Working with Dr. Joshua Coleman is a producer’s dream. — Ann Varney, Producer ABC News, 20-20
Working with Dr. Joshua Coleman is a producer’s dream.
Talk to other parents who are trying to keep their marriages healthy while living in this very challenging environment.
Running on Empty with Twins
Parenting young twins is stressful on a marriage, in part, because we have so little to draw from. Less sleep, money, time, and resources of about every shape and size. A healthy relationship requires being good at being assertive and selfless. If you’re not assertive, your partner may take advantage of whatever weakness there is in the system to catch up on much-needed sleep, relaxation, work or exercise. Not because he is a bad person, but because he’s as desperate for replenishment as you are. If you’re not sufficiently selfless, you’ll run over your partner with your needs and create resentment.
Thanks for the input….it’s very helpful, especially from a man’s viewpoint. I definately see areas where you are completely on track and I will admit that I need to take more time to tend to him and our relationship…it just seems that I am just so tired and worn out all of the time, so that often falls last in the list of priorities. We actually had a date night last night…something we need to do more often now that the girls are older. I plan on speaking to him about some of my feelings during a time when we feel “close” as you suggested instead of doing it during the heat of the moment. I will be purchasing that book at well! Wish us luck! Thanks!
I hope other mothers of twins weigh in here, because Iâ€™ve got a stack of letters exactly like yours sitting on my desk as I write this. Letâ€™s break this down a bit.
Your husband should have been much more involved when the twins were born and itâ€™s understandable that you would have felt resentful about his lack of involvement, especially recovering from a C-section! Most women would feel resentful under those circumstances.
You also say that your twins are the loves of your life. Thatâ€™s good, and is as it should be. However, thereâ€™s a saying that goes â€œWhen a man becomes a father he gains a child and loses a wife.â€ In addition to your understandable resentment, I wonder if some of the tension that exists between the 2 of you is a function of the loss of centrality that your husband has experienced when you became a mom? Iâ€™m not advocating a traditional bring him his paper and slippers when he gets home from a hard day at the office. Iâ€™m focused on the loss that many men feel when their wives become mothers. New babies arenâ€™t necessarily the loves of menâ€™s lives. Men, not infrequently, can take weeks if not months to gain the same level of attachment that their wives can experience almost from the outset. The love of menâ€™s lives is often the same person that it was before kids-their wives. So, while thereâ€™s a whole lot your husband is doing wrong, I want you to start by also thinking about the ways that he could be feeling rejected by you.
You also say something that I hear a lot from moms: â€œHe never helps- I have to ask.â€ Again, in a fair world, you shouldnâ€™t but since it sounds like he does participate when you ask, then you should ask. You should also try to get him to agree to some kind of schedule that heâ€™ll initiate and take responsibility for without your being in the role of supervisor. Youâ€™ve said heâ€™s improved immensely, and frankly, thatâ€™s all that any of us can expect from our partners- a willingness to improve. Yes, he agreed to have children with you and may have implied heâ€™d share everything equally with you. But now the reality is upon the both of you of what that actually looks like; unfortunately, it has to get re-negotiated all over.
I donâ€™t think you can compel him to go to church. You can say, â€œIt means a lot to me and really makes me happyâ€ and hope that serves as a motivator. You can also trade something that is really meaningful to him. Some people bristle at this kind of horsetrading approach to marriage but Iâ€™m a pragmatist. Marriage is an environment of limited resources. You have to use what you have to bargain with and persuade your partner to do what will make you happy if theyâ€™re unwilling to get there without your persuasion.
Let me also summarize some of the key points of persuasion from my book The Lazy Husband: How to get men to do more parenting and housework (St Martinâ€™s Press).
Negotiate standards: Women often have much higher standards around parenting and housework. In general, to maintain the peace, men typically have to raise theirs and women to lower theirs. Women who act like theyâ€™re the experts around parenting, for example, produce husbands who constantly need direction. Research shows that when women can hand dad the baby, walk out the door and not look back, men generally rise to the cause. In those families, they not only do more parenting, they do more housework!
Approach with affection: Conversations end the way that they begin. If you want him to change his behavior, approach him when youâ€™re feeling close. Studies show that men do more housework and parenting in those homes where they feel loved and cared about.
Be assertive: Be direct and clear with your requests. Donâ€™t beat around the bush. If he refuses to do his share and youâ€™ve tried affection and negotiation, consider going on strike.
Donâ€™t give mixed messages: Many women feel guilty about getting their partners to do more and end up communicating in a confusing way (he agrees to clean up the dishes and you get up and start doing them before he can).
Communicate productively: Even if you have a â€œright to be madâ€ youâ€™re not going to get a very productive response if youâ€™re broadcasting resentment and disappointment 24/7. Most men really do want to make their wives and girlfriends happy. So calling him names or blasting him with resentment is just going to make him shut down.
Hope this helps. Let me know.
Thanks…I have a great network of friends, several of whom have twins and they have reassured me that, while it’s frustrating, what I am experiencing is “normal”. When people say they have 2 children who were born close together…say 18 months apart…and compare them to having multiples…well, they just don’t have any idea.
Will be looking to the books as a reference.
Greetings Dr. Coleman…
I have 16 month old monozygotic girls…the loves of my life. Since their birth, my relationship with my husband has changed dramatically. I notice that I don’t feel close to him and feel very disconnected from him. I have very little interest in being intimate with him…and I hear this protest alot. I believe that, deep down, the reason I don’t feel as close to him is because the way he acted when the girls were born. He was very hands off, I did ALL of the feedings, changings, etc., morning and night, while recovering from a horrible C-section. He never offered to help (nor does he now..I always have to ask) When the girls were 5 months old, he told me that he doesn’t like caring for them and that I do fine by myself, so when he is home, I should just pretend like he’s not there and take care of it!! I felt like I was married to a complete stranger!! He loves the girls–I know that–and he has improved immensely, but it’s still always only on his terms. For instance, I have been suggesting for sometime that we need to take them to Sunday school…he says, “I agree that they should go, but you do it yourself…I am not going with you…I don’t like going to church” I find myself resenting him more and more. It’s like he wants to remain self-absorbed and not bothered very much with the kids. I have tried to talk to him and he turns it around on me…that I am so evil witch and have changed completely from the person he married. Additionally, when he watches them, he is so passive–basically he watches TV while they run around. And, of course, we argue all of the time over his part in household chores (I did quit my job when they were born…) I just want to scream at him most of the time and my marriage–which I once felt was so strong, is a mere shadow of what it once was. I love him, but I want to strangle him!!!!!! Am I expecting too much? Is it from my exhaustion of being a mom to twins? Is it hormones? Help!
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Tuesday JUNE 11 5:30 PST
Series continues: JUNE 18, 25, JULY 2, 9, 16, 23 MORE INFOREGISTER
AARP The Stranger in Your Family Dr. Coleman was interviewed in a recent AARP article by Meredith Maran on parental estrangement. To read the whole article go here: The Stranger in Your Family
Dr. Coleman was invited to speak to the faculty and students on Dual-Career Couples at Harvard
Boomer Grandparenting on PBS: Life Part 2
Dr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, families, and relationships. He is Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and is a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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