that what we are doing is right for us. anon
This topic touches a raw nerve with me, so I apologize if I sound like I'm ranting. I went through an experience similar to yours after our child was born. I was enraged for at least two years and depressed about it for another year. I felt very betrayed, taken for granted and unloved by the man I thought I could count on. My husband comes from a background similar to yours and is also in a professional field. He also never took any interest in anything around the house, even before the baby was born, and now there is so much more to do and he still won't do anything and avoids it in the same passive-aggressive manner by getting me to micro-manage him. This is so common, but no one tells you about it. The book ''Babyproofing your Marriage'' talks about it. And this is what I have to tell you: You are right, you don't have a partnership. Your division of labor is wrong. It's not good and you are completely justified in being angry about it. He is making a big mistake. This is why our mothers and grandmothers started the feminist movement. It may even be a form of culturally sanctioned misogyny. But that's the way it is, at least in my marriage. I realized a couple of years ago that my husband wasn't going to change and I wasn't going to change him. I had to decide if I was commited to my marriage, or if this situation was making me worse off than I would be staying with him. I decided I was commited to the marriage, but that meant I had to give up the expectation that my husband was going to be my best friend and partner. I had to find emotional and practical support from somewhere else. I joined a mother's group, a church, found my own childcare situation and basically learned to get through my day without moral support from my husband. After I didn't need him anymore, our relationship improved. That made me realize that I should have known that it would be like this, based upon our pre-baby lifestyle. I had a chance to befriend some women in their 70's and 80's and discovered that they needed to do similar things to maintain their sanity after having children. In short, feminism hasn't been as progressive for our culture as we have been led to believe. anonymous
Being a new parent is extremely stressful and not having a partner's support only makes it that much more difficult. As a result, I highly suggest that you attend the New Parent's Support group through Alta Bates. The group meets on Thursdays at 10:30am (for babies 6 months +). You will find the fascilitator Jennifer extremely helpful and you will be able to hear imput and get advice from other Moms. Being surrounded by other moms will also help you feel less isolated. Check out the Alta Bate's website for more info. Hope to see you at group. New Mom
First off, I doubt there is a single woman on this list who hasn't wanted to drown her partner in the bathtub/divorce him during the first year of having a child. Most of my friends have their come-to-jesus moment a bit earlier in the life of the child, but plenty had it later. That said...division of labor -- DITCH IT! Do what needs to be done. If the trash can is full, walk it to the trash. Don't wait until he gets home from work to dump it on him. On the flip side, don't feel guilty asking him to read to the baby at night or making your coffee in the morning...

My husband/marriage isn't perfect -- far from it, but we view ourselves as a team. I usually do the traditional 'stay-at-home-mom' things (cook, clean, change the diapers), but my husband is great at stepping up to the plate. I took the kids to the playground before dinner tonight...I came home and the dishes were in the dishwasher. Granted, my husband had sportscenter blaring the whole time, etc.

We have had our 'moments' since having kids (usually six month moments). But, I have been able to reshape things so things work. Your guy sounds like he needs some serious reshaping, but HE DIGS YOU! I have found that requiring my husband to have some time with the children has moved us into a positive place (I just went to NYC with some girlfriends while he had the daughters for two days...granted, I had playdates, dinner dates, etc lined up, but HE DID IT!) Can you rope yourself into some volunteer activity (soup kitchen ,etc) that will require him to spend a few hours each weekend with the child? Even if you have no interest in the volunteer activity, you will get some time to yourself AND your husband will get comfortable with your child (that is huge -- he may be avoiding because he doesn't know what to do). Also, join a gym... -husbands can be trained


This may sound somewhat cold, but no, this is not a normal situation, at least not in my experience.

I was a very successful hard working professional before I quit my job when we adopted our now 7 year old son. During the 4 years as a SAHM we did certainly have our challenges with negotiating time together, time apart, child care, etc. However, my husband continued to do those household tasks that he was responsible for when we were childless (i.e. garbage, all yard work, minor household repairs) without being asked to do so. He also took up additional responsibilities that he didn't previously have when we were childless, like doing his own laundry.

I am sorry to say that if it has taken you 7 therapy sessions to try and negotiate a deal as far as garbage removal, if you were my friend I wouldn't be too optimistic about negotiating much bigger issues like help with childcare.

I do believe that many men/people use the lack of knowledge about how to feed/handle/play with children as as excuse for not being involved with them. They aren't stupid people, their memories work fine at work, but they can't seem to ''remember'' what to do with the kids signals to me that it's just not important enough to them.

If this were me, I would think seriously about whether this is a relationship worth salvaging. I don't think it would be for me. There are definitely men out there who do their part and then some (I am married to one) well-partnered mom of 3


Yes it's pretty normal. I am just going to give you a piece of practical advice. If your husband is trying to take care of the baby on the weekend, that is already something. Since he keeps asking you questions, just write the info down and GO OUT. You have the get your husband used to helping with the baby or you will not get a break until the child is 4! Since you are a full- time SAHM, you should get involved in an organized mother's group. You will feel so much better with some friends to see during the day. anon
Oh, boy, first child _is_ a real strain on a marriage. I actually hated my husband starting about when we started feeding our daughter solid food. A few things helped us:

1) We found the best couples therapist in the world (not in Bay Area, sorry), after many mediocre ones. This one observes how we speak to each other and helps us find our ''adult'' selves in our interactions.

2) We agreed to take a parenting course together and agreed to parent whatever way the course said to do it, and let go of each of our own ways

What I wish we HAD done is flown to Seattle and taken the ''And Baby Makes Three'' course at the Gottman Institute, where the famous studies of why marriages succeed and fail are done. They have a special course to help prevent disaster after the birth of the first child, recognizing how horribly hard the birth of the first is on a marriage.

We also read John Gottman's other works on marriage and parenting, and my husband read Dr. Phil's Relationship Rescue, which really made sense to him, but he only read it when he saw that the whole marriage was in jeapardy.

I've really found one of Gottman's observations really helps: The times when husband and I make time to just chat for 1/2 an hour about what happened in our days, we have a lot more compassion and understanding for each other and it keeps us going.

As for sex, no, we're still not there yet, either, but that's a longstanding problem for us, ever since about the 2nd year of our relationship. Not feeling the hate anymore


1) Get a cleaning service. It's better than a babysitter, better than date night.

2) Get a better therapist. Seven sessions spent on trying to get your husband to agree to take out the trash? Sounds like the therapist can't see the big picture. Also, that sounds like a You vs. Him situation that he's never going to agree to -- he can't save face.

3) When your husband is watching the baby on the weekends, can you leave the house for an hour or two? That way you won't be the ''baby care expert,'' and he won't be able to refer every little question to you. Also, does he have any ownership of the caregiving side of fatherhood -- can he become the bath expert? The dinner preparing expert?

4) How were household chores divided before you were married, and then before the baby was born? Maybe you can do the garbage yourself, since it seems a hot-button issue by now, and let him pick the chores he wants to have ownership of. Does he simply hate to be reminded? My husband does better with things he can do on his own, not be instructed that it's time to do -- he has a certain time of the week that he goes grocery shopping, pays bills, wheels down the garbage bins, etc., without me ever saying a word.

5) Do you have fun together as a family? That might help him see his child is a delight, not just a chore with a schedule. How about a fun outing to the zoo? Or someplace else where he can show the child something he cares about, to facilitate bonding?

I'm sorry things are so hard for you. Hang in there! Sympathetic


Sorry about the difficulties you are going through.

I don't know what the stats are of if what you are experiencing is ''normal,'' but I also went through that with my husband. Some things have gotten easier now that the children are older (3 & 5) but we still have ''chore wars.'' I lived with my husband for several years before having children, and house chores was not a big issue at all. Now, after trying many different things (except from couples therapy because he wouldn't agree to it), I've decided that we'll hire someone to do some of the housework, now that we finally have the money to afford it.

I'd suggest you look into cheap or for free options to create time for yourself, whithout counting much on your husband (and while you continue the therapy, of course-that's awesome). Maybe joing the YMCA and have someone watch your 1 year old while you exercise; join a coop, so you help a few days and others someone will take care of your kid; or join a baby-sitting group in your area (I know Lower Rockridge has one), or just exchange baby-sitting with a friend with children. Also struggling in marriage


Your husband sounds pretty immature, and a bit like my husband, who used to think relationships shouldn't take any effort. If you want a therapist who can communicate with the male species and help you, try Marlene Winell, 510-292-0509. Good luck and hang in there. Jan
When I read your first post I immediately thought you needed to lower your expectations of your husband. Some men meld into super dads and do it all...I have found that joining a mother's club with 330 women that the percentage of ''new age'' dads is VERY small. You need to find a balance for you first so you are not so exhausted. When I am tired I am extremely irritable. I had a toddler when I met and married my husband. We had a second baby right away. My husband was used to an immaculate home, no clutter, no dust. We hired a housekeeper when it became apparent that I was never going to be able to do that as a SAHM with two small kids. Even though I love to cook I barely had time to boil water. I found a couple places such as: DINNER MY WAY where you can go and make 10-12 meals and freeze them for later. Yeah! I started getting eight hours of sleep. I started volunteering in my community and getting ''positive strokes'' from other folks. I decided that I wasn't going to change my 47yo husband's methods so why butt my head against a wall. My kids are 5 and 7 now. The house is in borderline chaos, he's cool with it. We have someone come in twice a month for a big clean. We eat a lot of Trader Joe's inspired meals.I empty trash, mow the lawn, provide most the childcare and for all intensive purposes have a very ''traditional'' marriage. It can work if you find a middle for you and accept what you cannot change about your spouse. been there, done that
Hi there, Your post really resonated with me, and I'm so sorry you're having such a hard time. I went through something very similar. I had also been with my husband for many years before we got married. Then we had a child, and the first year was SO difficult. The main difference is that I was working full time. I have so many thoughts for you, I'm not even sure where to begin. But maybe I'll start by saying that things CAN get better - we are doing much much better now, and my husband is doing much more around the house and with our child, but it took a lot of work to get here (and we're still working on it). In my case, I came to a point where I really couldn't take it anymore, and I basically gave my husband an ultimatum. I told him that I wasn't ready to give up on our relationship after so many years, but that I could not go on the same way, so I would give us 6 months to try to improve, and if there was no improvement, I may have to leave. I think it was only when I put it in those terms, that my husband suddenly understood how serious I was. This led to many many changes. My point is that you need to make sure your husband understands how serious you are about him needing to change. And by the way, one happy result of all these changes is that my husband is now very involved with and close to our child. A few other thoughts: (1) I have a feeling that your husband - like mine at the time - hasn't yet made the transition to parenthood, and is not yet willing to accept that parenthood comes with many new responsibilities and compromises. (2) If you still can't get past garbage in therapy, maybe it's time to find a new counselor? (3) Can you hire a nanny or babysitter for a few hours each week to give yourself a break? (4) If you worked before you had the baby, would it be possible for you to do some work now? Again, so you can get a little break, and also so that you can feel more independent, which can help if you are negotiating with your husband. (5) And to answer your question directly, the first year of parenthood is typically difficult, but I think your situation is made even more difficult because you don't have your husband's support. (6) And finally, during that first year, I found reading really comforting. There are lots of good books out there, but two you can start with are ''Mothers Who Think'' and ''Child of Mine'' - both collections of short stories about motherhood. Good luck to you. I hope things get better soon!
Wow, lots of replies to this one. I have good news and bad news. Once you leave your husband ALONE to manage the child for a bedtime or an afternoon (a whole day is a bit much for such a wee one, in my opinion) he will learn a routine. My husband did the same things ''where are the diapers? where are the pajamas?'' After the first year he became MUCH more competent and less stressed. Participation is critical for forging a good relationship and bonding with the child. Most dads I know didn't step up until after the first year, when the daddy instinct really gets going.

Secondly, I agree with other respondents not to play the passive-aggressive game and take out the trash when you can (every day? you have high standards) and let the house get a little messy without expecting him to do anything. Harsh but true. Hire a housekeeper if you can.

We have lots of other problems in my relationship with the imbalance of one person earning money, the other not. He may see you as lazing about all day, while he does ''real work.'' My spouse has been cranky about no dinner on the table and then won't eat with us half the time anyway. We are continuing to work things out, but I agree with the other respondents not to expect to much out of the menfolk with chores. My spouse does a lot but is really tense about it, so I often wish he wouldn't do as much as he tries to.

Give him time on his own and you'll get some good childcare, but he has to do it himself. A lot of men really change when the kids are more ''interactive'' in the second year, I have to say. Good luck and don't give up! also struggling along on the second year


I was going to stay out of this one until I saw some of the other responses. The stress put on a marriage by the first baby makes mountains out of molehills. I know many many people who have struggled in their marriages after the baby came along. What you are going through is common. I too have had struggles. As far as doing chores around the house is concerned, I have to admit, I do most if not all of them, but I phrase it as a choice. My husband can either (1) Do the tedious and tiresome chore that needs to be done, or (2) Crack open a beer and watch the baby (which specifically includes playing with or entertaining the baby, changing diapers when needed, feeding when needed, etc and may include keeping an eye on the 4-yr old as well). He almost always chooses the latter. While I don't necessarily approve of his use of the television (his chosen job gets to be done his way), I would actually prefer to do the chores sometimes. The garbage doesn't scream at me. The leaves don't talk back or say ''no'' when I rake them. The dishes don't run off and splash around in the toilet the second I'm not looking. And I don't have to worry about the laundry hurting itself. Most of the time my 4-yr old daughter even likes to ''help'' me, which teaches her about the world and gets her to use her muscles and spend time outdoors. Meanwhile, Dad is spending some quality time with baby and actually being extremely helpful in taking the kids off my plate for a while. Think about ways you can make it work if you can. There might be another way you can approach the problem. Your therapist sounds like a bit of a quack. -anon

New Baby & Marital Strife

February 2007

My husband and I have a 4 month old and I feel like we are going through the stereotypical phase of frustration that comes with being married and having a new baby... Where idiosyncracies have become annoyances. We're snapping at each other despite our best efforts to communicate. Maybe it's the sleep deprivation or the new dynamics of having this new person in our lives, but I was wondering if anyone has advice for keeping the 'spirit' of our relationship alive. I love, respect, and admire my husband, and he's been a real team player in taking care of our baby, so personally, I'm disturbed by the way he's gotten on my nerves lately... it just seems so weird and so constant. Any thoughts on why this happens to new parents and ways to keep things from escalating? We've had sex twice now since our baby was born (and it was better than I expected) and we've been out to dinner 'just the two of us' twice. I know having a sense of humor also helps... Any thoughts? Anon


The book titled, ''Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows'' sounds like it might help your situation. It was recently released and already I've heard a lot of buzz about it. anon
I'm not sure that this will be of any use, but I'll share a realization I had that helped us through. My husband's ''idiosyncracies'' also became ''annoyances'' when our son was first born. It took a while, but I finally realized that I was judging my husband not just as a husband anymore, but as a father. Everything he did, I would think, ''What happens when our son sees him do that? Will he pass this ''charming'' habit on to our child? What kind of parent does this or that?'' My husband is a good man and a caring father--we're not talking about drugs here, just leaving shoes in the living room! At a time when we needed more sympathy for each other, every fart became a reflection of what kind of father he would be for the rest of his life....

The nights away from baby, sleep (and sleep, and more sleep), and time itself will help. Realizing that I was casting final judgment on every move he made helped the most. Take care of each other. happy with hubby (again)


Congratulations on the birth of your new baby! This huge transition often creates a lot of stress in the relationship between partners. Yes, it's partially the lack of sleep, but it's also all the changes you are each going thru re. your identities as parents, role & responsibility changes, and beliefs about parenting. Our own earliest experiences at a preconscious and preverbal level - how we were parented, how our needs were attended to - get evoked. THis can bring up frustrations in your current relationship, too. It's a tremendous amount of work to take care of a baby which takes away from the time and energy you use to have for one another. Maintaining a partnership as parents takes a lot of work, energy and active communication. You might want to consider couples counseling to help get thru this difficult transition. Or, if your partner is not willing to participate, individual therapy can help you to help yourself and the family. When one piece of the puzzle changes, it can affect the whole picture. Sincerely, Deena
I have an 8 month old and I can remember how tough the first 4 months or so are. The best piece of advice a friend gave me after I told her that sometimes I wanted to hit my husband over the head w/a 2 x 4, was to remember to have sex. And we did and it was fine that we always had quickies but it was a way to stay connected on a primal level during a very stressful time in our lives. Hope that helps a bit! Z
You two seem to be doing fine/normal to me. A little stress with a new baby is normal, but at least your husband is helping out.Mine is not helpful- just annoying. anon
Hi - if you talk to other new parents, I'm sure all of them will have your same story. I have a 20 mo old son - he is our first child. My husband and I were married for a couple years before having my son. I consider my husband my soul mate - we get along GREAT. However when the child came along - there became much more unhappy moments. I think having a child has been a HUGE adjustment to us. We sometimes have our own ideas of how a child should be raised. There is also a lack of sleep which doesn't help. For us, also - I tend to focus more on our son where my husband still focuses on him and I. It's been hard. But I do hear about this happening to alot of new parents - so you're not in the boat alone. It does get better, easier. So hang in there - try your best, pick your battles and know that this too will past. Pls email back if you want to talk/vent some more. Good luck! Julie
It is not uncommon to experience what you are describing in your relationship after the birth of a baby. Sleep deprivation alone can create it, not to mention the new tasks, responsibilities, roles,and hormones. I would recommend that, as a start, you find time to spend together where you can focus on each other, to talk about the changes you are both going through and to connect with one another as partners. There is a new book, very easy to read, called ''And Baby Makes Three'', written by psychologist John Gottman, that elaborates on this in more detail. I am trained to teach the workshop called ''Bringing Baby Home'', based on his work, that focuses on strengthening the couple relationship during this time of transition. I will be teaching my next one on March 4 and 11, 2007. If you are curious, please contact me and I will send you a flyer. Meanwhile, I wish you the best and hope that you and your husband can find the emotional energy to be kind to yourselves and one another. Although a beautiful time in life, it can also be very stressful for everyone! Sheila

How to stop husband yelling at me in front of the baby

April 2004

I need ideas on how to stop yelling at my husband around my 10 month old baby.

My husband and I have had a difficult time adjusting to new parenthood and we often get into squabbles that escalate into loud yelling matches. My son is showing signs of being negatively affected by this behavior and, needless to say, this concerns me a great deal.

I have tried many things, including walking away, shutting my mouth, or speaking in a whisper when my husband begins yelling, but there are times when I fail to control my temper and end up yelling. I'm sure that 10 months of sleep deprivation have worn away at my resistance, but I am determined to find a way to have ''appropriate conflict'' with my husband around my baby.

Please do not suggest therapy (we have been) and if you are tempted to reprimand me in anyway, I ask you not to respond. Ive beat myself up enough around this issue. What I am looking for are suggestions on how to stop this particular behavior RIGHT NOW. Thanks. anon


I can see that you have tried many things I might suggest. So here is the only one I have left. Try this when your husband is yelling, ''I won't talk with you about this until you stop yelling.'' If he keeps yelling, keep repeating it. Karen
I hear ya! With two children under 2, my husband and I are very tired and frequently get into arguments that turn into yelling. Mostly I yell - he uses bad words. Our 2+ year old is old enough to understand we are mad and also to repeat bad words that get said in the yelling matches. I have had to made a monumental effort to de-escalate anger before it reaches this point. It takes more self-control than I have -- but I do it. Basically I have to be the stronger one and not get into it with my husband. It is SO hard! He has said my yelling and certain tone of voice pushes his buttons then he starts cursing like a sailor. So I have to constantly watch my tone and volume so I don't set him off.

We have 'reminder' conversations about 10 times a day! Meaning, when we are not in a fight, I'll say 'Remember, you said &*)^&*^ in front of our son again and for the billionth time, it is not appropriate - please stop.' Since we are not in the heat of battle, he will apologize and again make an effort not to swear. Or when we start to get into it, he will say 'You are using that tone and I'm about to blow up - please stop.' So I'll have to take a step back and reign it in. Believe me - this does not always work, but its a step in the right direction. We both have to constantly work at not pushing the others buttons. It also helps to have one person (usually me) simply not engage the other in the argument. Either by walking away, saying 'I'm not getting into this with you now', or saying 'we can discuss this later - not in front of the kids'. Anything to diffuse the current situation and lessen the heightened energy at the moment.

Being a parent is tough. We are usually arguing about very stupid things but we are just exhausted and frustrated and lash out at each other. You're not alone and as much as I try, I yell waaaaay too much. I figure as long as I try my best to cut it out, and make the episodes happen less and less, thats really all I can do.

I also follow up with my son and spend quiet, loving time with him to show I'm not mad at him. I also show affection to my husband in front of my son so he sees we're OK now - we were just mad. Good Luck - Here's hoping it gets easier


First of all you're doing the right thing by acknowledging this problem and trying to fix it. Having a baby is a baptism of FIRE for most parents. It was for my husband and I and we had very similar problems. I strongly advise you to come up with some sort of 'cooling' off period. When things start to get heated make a firm rule that you both go to your corners for at least 30 minutes. Disputes are so much easier to work out when all of your adrenaline has had a chance to subside. Also try to find out what the major issues are that keep arising. IS it lack of sleep? Money? Differences in the way you raise your baby? If certain issues constantly come up, than you can focus on how to resolve those issues. Most important make sure when your pot starts to boil over, you two separate! It is truly scary how much our children understand what happens between us. My husband and I went through a tremendously difficult and turbulent period over the holidays. Even though we tried to keep our elevated emotions discreet, our 3 and 5 year old always knew. My 3 year old even drew a picture of ''Daddy'' getting mad at ''Mommy'' and Mommy crying. Let me tell you how heartbreaking that was. We now have firm rules about our behavior and when we need to separate to deescalate the situation. It has worked very well. We didn't go to therapy (although I still think it's a good plan) but utilized tools from our previous therapy sessions many years ago, Hope this helps. Understand that you are going through one of the most profound changes of your life-never an easy thing. anon
First, forgive yourself for yelling and commend yourself for trying to stop. Different things work for different people, so here are things that work for me when I want to change my behavior.

1. A MANTRA: Can you repeat something to yourself each time you feel your blood boil, that reminds you to cool it? I say the same thing that my mom used to say to me when she was ''warning'' me that I was getting a little cheeky: ''breathe.'' It's just a quick pause button for me that reminds me that I'm getting wound up.

2. A REWARD: Give yourself something each day you don't yell. A small thing, like some bubble bath or a glass of wine or a pizza instead of making dinner, and don't allow yourself to have it if you yell. My favorite ''me'' gift is spending time alone on my deck with a cup of tea (I take 20 whole minutes).

3. A VISUAL PUNISHMENT: I have a calendar up in the kitchen. Each time I do a bad food thing (like eat ice cream before dinner), I put a big red X on the calendar. There's no notation (only I know what the x means), but it's amazingly corrective.

4. ENGAGE YOUR HUSBAND. If he yells at you, say something gentle, but firm, like ''I'd like to talk about this, but I'm really trying not to yell. Can we sit down and talk about it.''

5. DON'T ARGUE ''ON THE FLY.'' For me, this is often a precursor to yelling. When I don't have time to talk about something that's wrong, I truncate my comment, leaving out the courtesy. Resist the temptation to fly off the handle. Just take care of the situation acutely, and make time to talk about it later. For me, I will say to my husband, ''I was sort of upset today when we were getting the baby ready for [fill in the blank], but I didn't want to lose it, so I didn't say anything. Can we talk about this tomorrow?'' I have found that as a general rule, men and women operate differently when it comes to dealing with conflict and it's good to give them warning.

6. TALK TO YOUR CHILD. Let him know that you are sorry that you lost your temper and that you are working to not do that. Share with him in ways he can understand that you know it upsets him and that you and dad will really try not to upset him. You will find he can help you stop if he knows you want to stop.

7. THINK ABOUT CHANGING THE STRESSORS IN YOUR LIFE. What's making the child-adjustment tough? That you have less ''me-time'' to do things? Do you have the money to get a housekeeper or a child care provider to take the boy more often? Despite what some will tell you, it's not a crime to get away once in awhile. Can you and your husband trade-off so that you have some totally free time (my husband calls it cave-time) where you don't have to worry about the baby or the bills or the house? Can you create a schedule that allows you to predict -- even a little -- what your upcoming responsibilities are? We have our child on a schedule and we think we and our baby are happier for it. He knows when he's going to go down for a nap and WE know that's when we can have some time to do laundry. He knows when he's eating so WE know how much lead time we need to cook before he cries. He knows when bed time is, so WE know when we are free to putter around the house, do our projects, etc. And, we upped our housekeeping so we didn't stress about a dusty home. Having a baby is tough. Neither of you should try to be super- parents or to keep up the same level of activity/cleanliness/outside committments as you did before you had a baby. Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself. Love your child. -- understanding mom


Boy, have I been in your position,!! Other people will respond with a lot of practical advice for reducing tension in your marriage, etc., so I will not include them here. I do have an idea, though, for you to try.

The biggest help for me, and I have a serious yelling tendency, is to practice gratitude. By this I mean that many times per day, I repeat over and over again in my head how thankful I am for my beautiful child, and my wonderful partner. I imagine life without them, and I actively proclaim my thanks for them. I know, it sounds corny, but it really works. Even if you cannot muster a kind thought for your husband, just silently repeating the words ''thank you, thank you, thank you'' is really soothing, and reminds one how much there is to be thankful for. It has helped re-train my mind to think positively, which has really helped the complainer in me (especially the yelling complainer!!). Some days it is harder than others to find things for which to be thankful, but even on those days, I practice gratitude for my meals, water, clothing, home, car, friends, or whatever else I can find. This has really made a difference for me in terms of finding things to be happy about, and not complaining about. I thought it would be stupid, but it has profoundly changed my life.

I will suggest therapy, but for yourself alone. It sounds like you need a sympathetic ear to vent to, which may reduce your need to yell at your husband. Your therapist will help remind you to practice self-care, which means getting rest, exercise, asking for and accepting help from friends and family, eating well, etc. as much as you can. You do not have to sacrifice yourself to motherhood. After all, you need to model self-care to your child, right? I know, your child is only 10 months, and he needs you right now. But try to be loving and giving to yourself, too. grateful mama


My advice may sound old fashioned, but it worked for me, so here goes: my husband and I had a fair bit of conflict around who does what once the baby arrived. He appeared to deeply resent any expectations I might have around him helping out with the baby at all. Well, as you might image, my husband was a HUGE disappointment to me, as I might imagine your husband is to you right now.

So, what I did was to end any expectations I had of him, and I expressed gratitude for any little thing he might do. Slowly, the positive reinforcement worked, and he began to take on more and more of his share of the baby's care. During those early years when I was providing the vast share of the baby's care, for my own sanity, I arranged for outside help with child care and/or housecleaning, since my husband was not able to be there for me/us.

Sometimes when we talk about those times, when the baby was young, he tells me how scared he was during those early days. He is able now to express what he could not, for whatever reason, then. I wonder too, if your husband might be struggling with some of the same feelings. Good luck! anon


Sleep deprivation is extremely powerful; do not underestimate the effects of long-term sleep deprivation on your mental health. It causes irritability, a short fuse, moodiness, and general feeling of ill health. It lands people in a place where they don't even recognize themselves, deep depression, and a sense of hopelessness. Luckily, it can be corrected. Figure out how to get more sleep. This is a time to ask for help from family and friends. Explain you illness and schedule babysitters to allow you to sleep. Take days off work, as much as you can, to catch up. Hire a babysitter. Don't delay. It only worsens.

At a time when you are getting along, discuss your concern with your husband. See if you can agree to not raising voices in front of your child. Agree to stop the conversation immediately if it is heating up. Whoever requests that the conversation stop also requests that it be continued at a particular time, and get an agreement on the time. Regularly set aside a time of a particular length to just listen to each other's concerns. Take turns for 15 minutes each. You do not respond to each other's concerns! Just listen. Thank your partner for sharing them with you. Been there.


When your husband starts yelling, start singing. Loud. I'm not kidding. You need to create a conditioned response that allows your body to let out some of the tension, not just do some version of ''controlling yourself'' and ''being good.'' The deep breathing involved in singing might calm you down a bit. And the strange jolt of you suddenly starting to sing might change the dynamics of the fight a bit. You can either sing a real song, or make one up about how angry you are. Good luck. heidi
I read people's responses to this question, and saw that no one mentioned this, so I will post about it for the original poster and for every one on this list. Yelling is a form of LEARNED COMMUNICATION. All forms of communication are strategies to *get our needs met.* Some strategies are more effective than others. Yelling is a very *ineffective* strategy, but it is what many of us learned in our families. It is one form of ''voilent communication'' but it is not the only one! Violent communication doesn't have to include yelling and cursing. I come from a family of yellers, as does my husband. Tired of egaging in emotionally volotile and ultimately defeating communication, we turned to the Center for Non-Violent Communication (NVC) on the suggestion of a friend. We found a week-end work shop and attended. Wow! It was the most powerful, EMpowering educational experience of our lives. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is making a huge difference in our lives, both in how we communicate with eachother, with others and with *ourselves*. If you want something that WORKS, please find a workshop near you (I recommend taking the 2-day over taking the 1 day workshops here and there, if you can. Something about having 2 days in a row dedicated to this is even *more* powerful - of course, take anything you can, they are all amazing). However, there is no silver bullet! You won't just be magically transformed to have perfect, non-violent communication all the time. Fortunately, there are NVC practice groups in which you can participate so that, over time, this new method of communication becomes easier and easier and more and more ingrained. And, one of the selling points for me before I attended: the Center for NVC is committed to having ANYone be able to attend. You pay only what you can afford. No one is ever turned away from a workshop for lack of funds. Check out the Bay Area NVC web site: www.baynvc.org. I promise, you will not regret it! Maybe I'll see you at the Berkeley practice group! Learning to communicate non-violently
My husband is a major yeller. What has helped has been the ''just for today'' approach. Rather than vowing never to yell again for your entire life, vow you won't yell TODAY. We started when I told him I didn't want to go on a trip with him because something always goes wrong when you travel, and his reaction to things going wrong is to yell. He told me he wouldn't yell on our next trip, no matter what went wrong. Well, we got to the airline counter and it turned out I had booked our tickets to the wrong airport. (Don't ask me how.) I could literally see his blood flow to his head, but I said ''Umm, remember, no matter what?'' He very calmly talked to the ticketing agent and we got it all sorted out with no problem. Now we try to keep a streak going. (''It's been eight days with no yelling! Can he do it? Nine days? It'll be a record, sports fans. We see some heavy stresses coming up - a home construction project, an overdue bill - but this guy is pretty tough. We think he can make it. Going for NINE.'') I will also give him a do-over if he reins it in before it gets too bad. Don't forget to praise yourself lavishly when you succeed in undergoing some really frustrating situation with no yelling. Positive reinforcement works best for changing habits. anon
Just want to add to the excellent advice and encouragement you've already received: another resource I found helpful was ''Powerful Non-Defensive Communication.'' They have low cost workshops and introductory evenings. I found the techniques very helpful. Also helpful for me was recognizing that it was not fair to our baby to subject her to our bickering and arguing, and that I was capable of controlling my temper more than I was doing. As a bonus, we found that not only was our child happier but our relationship got better when we forced ourselves to talk to each other more calmly and respectfully. It is great that you recognize this as a problem and are willing to do something about it. Good luck!

All we do is argue since baby came

Jan 2004

Hello-

My husband and I have a two month old son. We both love him very much but it seems that all my husband and I do now is argue. I know we are both tired and sleep deprived, but have others gone through what I hope is an arguing phase?

He comes home and is peeved that the house looks as it did when he left, that dinner has not made itself, and that I turn to him for a baby break. He constantly talks under his breath about how he has no time for himself, that he only sees our son when he is cranky and not playful (not true) and that we still haven't had sex since I delivered. Am I crazy to expect him to help me? And am I crazy to expect some slack on my end when it comes to household duties? He keeps saying that he does more than his dad ever did and more than all of our friends.

At times I want to scream at him when he whines, since we have both given up some independent time to now be a family. And that is a sacrifice that I was willing to make wholeheartedly. And one we talked about before we became a family. His complaints now have turned from venting his frustrations in a productive manner, to downright childish whining. I feel as if I have one child already and am in no mood to deal with a 38-year old one who should be more interested and excited in his role as a dad.

And then there is the sex. How long did others wait before resuming activities in the bedroom? I am not interested in sex or any sexual activity at all at this point. I would rather sleep or do the laundry. He thinks that is selfish and mentioned last week (on my birthday of all days) that if he doesn't get some relief soon he is going to consider the idea of an affair.

My questions: is all of this normal? Have other mom's felt like their hubby has turned into a giant toddler? Is this a phase or do we need to look at counseling? And am I being selfish about not ''putting out''? At wits end with my husband


Your message struck a chord with me. The postpartum period is such an adjustment, and we too experienced some difficult times, arguing, etc. during this period. It did get better and is going well now (we have a 21-month-old) but I remember feeling at the time that our marriage might not even survive! So please hang in there. Also, I wasn't able to enjoy sex until nearly 6 months after giving birth due to internal abrasions. It was frustrating but a distant memory now. You might want to try counseling, but also just realize that it's a huge adjustment for everyone and things can (and hopefully will in your case) get lots better. Been There
If you do no other thing, I strongly recommend that you join a new moms group. There (as here, I imagine), it will become abundantly clear that postpartum marital stress is very common. I know you are going to get a lot of advice on this, so I'll try to keep this short. On the sex thing - having a baby is a big deal, and it is unrealistic for your husband to expect sex so quickly. You should have sex when YOU are ready for it. Some women, especially those who breastfeed, find sex to be physically uncomfortable. I toughed it out after my first baby, but the sex was not enjoyable. After my second, my husband waited very patiently until I gave him the green light - around 6 months. That's a long time, but just a blip when you think of a lifetime together. Sex is a lot more enjoyable when you know you're not going to have to get up in 3 hours for a feeding too. Other big thing is it seems like your husband needs to do something radical - like maybe solo with the baby all day - to understand why you don't have time to do anything but tread water around the house.

You don't mention if you have family in the area, or some other type of support network, but I think you both need time - alone time and time to reconnect as a couple. If family can't give you a break by watching baby for awhile, this is another great reason to join a moms group. You could offer to watch another mom's baby for a few hours in exchange for her doing the same. The first two months with a baby are the hardest because the baby requires such constant care and feeding, and baby barely even looks at you, let alone smiles, so there are few rewards. It will get easier. Hopefully, as it gets easier and baby develops more of a personality, your husband will come around. Hang in there. anon


I think you have scoped out this problem admirably. Your husband, IMHO, is showing signs of great immaturity. I agree with your notion that counseling would be a great idea. My first husband (nearly 35 years ago) and I agreed to create a child together, yet when the child arrived he suddenly ''discovered'' that he was not ready to be a father! By the time she was 10 months old, he had moved out. In looking back on this, I think that sometimes a person (particularly Dads) may agree to having a child because they want to please their partner, but really are not ready to be a parent and would not decide to do so on their own. I had a sexual encounter with my husband when our first child was 3 days old. Not intercourse, but certainly some shared sexuality. Even though one is very busy and involved with having a new baby, I still believe that the marital promise is important to honor--the one about being true to ''just one'' other person. At this time your husband needs *lots* of comfort, and instead, he's getting nothing at all. Can you flex on this one, even if you are not totally into it? My best. anon
Like your situation, my husband and I found life with a new baby unimaginably challenging in the first several months. It seemed like we were bickering constantly at each other. Fatigue on the part of both parties was mostly to blame, however; we found that any buried issues also chose this moment to surface. In addition, my hormones surged to unprecedented levels and I felt truly invaded by another personality. Unlike your situation however, my husband was very much aware of the difficulties and wanted to make it better.

What helped us get through that period was LOWERING THE EXPECTATION LEVEL!! There is no way that you can take care of your healing body, the constant needs of an infant, cleaning, dinner, etc. all the time.I did ONE thing every day. It was either an outing to the grocery store OR dinner OR the laundry OR making dinner. My husband understood that and would either make dinner or pick up something on his way home. He would also help by doing a load of laundry at night.

Another thing that helped us was LETTING ME SLEEP!! Since my husband worked and I was home, I was in charge of the nighttime care as well as during the day. My husband knew that I NEEDED a nap when he came home from work. Even if it was only for a half- hour, I got a break and he got to spend time with the baby. On the weekends, we let each other have one morning each to sleep in. He also did not expect me to cater to his needs (sexual or otherwise) when I was tired.

There are many other things we did, but most importantly we TALKED!! No matter how many blow-ups we had, we always talked them out. Having this baby was for us a mutual agreement. One person cannot be expected to do everything if both people agreed to do it together.

I don't want to assume anything about your relationship. But if your husband is threatening to have an affair, how much is he investing in you and the baby? I empathize with your situation and hope you both can work it out. evalun


Wow it sounds as if you have been living in my house with my husband as well. No one told me that I would be caring for two newborns but that is what happened. Since men do not go through the aches pains and sacrifices of pregnancy the arrival of the baby is a shock I think. It took my husband 7 months to adjust and stop the whining and now he is great (our baby is 18 months). I still am not back to my old sexual self but luckily my husband is pretty understanding about that.

So what to do...take some advice from a toddler discipline book. When the husband whines just ignore it. I know how difficult that is but if you respond to the under the breath whining then it will escalate into a huge fight. So just ignore it or say ''I can hear that you are upset. When you are ready to talk about it I'm here for you.'' and then walk away. This tactic has been remarkable successful with my husband even resulting in his apologizing later on for being a baby. Also please give yourself some slack and realize that you can't do everything. The baby is the most important, not the dinner, laundry etc. Hire a house keeper if at all possible. Even once a month makes a huge difference.

Your hormones may still be out of whack and that makes it hard to be calm and pleasant. Things improved a lot at my house when my hormones seemed to subside and even out my moods. Good luck and don't be upset please! Enjoy your new baby and things will work out in time.

It Will Get Better


I think that a certain amount of whining about the loss of personal time and crankiness over the state of the house and being handed a fussy baby the moment he walks in the door in the evening is normal. My husband certainly did that -- and still does, sometimes, three years later! But most men (including my husband) are actually very willing to pitch in and do their share; the whining is just a way of blowing off steam -- remember, most men don't really have any outlet for venting other than their wives, while most women have girlfriends and/or a new mom group who are sympathetic listeners for their similar complaints. If your husband truly does have an expectation that you'll suddently turn into June Cleaver, though, that's not normal.

Complaints about sex (lack thereof) are probably also pretty normal, but threatening an affair is not. Oh, and having no interest in sex yourself for many months after birth is completely normal too, and hardly selfish; but since it's important to him, it's worth making an effort to find the time and energy for it once in a while. Your libido may return within a few more weeks, or it may not really get back to normal until your monthly cycles do (which could be anywhere from a couple months to more than a year).

I suspect you need to find a time when you can really talk to your husband (ask a friend to come over and hold the baby for half an hour on a weekend afternoon) and tell him the same thing you posted, and ask for his help -- he may not realize you really need it. Maybe help him find a ''daddy friend'' or two to give him some perspective and provide an outlet for venting. Come to some sort of agreement about the best time for and necessary interval for ''couple time'', whether that means sex or just some time to focus on each other. (You may not feel the need for this for a while yet, but if your husband does, try to respect that feeling. Even if you can only leave your newborn with your mother for 30 minutes at a time, once a month, do it. When the baby's older you'll be able to hire a sitter more often, for longer periods of time, and have a regular ''date night''.) If your husband is willing to talk honestly about it and make an effort to change the behavior that's driving you nuts (and you are also willing to really hear what he has to say and try to meet his needs too), then you should be able to get through your child's first few months okay. It does get easier as the baby gets older. If not, or if the two of you simply can't agree on what's reasonable, get counseling.

Best wishes to you and your family! anon


I recommend the book ''Grown-Up Marriage.'' It has an excellent chapter in it about the difficulties that couples face in the first months after a baby is born. The descriptions in the book virtually mirrored some of the frustrations and tensions that my husband and I have had since our baby was born last spring. It helped me to understand that it's very normal to have such marital tensions.

That said, it does sound like your husband has unrealistic expectations about having an active sex life again. For gosh sakes, it's only been two months! If you are breastfeeding, my doctor told me, then your body fails to produce a certain hormone that causes sexual interest (or perhaps it produces a hormone that reduces sexual interest, I don't recall). In either case, my doctor said that lack of sexual interest is perfectly normal and that it's ''Mother Nature's way of keeping you from getting pregnant again too quickly.'' Perhaps your doctor could explain it to your husband in terms he would understand and accept.

If it's any consolation, my baby is almost 9 months old and because I'm breastfeeding, I STILL don't have any sexual desire. Frustrating for both of us, but we feel it's the best thing for the baby since breastfeeding is so good for him.

Good luck. Anonymous


It's always challenging when a couple adds a baby. There is a book by Harriet Lerner called the Mother Dance that I found really helpful. I can't remember the exact quote but it's something like....''it's all about the laundry''. Meaning if a husband is wanting his wife to return to sexual activity after a baby he needs to start pulling his weight in household chores, specifically the laundry. I don't have to quote the book anymore but I did chuckle to myself when I came home last night and all of the laundry was folded.

I'm trying to remember when we actually resumed sexual activity, after the first child and a natural child birth it took me about 8-10 weeks and I needed some estrogen cream to make it not burn. With my second, I had a c-section and we were back at it after about 2-3 weeks. But I will say that my sex drive was directly related to how helpful my husband was with me and the baby. The more helpful he was the more I wanted him.

Your husband has no time for himself because you have no time for yourself either. It does get better once the baby gets older and starts sleeping better.

Have you tried leaving the baby with him for a day? I breastfed both of my kids but with my second child I made sure he took a bottle so that I could occasionally leave for more than a few hours. Also leaving the baby with your husband for a day makes him more appreciative of the effort it takes to take care of a baby.

The other thing you could try is to cook up a lot on weekends so that you can just reheat during the week. It also becomes easier once the baby gets older. I work in the morning and spend the afternoons with both kids and the younger one sits in his high chair eating cheerios while the 3 year old and I make dinner. The older child also helps entertain the younger one. My husband is usually astonished at the meals we manage to make together.

As for tidying up the house, I ask my husband to make sure that the dishwasher is empty before he leaves for work. That way it can be loaded throughout the day and turned on before bed. He empties it before leaving and we start over. It makes a huge difference if the kitchen isn't a mess in being able to start a dinner.

Sounds like you need to talk when you aren't with the baby. Perhaps schedule a date night.

Good luck and hang in there, it does get easier


On the one hand, I would say the transition you & your husband are going through is completely normal. On the other hand, I would say that your husband's reactions are overly strong. The threat about possibly having an affair is totally inappropriate at this state. That said, I'll share my advice, based on my & my husband's recent experience.

Becoming parents is a HUGE adjustment. You are so much busier than you expect to be. And roles are compeltely different, too. No matter how much you do around the house, it never feels like enough. I know both my husband and I always felt that we were doing more than the other, and yes, we had some horrible arguments the first 4 - 6 months of our son's life. Over time, I'd say 6 - 9 months, we got used to being busier, didn't keep track of who did what when, and were able to let the little things go.

My previous comment not withstanding, I think sex is a key ingredient here. It was recommended by my family doc that it could be an important outlet at a very stressful time. I think we started having sex again 6 or 8 weeks postpartum. I can't remember how often, but we did it occasionally even though I was really not very interested. It seemed like the right thing to do for the good of the order and a good way to connect as a couple. I would never let the threat of an affair manipulate me into having sex with my husband, however. Not sure what to recommend about this one.

If you & your husband are the type, now might be a really good time for some targeted couples counseling. If you've weathered rough patches/transitions before, hang in there--it gets easier, but might take longer to work out than you expect. Good luck. Mama who's been there


I feel for your situation. Almost every new Mom I know has faced this, although things sound a bit tougher for you. The comment about contemplating an affair after 2 months with no sex is mean and insensitive, and meant to be that way to scare you into having sex- I'm sure he's a generally loving man, but what is he thinking to try that except he is feeling very jealous? Expecting to have all his needs met for dinner and relaxation, mostly provided by a new mother, suggests a degree of self- centeredness. I don't want to rag on men- there just seems to be a certain personality type, male or female, in which their life and their relationships need to be all about them and what they are getting. Are they able to mature past this? Probably some yes and some no- but when they are in the thick of it they can be very accusatory to those closest to them as being to blame for their unmet expectations of being the center of their little universe. With a new baby, it's hard to stand up to him while he is in the throes of this childish worldview- he has threatened to stomp off and play with someone else like a preschooler.

MY husband and I were close to divorce because at one point he decided he just didn't care that I worked outside the home 50 hours per week and then did a lion's share of the care and housework during my ''free time''- he was late 30's and felt his last chance to enjoy a fancy-free life while he was young enough would pass him by if he didn't do it now. (Mainly hanging with the boys at pubs, going to after-work parties and sports events- absolutely no women were involved except as sympathetic ears for his complaints at how cold and controlling and what a real ''nester'' I had become.) He was absolutely sure I just had ''different interests'' now and we were incompatible- when I was exhausted and stressed and needed appreciation, emotional support and tangible help around the house- simply too tired for sex or parties. He moved out but couldn't bring himself to tell his preschool kids he was bailing on us and decided to give it another try. So the kids saved us, too, in a way. A year or so later, our sex life still stinks (if he'd try to romance me it would be alot better, but he justs tries to get quickies- not very satisfying and I'm not jumping at the opportunities) but he is at least making token attempts to help out more, and not blaming me for being ''just no fun anymore'', which goes a long way. I still can't ask him to even take out the trash without him getting all bent out of shape, but he didn't abandon his kids and respects me more so I'll keep on trying to get it all to work.

A close friend made a comment during her pregnancy, after seeing how my husband responded to the demands of our children, that she and her husband had made a strong commitment to co-parent more fully. When her baby was about 2 months of age, she came to me and apologized for her prior smugness.

Keep it together- your baby needs you and deserves two happy parents if at all possible- cut him a little slack, then try to reel him in when he's feeling more generous toward you. anon


Sorry you're going through this. It's a really hard time, and I think a lot of times it's easier for dads once the baby becomes more interactive -- around 3 or 4 months. In the meantime, maybe you could consider getting some counseling so you have a forum for communicating. As far as sex, it's totally normal to not want to have sex so soon. In fact, what no one ever told me beforehand is that due to low estrogen, it is actually quite painful afterwards (and not because of the actual childbirth - I had a C-section). In fact, we've only had sex a handful of times in the 7 months since our baby was born. Try to be patient with your husband - this is hard for him - but know that your concerns are valid. anon
Hi -- I am sorry to hear about your difficulties! Please know that having a new baby ranks up there as one of the most stressful events you can go through -- and one that can strain even the healthiest of relationships (I have been married for 10 years and I can say that having our son was hands-down the hardest period we ever went through).

That being said, based on your note, I think some counseling is probably in order. You didn't mention what your relationship with your husband was like pre-baby: how did you solve conflicts before? Did he want to have a child? His behavior right now does not sound conducive to trying to work together as a team to work through a stressful period of adjustment for all of you, which is why I think some outside help might be in order.

You may also want to consider getting a break: a babysitter so you can go out once a while, even for dinner or an hour-long walk, and possibly someone to help you out a few hours during the week so you can get a break. Another suggestion would be for you to join a new moms' support group -- they can be immensely helpful. Check out this month's issue of Bay Area Parent (free monthly) for an article and lots of moms' group listings.

I don't think this replaces the need for some joint couples counseling, though: based on your note, it sounds like your husband definitely has some issues he needs to address! Threatening an affair to get sex is not a terribly mature approach. As far as how long people wait: it's up to you. Just know that some people wait a LOT longer than 2 months. It's normal to crave sleep, but building in some cuddling time might help (of course, this is only if your husband is acting like someone you'd actually want to cuddle with).

Hopefully he will want to fix things too and will be willing to work on your relationship together. Good luck. Lisa


Wow, I really feel for you. Having a baby is hands-down the hardest, most stressful thing for a person and a marriage. None of the rosy pictures in your mind seem to come true - yet. But there is hope, I swear. My husband and I had a bad patch right after the birth of each of our children. We got through it, and you will too.

One dynamic that may be going on is your husband is suddenly having to share your attention. My husband has always loved having me pay attention to him - his perfect world would be for me to work with him, so that I would be there with him 24 hours a day! So when we had kids, I think he found it very hard to share me. We have worked through it, but it definitely took at while to adjust.

Don't underestimate the horrible toll that sleep deprivation takes,either. Everything looks bleak, and the smallest things become huge issues. Try to sleep whenever the baby is sleeping. Believe me, it is more important than folding laundry or cleaning the house! Getting some sleep can go a long way towards making you think kindly towards your husband again.

It does sound like your husband has a VERY unrealistic picture of what it is like looking after a baby! Is there any way to leave the baby with him for an afternoon, so he gets some first-hand experience? Then maybe he wouldn't be so hard on you. Also, is he unhappy about the state of the house? Hire someone to come in and clean every other week or so . It's not that expensive, and can really save a relationship.

Finally, sex....my husband wanted to make love again practially the day I came home from the hospital! We waited about 6 weeks, but in all honesty I wasn't that excited about it the first time we made love again - I was sooooo tired! But I found that if I made the effort, I got interested and ended up enjoying it. It certainly helps our relationship to make love - I always feel more charitable towards my husband afterward.

BUT having said that, I think it is unbelievable for your husband to say he's going to have an affair if you don't put out! Yes, I think it is important to sometimes make the effort to make love even if you don't necessarily feel like it at first, but only out of love - NOT obligation, or due to some stupid threat like that. I am going to assume, however, that he is basically a good man (or you wouldn't be with him, right?) and this is just bringing out the worst in him.

So, get some sleep, hire a housecleaner, downsize your expectations, and tell him he's lucky to have his lovely wife and beautiful son! anonymous, obviously!


I don't want to pass judgment, but some of your husband's complaints do seem like they might be based on unrealistic expectations. After my child was born, my husband gave me a break every night when he got home from work so I could take a walk -- even though the baby usually cried then. He never complained about dinner or housework (of course, he's not particularly a neat-freak, so he never has complained about that sort of thing). And he stayed up to feed the baby the first half of every night, while I did the second (our baby woke every two hours for the first three months of his life) Sure, we had our share of arguments (mostly due to sleep deprivation), but nothing like this. And I don't believe one single mom of the dozen in my moms' group had had sex with her husband by two months after delivery. I remember this, because we had a big discussion about it. anonymous
I feel for you so much! My husband and I have remarkably similar values and hardly ever disagreed about anything before our son was born. When I saw our friends being new parents and being flippant or rude to each other, I thought to myself ''wow, I'll try to never do that.'' Then, our baby was born and I found out how difficult becoming a threesome is! Sleep deprivation and absolutely no time for oneself are perhaps the hardest parts, but all of a sudden having to agree on so many things (that are so scary the first time around) so fast with a new baby really threw even my husband and I for quite a loop and was the insult added to the injury of no sleep and no time.

With regard to your questions: First, let me say that I think your husband is being completely and absolutely unreasonable (maybe he's typical, I don't know, but he's certainly unreasonable). There is no way that you or your husband should expect you to keep a house clean and have dinner ready with a 2- month old and all the adjustments that takes. The ONLY things I managed to do were to feed and change the baby, maybe put some baby laundry in, and -- if it was a REALLY good day and I was lucky -- I might be able to feed myself, go to the bathroom, and maybe even get dressed. No house cleaning. No dinner for hubby. And, yes, you DESPERATELY need a baby break when he gets home from work after being with a tiny little one all day long.

As for sex: I think maybe we had sex once at about 3 months for the first time, and, if my husband was lucky, at most once a month after that (but I think I am exaggerating how frequent it was!). Frankly, I had no interest at all until my son was about 11 months old. Although no interest in sex is a well-kept secret, from what I've read in this advice newsletter and other places, this is really quite normal (and probably the norm). Mostly, lack of interest in sex was due to utter exhaustion, but it also didn't feel so great and I was also panicked I would get pregnant again (even with using a diaphragm, which, by the way, was also just one more energetic barrier to ''getting in the mood''). Although my husband didn't complain, it was not a good year for him and after about 7 months even he stopped trying to initiate sex because I probably said too often I wasn't interested (and since he didn't inititate things, nothing was going to happen for sure!). In retrospect, I wish we had gone to see a counselor, as I think it would have helped us get through the rough edges during the first 12 months. I did go for a ''tune-up'' to my old counselor for one visit, and she gave me the names of some great couples counselors, but -- guess what -- it was difficult to get up the energy and to make the time to do it. Again, it might have been very helpful.

Overall, I think your idea to get couples counseling is a great idea. I wish I had done it, and will do it next time if my husband and I have similar problems (we are expecting again). I also looked into having my husband go to a fathers' discussion group. I learned about one interesting one through the Announcements part of this newsletter group (it may have been part of an Alta Bates group in Berkeley -- very non- threatening since it didn't sound like traditional ''therapy''). It sounded really good -- for men to get together and do the whining among themselves that is (justifiably) driving you nuts right now. And to come to terms with the changes that new fatherhood brings by talking about it with a counselor in a group setting. My husband doesn't whine and was really terrific in understanding what difficulties I was having, so he thought a bitching session with other men was not what he really needed or wanted at the time. But it might be worth checking into for your husband so he can bitch to someone else besides you and can find out that *all* the other men are going through just about the same thing as he is (i.e., that *you* are not weird at all). anon


It seems to me you not only had a baby, but married one as well.

Of course you are not crazy to expect him to help you and give you some slack. And of course you can't get anything done when you have an infant. I remember a wonderful Baby Blues cartoon in which the husband congratulated the wife for washing two plates one day after having their baby (twice what she'd been able to do the day before!). And that's totally how I felt too.

My husband, fortunately, was and continues to be much more understanding. He never expects me to do anything house-wise, he's happy when I do it, but understands that's not my priority now. We also have an arrangement that the baby is his responsibility when he's at home. Yes, it's hard, but it's hard for me to be with her for 10+ hours in a row as well.

Then again, he wanted children more than I did.

With respect to sex, I had sex with my husband within a couple of weeks after giving birth (and I had a c-section). I wasn't necessarily in the mood, and I often am not in the mood now when we have sex, but I know it's important to him. Men get close, intimate, through sex. They need it to feel loved and valued. I do think you are being unwise (if not selfish) by not putting out. This is a very stressful time for him (as it is for you) and having regular sex might make him feel happier, closer to you and thus more willing to understand you. anon


I think every couple that has babies goes through some form of adjustment issues. I have been lucky. My husband does most of the chores around the house without even asking. Inspite of that when he comes home, I often want him to take the baby so I can get some down time. He usually wants to spend time with the baby so he doesn't complain about that.

My advice to you is to get a house cleaner. They are not that expensive when you consider the pay back. I am sure you can get plenty of referrals.

Second, consider going out with the baby and your husband for a night out. The parkway speak easy movie theater in Oakland has baby brigade where you can take your baby to the movies.

Third, consider getting a baby sitter for one evening so you can reconnect with your husband. He will be less resentful if yo uspend some time with him.

Lastly, consider joining a parents group of some sort so your husband can get exposure to other parents who go thorugh the same issues.

The sex thing is the toughest. It didn't happen for almost 4 months for us. But my husband was patient. I know you would rather sleep when you have time to yourself but let me tell you, sometimes sex actually helps you relax so try it!! Just use a ton of lubrication the first time.

It is ridiculous that your husband is talking about affairs. I think you should let him know how that has hurt your feelings.

Good luck and hope it all works out. Been there!


Dear Wits End,

As a father of several kids, your problems sound par for the experience. All you can do is practice patience, sympathy, and restraint while you wait for time to make it all easier. Here are some specific suggestions from a father's point of view that should make it easier to deal with your husband:

--Don't bombard your husband with anything when he gets home from work. Let him get ''acclimated'' to being home for 15 min or an hour. Then ask him if he can help you with something specific.

--It's cliche but true: sex is different to men than women. And it's very different for each man. To some it's almost a drug. It's almost always difficult to go without sex for the better part of a year during and after a pregnancy. While you may not have any interest, it may make all the difference in the world to your husband. Try something simple, quick, and easy. With a little effort on your part, I bet you can get him to do all sorts of clever tricks and chores for you. If you are still sore, which is entirely likely, focus on oral sex for a while. Do not underestimate the value of keeping your man sexually ''maintained.''

--Eliminate little irritating issues that can be solved easily, like having dinner ready. With the right recipe and practice, you can have an incredible meal done i 15 min. Or, figure out ways to have other people make dinner for you if it's just not your cup of tea. You'd be surprised at the wonderful meals you can have at very little expense if you do some homework (try Rustica in downtown Montclair, they even deliver locally).

--Discuss your Top 5 list of gripes with each other and negotiate a way to eliminate each one, starting at the top. You might even ''trade'' a pet peeve for one of his pet peeves.

--Remember you are both under duress, and are apt to say horrible things to each other during this period. Don't get weighed down dwelling on these things.

--Men worry more than they let on. They worry about the baby. They worry about you. It can weigh them down because they feel helpless and removed from the situation. And any marriage counselor will tell you the same. Don't be cavalier about this.

--Men also suffer from feeling like the abandoned child. You now have a baby that is dependent on you and takes much of your time. Even the best guy has to make big adjustments to share his wife with someone else, even if it's his child.

--Your hormones are going crazy. It should not be a source of blame for anything, but you need to be conscious of it.

--Your husband does need to step up to the plate too on each of these issues. It's a 2-way street. Talking about an affair was a terrible thing for him to say. He needs to be more prepared to leave the office at work and come home and give you a mental break.

--Don't be afraid to talk these issues out with someone you trust. If not a counselor, perhaps there is a trusted friend or relative or clergymember.

Hopefully in a few years you can look back and laugh at yourselves, how stressed you were, how naive you were, and what a big fuss you made. You just have to survive a few years first. :-)

Father John


I think it's pretty normal to fight after having a baby, but I would recommend you and your husband seek counseling. A therapist can help you both understand the stresses the other is feeling, help you communicate better, and help you focus on the positives. It's an especially tough time right now, and it sounds as though your husband may have had unrealistic expectations about the stress of starting a family. I am slightly alarmed that he has accused you of being selfish regarding sex; my husband whined about it a bit, but ultimately understood that a) I needed to heal physically, b) the thought of sex after childbirth is simply scary and needs to be approached gently and c) I need to feel loved and supported in order to want to have sex (postpartum or no, it's a good idea to actually feel good about your partner, IHMO). Being physically sensitive, exhausted, and angry is not exactly a recipe for mad love-making. I think we eventually had sex about three months postpartum, but it was awkward the first couple of tries and his understanding and patience was critical to getting back in the groove.

Fighting is normal but threatening to have an affair if you don't ''put out'' at 2 months postpartum sounds to me like a serious lack of understanding and support. You might want to join a mothers group for some other new moms to talk to about this stuff. If you can get him to go, your husband might benefit from a dad's group, where he could both vent his frustrations and likely hear from other dads that their wives didn't clean or make dinner, either (it's hard when you have a new baby!) But I definitely recommend counseling before resentment builds too far on either side. Good luck! concerned


I am so so sorry that you are going through this right now. It's extremely hard to be alone with a baby all day long, especially when you are the one who gave birth to the little darling and are still recovering. If you are nursing, that's an added wollop, both because of the time it takes out of your day and the toll it takes on you physically. The most important thing for you and your husband to remember is that nothing ever stays the same for very long. Soon, your baby will be smiling and laughing and napping on a fairly regular schedule. And you will be physically recovered from the pregnancy and childbirth enough to deal with things other than the baby. In addition, the baby will start sleeping through the night, so you won't be fighting sleep deprivation. So maybe that's the first thing you can say to your husband: Hold on. It will get better. Be patient.

In addition, I suggest you try very hard not to demonize your husband. Not necessarily because he doesn't deserve it (I have no idea whether he does or not) but because it's counter- productive. Things are tough for BOTH of you. Try approaching your husband with empathy and see if you can help each other rather than fight each other. Your husband feels the loss of his independence and his former life, and that's hard. You probably feel it too, so talk about that shared experience. Maybe he'll give you some empathy in return. Maybe you can put your heads together and think of ways to make life easier for you both.

Also, I don't know if you've explained to him exactly how you feel postpartum or what a typical day is like, but you might try that. I know that with my first child, my husband stayed home for two weeks and then went back to work. Well, the baby slept almost the entire time those two weeks. It wasn't until she got a little older that she was awake more, fussing more and taking up more of my time. I found that my husband had no real idea what a day was like. His being home on weekends didn't count because there were two of us there.

You might consider joining a new moms group. These can be very helpful in terms of venting and problem solving. Also, your husband can meet the new dads and learn from them that they are having similar issues. There can be something quite comforting in learning that what you are going through is ordinary.

Have you considered a baby sitter for the weekends or for evenings here and there? You could spend that time together, or you could spend it separate and alone (something that is just as important but that is often undervalued). If you don't think you have the money in the budget, really take a hard look. Do you get cable? That's six hours of babysitting a month.

Finally, the sex thing is a big problem on a lot of levels. If you aren't getting any sleep, and if you spend the whole day with a baby attached to your breast, it is almost impossible to get really excited about anything other than your pillow. In addition, your sex drive is lower naturally because of the breast feeding. You could try to explain those things to your husband and reassure him that you are still attracted to him and that in a few months -- when things are easier and the baby starts sleeping through the night -- you can both enjoy sex again. (I didn't have sex until six months after my baby was born.)

I hope you can work things out. Babies are incredible, and they bring amazing joy and complications to our lives. They also put a ton of pressure on a marriage. I think most marriages go through similar complications. You aren't alone.

Postpartum veteran


What you are going through post-partum is common, but I hope your husband's attitude is not. He is being a jerk! I suggest letting him spend 8-10 hours alone with the baby and see how much housework he gets done, will dinner be made and what will his mood be like at the end of the day. You didn't say whether you were breastfeeding, but I seem to recall that that took at least half the day alone (or it seemed like it did). Not to mention the fact that you barely have time to feed yourself, shower and go to the bathroom, right?

And as for sex, well it took us over four months to try it again, mostly because I was still in pain. My husband was patient. If you husband is selfish and childish enough to suggest that maybe he'll have an affair, I say good riddance. Sorry to be so harsh, but he really needs a good kick in the pants. And I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you, but I did want you to know that you're not being unreasonable, AT ALL, and you deserve much more support than you're getting. I hope someone else can offer you advice. Good luck! anon


I totally sympathize with you. I was never a great housekeeper (to this day I would still be considered a slob) and when our son came along, the situation got worse. Piles of laundry covered our sofa or bed, dishes and dinner were rarely done. It was a disaster. My mom constantly came over and helped me out, however there is so much someone else can do before you have to pay them. My husband was okay during the first month but then everything started getting to him and it did jeopardize our relationship to the point of breaking. It didn't help that were barely twenty either.

First take a look at your pre-baby habits. Were you both neat in your ways? Did he pick up after himself? How much did he help out before? Was dinner always done on time? If not, there is no reason for him to expect it now, even if he is the only bread winner. It sounds like your husband needs to take a step back and reflect on what he expected when you both decided to have a family. How realistic was he?

Even after two months, you can't be expected to be on top of things like before. Babies require a lot more care than most people expect. Sure babies sleep a lot, but they also wake up a lot in the middle of the night, depriving you of your sleep. Your hormones are still adjusting to normalacy too! My mom and mother-in-law's rule was, when the baby sleeps, you sleep. There are just some things that are not so important when you have a two-month-old. Chores and the house will not receive the same level of attention that they used to for awhile, and unless you can afford a housekeeper or he's helping out with the chores, it'll be that way for awhile. Eventually you will find your groove. Oh and no, it is not crazy for you to expect him to help you. His and your independent time for the time being will be dedicated to the baby and keeping the house in order so that you can be comfortable in your home.

The men of his father's day weren't really expected to do much when it came to babies and the raising of children so it's totally unfair for him to compare your situation with that of one from 30+ years ago. It's also easy to compare to friends when he doesn't have to live with them. He really needs to talk to a doctor or a therapist to get him straightened out.

As for sex after the baby, I put it off as long as I could. I was so tired and had so much to do plus I just didn't feel like it. Besides, why would anyone want to have sex with someone who complains or talks the way he does? I don't blame you at all. You may also consider documenting the threats of an affair. Find a pastor, a therapist or a close friend to lean on during this difficult period because it sounds like you really need one. You should even consider taking yourself out of that situation. It's not healthy for you or the baby. Plus it sounds like you really need one. Is there a family member or a friend that you or he can stay at for a period? It's worth a try.

Above all put you and your baby first. You're still in a period of recovery. It's not to say that you shouldn't be considerate of his feelings too. However it sounds like your husband is being unreasonable and plain childish.

Sympathize greatly


Boy are you gonna get responses to this one!

Just the other day I had lunch with a girlfriend who is dealing with the same thing(her baby is 6 months old) and sharing my experiences w/her (my baby is 14 months old). i know very few (if any?) couples who don't go through this post-baby stress/trauma. i really believe post partum depression is agitated by this transitional period and lack of support.

In retrospect things have gotten better for me and my partner, but it took a lot of teeth pulling to do it.

I've heard the: ''i'm doing more than other dad's/my dad'' crap (to put it mildly), the resentment for no/little sex, and the awful expectations on housework.

My humble opinion is that many of us moms grew up with strong feminist ideals - but surprise! a lot of the fellas were not reading the same books or adopting the same ideals we thought had been adopted by society. There is nothing like childbirth to show you a man's ''real'' idea of ''equal'' and ''partner''! Sorry to all the ''progressive'' guys and dads out there (i suspect you exist), but my awful experience has left me a skeptic!

i know many of us were on the brink of ending the relationships because it has gotten so bad - not to mention the lack of any appreciation.

sorry i don't have better news for you! i don't think we had sex for 3-4 month's after, and still rarely do. if you are nursing the hormones really do play a role, as well as just being pooped!

One of the best things to do is to leave the dad w/ the baby alone on a regular basis, one or two hours at least once a week. That helps them develop ''some'' compassion and understanding for what work it is to care for a new baby! many dad's want to ''play'' with the baby, not ''take care'' of it. then you can also take a walk, grab some tea, read a book/paper and feel a little rejuvenated and maybe even a little ''randy!'' hehe.

We also hired someone to clean the house 2 x's a month and that helped to relieve some of the strain. Go to a mommy & baby support group and that will be a good place to get some support if you aren't getting it from him.

i am truly disheartened by some of the behavior i have seen from many new dads and i hope that by some miracle, they get together and decide to turn a new leaf! Hooray if you have someone/or are someone who is a faboo partner/daddy but i am not making a leap when i am saying your experience is probably much more common than not!

still bitter but surviving


I was in a similar mood as your husband after the birth of your first child. It is a huge transition to become a parent and moms biologically and psychologically are often (usually?) way ahead of the curve. Until dads make the transition themselves it is hard not to be jealous of all the cooing, cuddling attention the baby gets. 'Suddenly the woman I married stops caring how she looks, stops caring about me, and doesn't care about sex. Instead of going out I'm here changing diapers.' Took me a lot longer to fully adjust than I wanted to admit. I'm don't have an easy answer. But you gotta realize you moms get all sorts of social preparation we didn't get PLUS you get an immediate and special physical relationship with the baby (through nursing, etc). It is harder for us. Getting together with other parents for an adult dinner can help (babies with sitters please). And even if YOU aren't ready for sex--there are ways to make us feel like you recognize that we have passsions beyond the pleasure of feeding the kids (imagine what you would have felt a year ago if your partner stopped all intimacy for two months). Sorry you have to go through this additional burden... but helping us dads through the changes will make for healthier parents in the long run. I sure learned through the process how amazing it is that any couples stay together after having kids. But it can happen. And when the both of you turn the corner on the challenges then you can look back and laugh about it.

Added note: check your own temperature too. Even tho it is hard, do try to find a grandparent or relative or trusted friend who will take the baby for a couple hours so you can remember what it is like to be your own person. It is easy to get completely baby fixated. Remember that in the old world, babys weren't raised just by the immediate parents. It is good to socialize the experience for everyone's well being. been there


HI- Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. I'm glad you're happy with your new baby and sorry it's creating such stress and difficulties in your marriage. I think it's really important you and your husband talk with people (friends, other new parents, a therapist) about your adjustment. It sounds like he doesn't understand how hard it is for you to get anything done besides taking care of the newborn. That is a full time job and a huge adjustment for both of you. Your not doing ''nothing'' all day. When he comes home, you need a break. Of course, he needs a moment to unwind from work too. Maybe you could negotiate how much down time he gets after walking in the door before taking over. And as for sex, it takes a while to feel in the mood, especially if your breast feeding. Your hormones are still in ''mommy mode'' not ''sexy woman mode''. There's a lot in your post to discuss and I believe a lot of your concerns could be worked out fairly quickly in therapy. I'm a therapist who specializes in postpartum issues. I'd be happy to speak with you and/or meet with you and your husband. You can have the family you dreamed of. Deena
My husband and I definately fought more after our baby was born...and i put it solely down to sleep deprivation as our baby was a terrible sleeper. Having said that I think that your husband is expecting far too much of you and going way too far particularly with his threat to have an affair...such a threat is unacceptable. I know many women who did not want (and/ or could not because of complicated births) to have sex for 6 - 8 months after the baby was born. I have two thoughts. The first is to leave your husband alone with the baby all day on the weekend and tell him you expect the house to be clean and dinner to be ready when you get home. This may not be possible because you may be nursing but then you can tell him he will be entirely responsible for the baby, the housecleaning, dinner etc and you will only nurse. Then nurse the baby and go out coming back when you think it is time to nurse again. Do not give him a break to go to the bathroom, have a shower, check his email whatever. You need to pretend that you are not there and see how he handles it. It sounds like he doesn't understand or is unwilling to accept how tiring and time consuming it is to be home with a baby. In fact i feel it is much more tiring etc in the early months then going out to a job where you get lunch breaks, coffee breaks and can speak to adults and work at your own pace not the pace of a baby. The sex thing is more difficult but, as i said above, it is totally unacceptable for your husband to be threatening an affair (can't he 'relieve himself' until you feel ready?). He should instead be asking you what would make it easier for you to feel more sexual...maybe a nap on Saturday while he takes the baby out. OR a long hot bath once the baby is asleep (and before the baby wakes up for a night feeding!!!) OR a massage with no expectations just to get back into the feeling of being together physically again. He needs to slow down and stop being so selfish...life has changed in both good and challenging ways. anon
You asked if your husband's behavior is ''normal'' - well, I would say unfortunately it is far too typical. Yes, I also feel that my husband just didn't ''get it'', and many of my mom friends have said the same about their educated, intelligent husbands. No, you are not being selfish about deciding when you are ready for sex. Let's see... medical advice usually ''okays'' things at 6 weeks, and it's only been 8? Let's look at the big picture!

I wish I could recommend something for your husband to read, but jeez -just look at most sitcoms and most plot lines revolve around these issues... It's very, very hard to see the big picture when your baby is so young since the impact a baby makes is so dramatic, and the changes keep happening, and you're sleep deprived, but communication is key, letting dads take over (completely! no hovering!) on weekends, night feedings, etc helps, and get him to talk to other dads, and moms! Best of luck Been there


Your message could have been written by me when our child was 1st born. In those early days, when my husband was performing basic acts of fatherhood he imagined he was being a superdad. And sadly, he could respond quite childishly when faced with rather ordinary parenting challanges. I would try to talk with him about what I was seeing, but he wasn't in a place to hear me or respond to my needs or concerns. And he really couldn't articulate what was going on for him, either. Looking back, I realize now my husband suffered feelings of fear and anxiety over becoming a father.

What worked for me was to not look to my husband for much, but rather be grateful for what he could and did provide. I lined up help for myself and reached out to others to get what I needed. Even in the face of financial constraints I made sure I had the support I needed, in order that I might in turn, be the kind of mother I wanted to be. I feel that approach also helped my marriage. It was a great relief to my husband not to have me looking to him, for what ultimately, he didn't have it to give.

About the affair, the fact that your husband can even say such a thing suggests your marriage is at a very low point, indeed. Hopefully he will retract his statement and make amends. Maybe a date night would help. Or you might wish to consider counseling.

Good luck. Donna


My husband and I have gone through similar situations since having our now 3 year old, but I am happy to report that things have been really really good (arguments resolved) for the last 18 months. If there is one thing I have learned though, when it comes to a relationship with children, there are always going to be times when a ''renegotion'' of the division of labor is necessary. It never ends because the situation is always changing.

But here's what we have done that has made things better:

Number one and so so important: no matter how little money you have, try to hire a housecleaner. We have sacrificed a lot in order to get a once a week cleaner to come in. She does the major cleaning, folds laundry and other stuff. It truly changed a lot of our arguments that prior to that point seemed unresolvable. I am a person (and it seems like your husband might be too) whose mood is very affected by the state of the house. I know it sounds simple, but having the major cleaning taken care of freed both my husband and I up for more free time alone and with each other..and more quality time with our child.

Same goes for a babysitter if you can afford it, but frankly, I think a housecleaner is more important.

Another thing that actually helped us was to sit down and go through exactly what each person was doing around the house. We calculated hours of ''work'' including working outside the house, working taking care of the child, and working doing household maintenance. Each task was considered equal. If you are watching the child and cleaning house at the same time, then that time gets counted double. We decided that nap time didn't count as watching the child...but I usually pay bills or something during the nap so still got credit for ''working''. I know it may sound petty, but this way we each got an objective picture of how each of us were spending our time. I think my husband was a bit blown away when he looked at everything I was doing (taking care of the child, managing the finances, working outside the home part time, cleaning, etc)all at once and he then had more understanding about why I was feeling overwhelmed.

The other thing is, is there anyway you can set aside a certain amount of time for both you and your husband to have ''independent time''? Can you have a scheduled time at least once a week in the evenings and then some time for each of you on the weekend where you each get a certain amount of time to yourself to do whatever it is you want to do? At first this would probably be good to do alone but eventually you can also try to schedule fun together time.

The way we do it currently is that my husband takes care of our child pretty much every evening when he gets home until our son goes to bed. But on the weekends he gets to go exercise: usually running or golfing or tennis; spending up to 3 hours of ''independent time'' on both days. He seems to be happy with this and so am I. Then I get the early evening when my husband comes home from work to take a bath or watch TV or whatever for an hour or so and take less time alone on the weekends. It seems to be working out well.

I guess what I am saying is that sometimes you have to schedule it and make it explicit instead of just hoping that you each will pull your own weight.

As for sex, I doubt you'll want to do it with him until you start feeling better about things. The division of labor issues are really loaded with lots of other issues such as respect, understanding, etc and those things definitely affect my level of desire.

And once again, as things change, you both need to be open to renegotion. Make it clear to your husband after you have established what seems to be a fair div of labor that you may need to renegotiate as responsibilities change.

Anyway, that is what worked for us. good luck to you


The postpartum months (and years) can wreak havoc on a good marriage, and can destroy a not-so-good one. However, your husband does sound particularly selfish. It is probably because he has no idea how hard it is to spend all day with a baby. He may think you are relaxing at home and therefore he wants to do the same when he arrives home at the end of the day. Is there anyway he can spend a real day or two with your child by himself? From the beginning my husband and I have shared care of our daughter (both of us have flexible or part- time work schedules) and I'm sure it has saved our marriage. He knows just how hard it is to be 1:1 with our child for long periods of time and how little gets done during those times. Although we love being with our daughter, we both agree that it is harder than going to work. That is not something one can explain to a husband. They have to experience it themselves. Then perhaps he'll be more empathic of your situation and more willing to give you the break you deserve. anon
I am so sorry to hear of your marital troubles. It sounds to me like your husband needs a serious wake-up call about the realities of new parenthood, because it sounds to me like his expectations of you are way, way too high this soon after delivery of your baby. He needs to read as many books and talk to as many new dads and moms as possible, so he can get a reality check about how exhausted you must be from delivery, nursing, and caring for your infant round the clock.

Some things to consider:

No, you are not ''depriving'' him of the sex he craves. No mom I know was ready to jump into the sack with her husband even 6 months after birthing a child. Nursing hormones depress one's desire for sex, and exhaustion certainly puts a damper on it. I think his intimation that he may consider an affair borders on emotional abuse, and you need to take strong issue with it. Get the support of your family and friends on this one, even though it might be somewhat embarrassing to discuss such personal matters with others.

He may actually be jealous of the baby, and of how much attention you are giving the baby. If at all possible, try to schedule some mommy/daddy time when the baby is sleeping, or have a friend come over and take baby on a long walk so you and your husband can curl up together and watch a movie or have tea. Perhaps just knowing that you are concerned for him, too, may help him make this difficult adjustment to ''sharing'' you with the baby. I think he needs to join a new fathers group or some other such outlet, too.

Bottom line: Get counseling, now. You need it for support, and he needs it for a reality check. Best of luck to you, Elizabeth


Oh boy, do I feel for you. And I know you'll get a lot of supportive (and indignant!) responses to your mail - I'm sure it hit a nerve with many of us! You are ABSOLUTELY NOT crazy to expect help, to expect slack - of all sorts: about baby duty, household chores, sex, everything from him! You are a new mother! And he is a new father, but is acting like a born-again baby. My husband and I went through it too (still do on occasion, though it's much much better - and it only took 2 years! ;). It definitely sounds like some counceling is in order. And in addition, some help with the house or baby, if you can possibly swing it, and I HIGHLY recommend you find a way to. Getting someone to come clean the house once every week or 2 can make a shocking difference to a relationship, strange as it sounds! And maybe even more important, if you aren't already you should try to get a babysitter every few weeks so you and your husband can have a little adult time. Even if you're tired and don't feel like it. You'll feel better if you can go have a nice meal or see a movie or something. In hindsight, much of our frustration and depression over the loss of our freedom and individuality would have been (at least a little) alleviated by making a point of getting out more. But it was our first, she was super-collicky, and we just never felt secure about leaving her with a new babysitter. We had no family in the area to help us, and we were very isolated. Also, because she was so difficult, I felt guilty leaving her with my husband to get a little time to myself. He always seemed so panicky. Maybe you have a similar situation. But if I were to do it again, I would not make the same mistake. I would meet a babysitter, hold my breath and leave the house. Even if only for an hour or 2.

It can be extremely difficult to see the situation clearly when you are so sleep deprived, even when you THINK you are seeing clearly. During the first 6 - 10 months I felt sure at times that I had made a terrible mistake in marrying my husband, and I started imagining what my life would be like as a single mother after we split up... and didn't even feel sad about it - just relieved that I would then only have 1 baby to take care of! I'm sure he had similar feelings. The transition from being a free member of society to being a parent of an infant is just incredibly hard. My husband and I still grapple with it, but we are really glad we made it through that hellish early period.

As for sex however, I'm sorry but I believe your husband is REALLY over the line here. Threatening an affair after you gave birth 2 months ago is simply cruel and unforgivable. What an assinine thing to say. For that reason alone I would seek professional help, to try to get at whether he's really serious or just delusional from lack of sleep. I don't think we had sex for 5 months after our baby was born, and it was not at all comfortable for me (bordering on painful) for several months after that. The tissues are very dry down there after birth, especially if your breastfeeding, as I undertand it. My OB cautioned us to take it slow, use lots of lubricant, and maybe work your way up to intercourse with something smaller than a penis. But that's WHEN you feel ready to start at all. And I wouldn't blame you for not feeling like it yet. (And certainly not until he starts acting nicer to you.)

I wish you the best of luck. If you can both find a way to see that this is a relatively short period (long as it feels) in your lives together, you can get through it! Been (near) there


You sound almost exactly like I did when I had a baby girl, although it was compounded by the fact my husband kept saying that I wasn't earning enough money to warrant his doing more childcare,even though he wanted a child more strongly than I did, mainly because I was afraid of how he would behave, and it was he who was not interested in sex not I. You should get help immediately if you want to save your marriage. I tried to get him into a father's group, counseling, whatever to no avail, and now after six years of no sex, and constant battling, we are separated and getting divorced. Now that he is out of the house, he wants to parent. So, although it is common, don't let things fester, get support now! anon.
Red flags and warning sirens went off everywhere when I read your post. If your husband is threatening to have an affair two months after your child is born, he is abusing you emotionally and it must stop for your sake and the sake of your child. It may take several more months for your sex drive to come back, and if he loves you as he should, he will wait, masturbate, wait, wait, wait, love you and help you and wait. (I can't imagine that he is making himself any more attractive to you by being a big baby, either, for what that's worth.) There is no other acceptable way for him to behave. Too bad that his dad and his friends didn't step up and help out around the house. That's absolutely no excuse. Run, do not walk, to marriage counseling, and I will keep my fingers crossed for you. mad mama
>From what I hear, postpartum difficulties (often into the first year and beyond) are common. I don't have a good solution for you (try a good therapist), but don't feel like you're alone. My husband complained like mad the first few months for the same reasons, and I'm still angry about it. It's easier, particularly when the baby is small, to go into the office and think for several hours straight with no baby interrruptions. Plus you're still tired and weak (and some of us are tired and weak for much longer than that, unfortunately). And if you're breastfeeding, you're probably spending 8 hrs or more a day w/ the baby at the breast, so you can't get much else done. I got some relief when my husband started to stay home one day a week so I could go into the office: the first two weeks the house was clean and dinner was made, but after that he slowed down just like anybody else would, but never apologized for being so hard on me.

Unfortunately, your husband really needs to understand what it feels like, and it doesn't sound like he is interested. I'd suggest continuing to explain how you feel, and try to emphasize the joy you both have in your baby, and if you can, when the baby is napping, once or twice a week, try to straighten up just a little bit and/or make a simple dinner, just to meet him halfway. And/or ask him to watch the baby on the weekends so you can make a casserole or two that can go in the freezer to be pulled out for the week for an easy dinner. but this idea that he should have an affair because he needs sex is immature and self-centered. Nice birthday present! See if you can find some time just to cuddle togther first, and explain to him that you need to feel nurtured and energetic, not just a sex vessel, and hopefully you can get there with some real caring. I know there are folks out there who are excited to have sex right away, but for me it took a while. Probably tried at 2 months, but it was painful and scary. Cuddling and mutual masturbation was nicer, and it took several more months before I was interested in sex. And since we're still having some difficulty with the division of domestic chores (and I'm still frazzled), sometimes I'm still disinterested. I think some men assume that life should go on like it was before except now you have a ''bundle of joy''-but that bundle is lots of work--several more hours per day for both of you, at the very least. In order to find time for yourself, you need to carve out time for you and for him, dividing childcare and domestic duties, and carve out time for the two of you. And try to keep in mind that it does get easier as the baby gets older and you get your routines down a little bit. anon


I think keeping up a house w/ a newborn is incredibly difficult. I hired a housecleaner for the first time in my life post partum. Often the house looks worse after a day home w/ baby no matter who is home, mommy, daddy, or nanny. Today we also parent in a more 'attachment' style that is very responsive to infant needs. While this shouldn't cut into 'couple time' in a damaging way, I see no reason why it can't result in lower housekeeping standards and take out meals.

At only two months postpartum, you might consider calling a girlfriend to ask her to activate a meal train for you.

But these words don't address the issue at it's heart. Someone is having a tough time adjusting to what parenting means and to the expectations you have for egalitarian parenting. You might have a counseling session or two on this topic re: expectations and reality for each of you.

I'm sure we didn't try to have sex until 10 + weeks post partum. If the laundry is all that's standing in your way, leave the clothes for later. If you feel emotionally or physically unready explain your concerns to your husband! Your hormones aren't exactly your best friend when it comes to reestablishing a sexual relationship at this time. But lots of marriage counselors suggest a benefit of the doubt mind frame when it comes to sexual desire. In this scenario, both parties are supposed to be occasionally willing to 'gift' their partner and go along with intimacy foreplay to see if they can change their mind a follow through for their partner.

That said for us the first few ventures back to sensuality/sexuality were a) non penetrative and b) very much about the female partner's feelings and readiness (Is this okay?) c) and when it came to intercourse more fraught with anxiety about pain than losing when her virginity.

Frankly, it doesn't sound like that is what your husband has in mind. He's talking about 'his needs' not your sexual relationship. But just as he needs to reframe the issue, you might think about reframing the issue so it's not your lack of desire and his unfair pressure, but your sexual partnership in its lifelong totality (both of you). If this isn't conceivable or worth it for either of you, then I don't think the problem is the baby! Sleep deprivation and hormones aside.

But two months is awfully early on for these worries and threats like his sound emotionally abusive to me. In some cultures the postpartum mommy is pampered by family and female relatives for weeks so that she can focus on her body's main job (and full-time one)...ensuring the survival of her baby! anonymous


Hang in there! I think (hope!) this is only a phase you are going through, but a phase that will take time, understanding, communication and commitment to get through in one piece. It sounds very familiar to the changes my husband and I went through with the birth of our first child and again with our second child. It was really scary because I thought our marriage was suddenly in trouble. I have put more consideration, thought and attention to our relationship than ever before. You are not crazy! You deserve a break from the baby and help around the house and time for yourself as well. It sounds like you need to find a way to communicate this to your husband in a way he won't get defensive or resentful. Talking to a therapist is one option. We haven't done this yet but we've discussed it several times and I still think it is a great idea. It doesn't mean your marriage is in trouble, just means you are committed to making it the best you can make it. It's worth it! As for sex, I never got my sex drive back after 2 kids. I still struggle with it. I'm afraid that will always be an issue with us and I think that's fairly normal. Good luck to you. anon
I have a four month old boy and I was prety shocked at how difficult the early days of parenting are on the marriage. Even though we had a solid marriage, my husband and I found ourselves fighting and squabbling due to lack of sleep, a major lifestyle adjustment and time management issues. Virtually all of the moms I know report similar difficulties. Having said that, your husband's behaviour sounds pretty awful. I am curious if this behaviour is a suprise, or is this something you have seen in the past?

Just to relate my own experience-we did not have sex for 3.5 months and my husband did not pressure me once. I would mention it on occassion and he would say ''whenever you are ready, honey''. I felt biologically inclined to focus on my newborn for a while (not forever, but at least the ''fourth trimester'') and he was fine with that. He spent a long time in the shower in the morning and made it through alright. When we finally did have sex it did hurt, so our sex life has not been exactly rocking and rolling, but he has been very understanding. I do try to find other ways to show love-back massages, time for him to work out, coffee in bed, etc.

In terms of time to himself, in the very early days I think he was a little shocked at how little time would be left for him. We had a few weekend squabbles until he realized that this is life now and he has since embraced it. He leaves for work at 6am and when he gets home at 6pm I directly hand him the baby for bath, PJs and bedtime stories. It gives him time with his son and gives me a much needed break (which you deserve). On the weekends we split childcare, with perhaps him doing a little more.

Given what you said about your husband's behaviour (mumbling under his breath, constant conplaining, talking about an affair), I woudl strongly suggest therapy with someone familiar with these issues. Although this is a hard transition time, what you describe is no way to treat his wife and mother of his child! You are barely (probably not completely) recovered from childbirth! What you need is love, support and lots of help. One infant is hard enough to take care of, who needs two? I would strongly recommend that you tackle these issues with a professional before your child gets older-it will only get harder from here!

My heart goes out to you. I wish you all the best. anon


I am so sorry to hear about your marital difficulties. It is a truly rough transition for all involved. My husband and I have had many rough spots the last thirteen months. We didn't have much sleep for the first twelve months and it really affected how we talked to each other and how we behaved. We both told ourselves and each other that it is a phase that we needed to get through and that we both had to make an effort not to hurt the other person even though we were exhausted. (we continue to say impatient things in our more sleep deprived moments) But we realize that we are still the same people, just not as nice right now.

We were probably not the norm, but I don't think we had sex for at least six months. We were both too tired. I am not saying that my husband didn't want to have sex, and even started thinking that I didn't find him attractive. We finally had a couple date nights that we were awake enough to enjoy and that helped alot.

And, I think there are few ''breaks'' at first. Remember, when you need a break in the evening, your husband has already put in his own full day. And the evenings are always tricky with a baby. It is their melt down time, aka ''the witching hour''. When you are both exhausted from a full day it is hard to continue to take care of someone else---but you do it, we all do it. And pretty soon six months have gone by and things are easier and you are getting sleep and you are actually nice to your spouse and you can find your ''self'' again and you can see that ole light at the end of the tunnel. Take it easy on yourself, you are doing a really hard job. And tell your husband to lighten up and take care of himself in the shower. And one of these evenings, have a date night so you can have some time together, even for a beverage. good luck


It does indeed sound as if you have two children in the house...but no toddlers, both infants! I myself am one of the lucky ones, with a devoted husband and dad that truly has no end of patience for both me and our daughter, but I think I am the exception not the rule. I do believe what you are feeling, or not feeling, whatever the case may be, is totally normal and that most men react quite the same way as your husband. My concern is his crack about the affair--it doesn't sound like he has much respect for you or the marriage to say, let alone do, such a thing. Personally, I'd tell him to go ahead, and not bother coming back. But that's just me. At any rate, the only thing I can think of to get him to even remotely understand what your days (and nights) are like. is to leave him alone with your child for an extended amount of time so he can see how your little one needs you (and him) constantly....and that there is rarely time leftover for yourselves.... good luck..... anon
Two months post-partum ONLY, and you're worried, and he's upset?? This is the big thing that nobody tells you, but the fact is that after a woman delivers, her body is physiologically oriented to only one thing, and that is feeding and caring for her baby; the second is caring for herself. Most mothers I know say that they didn't feel like having sex for months, usually as long as they were nursing for sure, and sometimes a little longer. Many in particular can't stand having their breasts touched by their husbands. If the occasional sex happens, it is usually out of a sense of fairness and compromise, because most new moms would rather choose sleep over sex. You are totally normal. Your husband might try and realize that this is a temporary phase, and that what you are giving to your child by nursing him is not only a life-long benefit, but also puts a substantial drain on you. If he wants a good hot dinner, have him take care of the baby when he comes home so you can work in peace. Hina
What you describe definitely sounds ''normal'' and even common, but that doesn't mean it is okay or will just resolve itself. Others may have some good advice about how you can re-open the lines of communication between you so that your husband can understand your feelings, and what it's like to take care of a baby all day, and you can understand what is really going on with him. As for the sex, it is absolutely common for couples not to have had sex yet at 2 months. Just because the doctor gives the okay at 6 weeks doesn't mean you have to be ready at that point. And as for his threat of an affair, I would absolutely not give in to that kind of emotional blackmail. If all he needs is ''relief'' than he can do that himself, or you can help him with your hand. If he wants to ''make love'' with you then that will require a lot more: reconnecting emotionally with you, helping you feel attractive and sexy, making sure that you have the time and space to really relax and feel sexual, etc. (Or at least all that is what I needed!) And what he thinks his dad or friends do is not relevant either, only what is right for the two of you. (And you can tell him that plenty of other husbands do way more without whining and complaining, so he shouldn't feel like such a martyr. Okay, that last part, while true, may not be the most productive thing to say. But I'll leave it to others to figure out how to get that point across in a loving and supportive way.) I would say that you should either get some counselling or get some more experienced dads to sit him down and ''kick his behind'' so to speak! Good luck! Frances
My heart goes out to you! I also have a two month old baby, but my husband has stayed home with the baby alone and knows how difficult it is to get anything else done, especially going out with the baby (grocery shopping, etc.). Is there any way your husband would take a day off work to care for the baby while you leave for 8 hours? ''Walk a mile in my shoes''... perhaps he would get a clue as to how it really is. As for sex, everyone is different, but if he's making that kind of threat after only two months, I'd suggest he talk to a therapist. Sympathetic mom
Everything you wrote sounds so typical. All of your complaints are warranted. Your husband's whining is also pretty typical I think. It is very hard adjusting to the sacrifices that come with having children. I suggest you join a mother's group. This way you'll meet women that are going thru the exact same thing at the same time. You'll get good advice and have an outlet. As for sex, I think it varies when women are ready again. Start slow, get some lubrication to make is easier on you, and find time to be just with him even if (especially if!) it's not for sex. I started sex earlier than I wanted to because although it wasn't physically pleasurable for me, it did make us feel more bonded. What was more important though was to find little bits of time (even an hour) where we could focus on each other. The only thing I didn't think is fair is for your husband to threaten an affair. Maybe there is more going on with you two before the baby for him to say that. If so, you could benefit from counseling. Otherwise, I'd say just hang in there, try to find time for each other and start holding hands again. It does get better! mrsair
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