Overcoming Resentment

Psychologist Marion Bilich, PhD, answers the question, How can I make my husband understand that our baby needs me?

Quesiton

My marriage is definitely suffering since our baby arrived. My husband pouts and almost seems to resent the time I spend with our daughter. How can I make him understand that our child needs me, and that I need my husband's support, not his resentment?

Answer

A new baby changes the family dynamics and profoundly affects both parents in ways they are not always fully prepared for. The wife is suddenly less available to her husband. She's often immersed in the responsibilities and pleasures of caring for her baby. And she's likely to be tired -- very, very tired at the end of the day. Nurturing her husband may be the last thing on her mind. Husbands, feeling suddenly deprived of their wives' love and attention, can become resentful and angry. In addition, for many fathers the arrival of a new baby triggers feelings of jealousy and abandonment left over from childhood experiences. It's as though they're experiencing sibling rivalry with their own children! Thus, the seemingly peaceful sight of his wife nursing their newborn baby may be fraught with all kinds of negative emotions.

Whether you believe his resentment is justified or not, it won't go away by your telling him not to feel that way. The first step is to uncover the source of his resentment. He may be able to tell you, or he may not. When he's walking around pouting, he may be like a little boy who is resentful because Mommy is spending so much time with the new baby. The problem is that he may not even be able to tell you why he's pouting. Sometimes we are in the dark about the source of our feelings, especially when those feelings are triggered by throwbacks to early childhood conflicts. If he is unaware of the reasons for his resentment, you might take a stab at saying what you think may be on his mind. But do this carefully, posing it as a question rather than as an accusation or a pronouncement of the Truth.

Actually, both of you may be feeling resentment. You may resent feeling like the only adult in the house. Or you may resent his lack of appreciation for how hard it is being a new mother. He needs to hear how his behavior is affecting you. Both of you need attention and love at this difficult time in your relationship. Once you have acknowledged what you want from each other, together you can begin working out a plan so that you each feel nurtured and supported.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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