You May Hate Your Spouse After Having A Baby, Here’s How To Deal
A couple of months after welcoming my daughter, I stepped back and realized I was living in a constant state of rage. In a matter of months, I had gone from feeling guilty about my stay-at-home-mom status to being completely resentful of my spouse. I was resentful that he had the luxury of going to the restroom alone all day. I was resentful that he was able to take his time and eat his lunch with two hands. I quietly (and openly, at times) coveted his quiet bus ride from the city during which he could be alone with his thoughts. I scoffed at the fact that he could pick up and go on the weekends without having to worry about how much expressed milk was available in the freezer for the baby. And most of all, I was resentful of the fact that he was able to sleep through the baby’s million and one nighttime wakings.
I was angry as hell and I was angry all of the time. My rage frightened me for two reasons: For one, it was constant. And two, prior to becoming a parent, I was a generally happy person and we were generally a happy couple. We took on most challenges as a team but after becoming parents, it had begun to feel like we were on opposing sides. I always felt like I was suppressing the urge to unleash a flurry of expletives in his direction. And prior to the baby, we just didn’t get down like that.
Eventually, I took to the Internet to seek out answers and what I found was story after story from women who confessed to feeling hatred towards their spouses after welcoming a baby. The walks of life were varied but the stories were the same: the woman felt as though she had sacrificed her entire existence to become a mother and her husband continued business as usual. At first glance, it appeared that the source of the trouble was simply that the men weren’t pulling their weight, but the truth is that the source of the resentment may date back to the delivery room.
“We as women go through so much during the pregnancy experience, but in our minds, our partners don’t get what we go through,” said psychotherapist Dr. Keisha Downey.
Pair the fact that your spouse didn’t have to endure birthing a child with a real or imagined lopsided domestic workload and the resentment can grow and fester until you no longer recognize yourself or your marriage. It’s during these times that awareness and communication are most important. First and foremost, you must recognize and acknowledge that things have changed in your relationship. Secondly, you should work on communicating with your partner — even about the things you assume they should already know.
“You may just feel like your partner should naturally know that he needs to do more. You may wonder, ‘How does he not know that this is not equal?'” Dr. Downey explained. “And because we can’t assume or read minds, the relationship starts to break down. However, if you know how to recognize when something is off, that’s when the repair can begin. You have to see what’s going on. Some people have blinders on and they want to stay in their feelings and they assume the other person should get it.”
As far as domestic duties are concerned, the key to navigating these trying times is to focus on establishing clearly defined roles and avoid keeping score.
“You need to make sure that the roles are clear. Things need to be fine-tuned so that it seems balanced. It should never be tit-for-tat because if you’re taking score, you may disappoint each other,” said Dr. Downey. “Make sure there’s a clear understanding of what you’re going to do from this day forward and everyone should be in agreement.”
Once you’ve recognized the shift and have committed to openly communicating with your partner, the next step is to try to understand your partner’s perspective and what their experience may be. For me, a turning point was building empathy for my husband. One day it clicked for me that although new motherhood was kicking my butt, his new normal wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either.
“You can try to see his perspective and understand that he is going through changes as well,” Dr. Downey advised. “Attunement is important and having compassion for your partner. Attunement is what helps that connection.”
It’s also important to note that men experience postpartum depression as well. Sometimes, seeing the situation through the lens of your partner is not so easy, but a marriage counselor can help.
“Coming into therapy is also an option,” Dr. Downey added. Sometimes sitting down with a counselor can help to get both parties to see the other’s perspective and develop compassion for one another. Once that happens, things begin to work themselves out.”