Q: My wife was always the one who teased and initiated sex in our relationship. However, since she gave birth to our son, she's been lukewarm about it. I know this is horrible and childish, but I really resent our son because she lavishes all of her time and attention on him! Did we ruin our marriage by having a baby?
A: Sounds like you're suffering from the classic symptoms of DDS -- Deposed Dad Syndrome. Who can blame you? After all, you were the sun, the moon, and the stars in your wife's eyes, and then this other bloke comes along and commands the spotlight just by lying on his back and waving his fists in the air. How fair is that?
Not. But that's the way things are right now, simply because your wife is channeling her energy into learning how to be a good mother. Her tepid libido is due in part to exhaustion and in part to the fact that parenting a young child is very physical, with lots of holding and touching, says Pamela Jordan, PhD, coauthor of Becoming Parents (Jossey-Bass). "Moms often feel all touched out and see any physical advance from their husband as just one more demand on them."
You haven't ruined your marriage by having a baby, but it's definitely time to try new tactics. Jordan suggests that you begin praising your wife every day. "Treat her like a goddess, reassure her that she's a wonderful mom, and let her know that you appreciate the relentless demands of parenting a baby."
Also, giving your wife more time to herself will help replenish her energy. Encourage her to spend Saturday afternoon at the movies with a girlfriend while you watch the baby. And take the initiative and plan regular dates for the two of you. "Every other week should be the absolute minimum," says Jordan. Have a specific restaurant, movie, or outing in mind so she has one less thing to plan. This may seem like a lot of effort, Jordan adds, "but the payoff is you're likely to get your wife back as your adult partner." If your wife seems reluctant to separate from the baby, gently remind her that the way to be the very best parent she can be is to take care of herself, love and cherish you, and continue nurturing your marriage--the nest your baby is growing in.
Holly Robinson is a Boston-area writer, who lives with her husband and their five children.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2004.