I’m not sure what has happened to us since then. We argue all the time. I feel like he has become so negative and he acts as though the world owes him something. He looks down on me for staying home even though he wanted me to. For example, any time I mention being tired, he’ll be say, “Why are you tired? It’s not like you get up and have to go to work where you get zero help.” It hurts that he almost treats our relationship like a competition and he’s always the winner. I just don’t understand how we can go from what seemed like being a great, normal couple to what we are now. I’m at a lost on what to do!!! — It’s Not a Competition
I think of my marriage and my life in terms of: Before Kids and After Kids. I love my children very, very much but/and their existence has changed almost everything for me, including my relationship with my husband. This is true for most parents (and, in fact, if a parent said his or her child didn’t change most aspects of their lives, I’d probably side-eye them and secretly think they weren’t a very invested parent). For me, it was about a five-year adjustment period before my life — and my identity! — After Kids truly felt like my new normal. During that five-year period, there was a lot of struggle, a bit of an ongoing identity crisis, and some grieving of the life/freedom I gave up. There was also some trial and error in terms of figuring out how to continue investing in and nurturing my marriage while also prioritizing my kids’ needs. Sometimes these things are in direct opposition and it’s hard to know where to focus your attention first/most. After almost seven years of parenthood, I not only have a better sense of what is most important and what can slide a little lower on the priority list, but my children are a lot easier to manage, too. In fact, as I write this, both of my kids are at school all day for the first time ever and I am like on a natural high! I have SIX WHOLE HOURS to devote to my own work, running errands IN PEACE, and writing without interruption. I haven’t had this much solace in years and I am feeling positively drunk from the sheer freedom.
Anyway, my point is that less than two years into parenting, you are still very much in the weeds, and things will get easier. But you and your husband need to get on the same page or your marriage is going to implode. Right now, that is priority number one (well, after making sure your kid is fed and bathed and clothed). You need to communicate exactly what you’ve said to me here: that you are tired of feeling in competition (and like you’re always the loser) and you need to get on the same team. Because you ARE on the same team! Right now you have different roles, but they are equally important and equally challenging (although, honestly, I’d argue that staying home day after day with a baby/toddler is harder than most jobs, and, of course, completely without monetary rewards or figurative pats on the back) and your husband needs to appreciate and understand that and, if he doesn’t inherently understand, then you need to tell him and figure out ways for him to get a sense of what you do all day. Are you getting any breaks from your kid? Do you step away for a few hours on the weekend for some me time or to connect with friends? Does your husband ever have the chance to be sole caregiver for a few hours to bond with your child and get a sense of the responsibility of child care? All of these things would help you and your marriage.
Another thing that would help is getting some time away from your kid, just you and your husband. You need some nights out or a weekend away if you have someone you can leave your child with. You have to connect with each other, enjoy some new experiences together as a couple (and not just new parents experiencing the “magic” of toddlerhood…), and find time to actually communicate with one another away from the very responsibilities that are weighing on you.
But the truth is, your husband might just be a real dick and no amount of date nights is going to change that. Maybe you didn’t know he was a dick earlier because life was pretty easy when you were younger and childfree and both working and living life in similar ways, but now that your days look different and he’s starting to feel resentful because he thinks he has it harder than you, his inner dick is really coming out. It’s easy to be easy-going and loving when you don’t have a lot of responsibilities and pressures – it’s harder when you are faced with challenges (like, say, being the sole breadwinner of a family and maybe grieving some of the freedom and financial stability you recently lost). Our true colors tend to shine a little brighter when we’re faced with challenges. Maybe your husband’s true color is dick.
Maybe your husband, though, is also feeling under-appreciated like you are. Maybe he doesn’t feel understood. Maybe he doesn’t see you recognizing his hard work to financially support your family. Maybe that responsibility, new as it still is, is scary and heavy and he’s not getting the support from you that he’d like. You might both be swimming in the sea of neglect from each other feeling like your marriage is crumbling when regular dates, expressions of gratitude, and the acceptance that things are going to be this hard for a few years is all you need to sustain your relationship until the pressures of parenting a young child ease up a bit and you have a little more breathing room again.
All of what you’re feeling is normal. Plenty of parents have been where you are, feeling what you’re feeling, and have made it through to the other side. Hopefully, you and your husband are together and stronger than ever on the other side, but if at some point you decide the marriage is not salvageable, please know that there is also life after divorce, too, and being alone is a lot better than being in a lonely marriage.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.