Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Feeling Like You Come Second

Tickle Tickle - 079, originally uploaded by RoxandaBear.

Everyone has heard of the husband who gets jealous of the new baby. It is almost a cliche. The baby is getting all the attention and he feels like he has lost his wife forever. I don't love gender specific cliches because they are almost always not gender specific and can be found on both sides of the spectrum.

I have seen it happen with fathers who transfer all their love to the child, and the wife feels left out in the cold. This is more common among ethnic fathers, because some cultures (e.g. Italian, Hispanic, Greek, Egyptian, etc.) traditionally put the kids first, but it can also happen with non-ethnic fathers. For example, if a new mother has postpartum depression, a well-meaning father may feel rejected and transfer all his love into the child, who is easy to please and gives love back freely--especially if you give them treats.

Either way it happens, it is a huge problem if it lasts for very long. When the child always comes first and one spouse feels rejected for long enough, the marriage will suffer. This dynamic could lead one partner to find comfort in another man or woman, in an addiction, in a fictional video game life, or any number of other destructive forms of comfort.

When the marriage suffers, the children suffer. No matter how much you do to make them happy, what children need is an intact, happy family. Recently I witnessed something like this first hand and it made me very sad, so I had to write about it.

Doctrinally, we are taught that the marriage relationship comes first. Of course, newborns need a lot of care and attention and your marriage will change during that first year after each child. But despite how tired you are or how much else is on your plate (moms and dads) you can't stop nurturing your marriage. Just because you see no negative warning signs doesn't mean that there isn't trouble. One party usually is oblivious when things are stewing. So don't let them get stewing. Keep going on dates, keep giving back rubs. Keep having sex. And communicate. Too many people don't know how to constructively communicate and they seek marriage counseling when it is too late. A good marriage counselor or relationship coach has tools that can help you--a lot--but not if you get them too late. If you can't afford a counselor, there are number of good books on communication and on making marriage work.

In our book we have a whole chapter on unity and a section in nurturing marriage. This section is filled mostly with information from general authorities, and lots of great input from real couples. I may post a cliff notes version of that chapter on the blog soon, because I think everyone could benefit from it. But I would love more input and comments that might add to it.

What did you do to nurture your marriage during pregnancy? What were some problem areas you didn't expect? How did you deal with them? How did you enhance communication? How did you work out division of labor issues? How did having a joint spiritual path help you? If you had any advice to share, what would it be? If you had an warnings, what would they be? What were you most grateful for during that time?


  1. A warning: be careful of "keeping score" with the daily household chores like dishes, laundry, changing diapers, getting kids to bed and the like.
    It can be destructive and create a feeling of Parent/Child relationship between spouses...which is very dysfunctional!

  2. I’ve been following your blog and have noticed you write about being a mother, writer, hypnotherapist, pregnancy yoga teacher, and spiritual childbirth educator.

    The reason I'm leaving you a comment is that I'm the intern for StageofLife.com, and I am looking for bloggers who might be interested in guest writing on our site. Could we feature you? We work with talented writers and bloggers to build a network of stories, crossing all stages of life, that will help make the world a better place, and I think our readers would gain a lot from your life perspective.

    Thank you in advance for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing from you if you are interested. My email is megan.colyer@stageoflife.com. Thanks!




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