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It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life. You are expecting your first baby, and you are looking forward to sharing this moment with the love of your life – your husband. But suddenly he doesn’t want to talk to you, he’s staying out late, or he’s angry or irritated with you all the time. With hormones raging you swing between tears and anger yourself, which only makes matters worse. Suddenly you find yourself alone with your baby and your husband has gone, sometimes for good.
If women and men were aware that pregnancy can bring up not only joyful emotions, but also difficult relationship dynamics and challenging emotions, then they could work during the pregnancy to maintain the bonds of marriage, while adjusting to the arrival of a third person in the relationship. Because really that’s what happens, the woman falls in love with someone else and the husband feels rejected and neglected, so seek solace and validation elsewhere. If you are lucky they just throw themselves into work and step into the provider role, if you are unlucky they seek company, friendship and sexual relief with someone else, and unhappiness at home may make them feel that leaving is their only option.
My research suggests that this problematic dynamic is more likely to happen in a longer term relationship – for example, living together or being married for more than 5 years before the baby is born – and the reality is that it’s only in the last one or two generations that couples wait so long after marriage to have children. Before the 1960s and 1970s it was a given that if you got married, a baby would follow within a year or two. Also, the dynamics of the husband- wife relationship were rather different than they are these days. The husband went off to work, the wife stayed at home, he had his life and she had her life, and they muddled through together. The 21st century partnership is a much deeper, more intense relationship; where the beloved other is seen as partner, friend and soul mate; rather than just a life companion.
“I had no idea there was anything wrong until I stopped working at 36 weeks. My husband hated his job and was always disparaging about his workmates, but suddenly he was going out after work, and staying with them all evening, and then crawling home drunk. This had never happened before in 6 years of marriage. With my hormones raging, and my underlying fears of abandonment triggered, I freaked out. The following weekend, the same thing happened and I was in despair. A friend who was a psychologist said that once the baby was born things would go back to normal, but they didn’t. I tried talking to him, and then waiting for him to talk to me – but neither approach worked. We tried marriage guidance but he lied to me about his one-to-one session with the therapist and we never went back. I read somewhere that after 10 months the babies became more connected to their caregivers and a separation would be more painful for them after this time, so six months later, when it was clear he wasn’t going to talk about what was wrong, or make any effort to fix our marriage, I told him I wanted a divorce. Lucy, Birmingham
The experience of pregnancy is very different for men and women. For women it’s a very intimate experience, completely internal and all consuming. For men, while they may be excited about having a baby, there is also fear about this new responsibility, after all babies are rather expensive, especially if the mother wants to stay at home for a while after birth. Becoming a Dad can also bring up unexpected emotions and fears especially if their own relationship with their mother or father isn’t great. “What if I’m a lousy father like my dad was?” And the thing that is never talked about is this issue of your beloved, your soul mate, the person who is always there for you and supports and loves only you; well they’re just not there for you any more, and even worse their love and attention is focused on someone else. Suddenly the wife is consumed with love for this baby, and you, the Beloved, are coming in second, or barely noticed at all.
Is it really any surprise why emotions like rejection, abandonment and jealousy should arise in some men at this time in their marriage? Friends or relatives saying, ‘Well you shouldn’t feel like that’, isn’t helpful. You can’t help how you ‘feel’ about a situation. However, perhaps knowing that this can happen and that it affects some couples more than others is the first step to resolving these problems. Any man is going to feel confused and conflicted if he starts to feel jealous about his own baby. This is supposed to be a wonderful happy time, so why does he feel like this? If he feels angry whenever he gets home and he doesn’t know why or when the baby cries and he feels frustrated and miserable, the man may feel that he just doesn’t love his wife any more and that having a baby was a terrible mistake. In this confused and conflicted situation, leaving may seem the only way out.
When you look at it from this perspective, you can see why some men bolt.
When I was pregnant my husband started staying out playing table tennis and drinking with his mates. I suspected he was having an affair and things became really rocky between us. After our son was born I’d lost trust for my husband and we separated and started divorce proceedings. I fell pregnant unexpectedly during our separation, and my husband came back to me and promised he wouldn’t do it again with this baby, yet he behaved just the same. It was like he couldn’t help himself. We’re still married now and have rebuilt things, but it was a terrible time. Toni, Kent
It is possible for you to stay in your marriage and resolve your feelings and repair your marriage and in the long run that’s much better than leaving. The pain and suffering separation causes to a wife and child, and the long term repercussions of a divorce, including watching another man bring up your children, or losing contact with them all together, can be avoided by being aware that these problems do exist. Hiding this information under the carpet for fear of ‘upsetting people’ doesn’t help anyone.
If your problems have become severe, or if you have some form of trauma from your own childhood, then some form of marriage guidance, or relationship counselling may be unavoidable. However, being proactive in supporting and maintaining your relationship, with the support of friends or family, may be enough to tide you over this challenging period. The first 3 months are probably the worst time, as lack of sleep and the continual demands of a new born would challenge the patience of a saint! After this time it’s important to talk together and try to find common ground in sharing this wonderful experience of being a parent and overcome difficulties between you and your spouse in the same way you would deal with any problems in all the other areas of your life. Talk about how you are coping and suggest solutions to improve connection and intimacy between both parents and most importantly don’t deny, dismiss or demean your partner’s feelings. If someone is honest enough to admit they are feeling rejected, be grateful that they trust you enough to share this with them.
write by Daria