The letter from "Unhappy in North Carolina," who decided with her husband, after three years of marriage, to have a child but is now unhappy, caused me to write. You homed in on her statement, "What I thought would make us both happy and bring us closer actually did the opposite." You wondered if the husband felt trapped and pushed into unwanted fatherhood. I'm not so sure.
Other phrases in her letter jumped out at me: "Our son is now 16 months old and the apple of my eye," "We both changed with my pregnancy," and "Jeff is a great father but a lousy husband."
Abby, having your first child changes everything. A woman's concept of herself changes dramatically, from a spontaneous, carefree individual to a matronly mother with new responsibilities. "Unhappy" appears to be in love with her son, which is normal, but often the father feels left out emotionally and resentful of the relationship between mother and child. Threesomes are always difficult. Jeff is doing all the things a man who wants a family is supposed to do, i.e., working hard at his job and buying a home in a good neighborhood.
I think the wife is not admitting her role in the problem and is putting the sole blame on her husband. If he refuses to go to counseling with her, she should go alone, so she can learn to reconnect with her husband. If she does, I suspect it won't take long for him to warm up and stop picking fights with her. Their son will be the winner when they realize they can have a marriage and still have love left for their child.
Been There in Maryland
Thank you for the first-person insight. You were not the only reader to offer it. Read on:
I read with interest the letter from the unhappy new mother. My husband, "Carl," and I experienced the same problems. After our precious daughter was born, Carl was distant, and we fought more than we had before. I was convinced it was all his fault. We were ready to separate until, in a last-ditch effort to save our marriage, I sought counseling.
With the counselor's help, I realized I had blamed my husband for everything that went wrong and didn't recognize the degree to which I was neglecting him. I had forgotten that Carl needed time with me as much as the baby did, and I had put my job as mother ahead of everything -- even our marriage.
In my desire to be a good mother, I had become a bad wife and made Carl feel he was inadequate for not caring for the baby exactly the way I would have -- not changing enough diapers and not appreciating me. I was so focused on our baby, I lost sight of the fact that I had changed as much as I had accused my poor husband of changing.
A year of counseling helped us to work through the rough patch. A quick anecdote to close: I got the greatest compliment at the doctor's office yesterday. I was talking to Carl on my cell phone, closing our conversation with "I love you," and "Can't wait to see you so we can talk some more." After I hung up, the receptionist said, "You newlyweds are so cute!" (We've been married for 10 years.) See, Abby? When you give a little, you get a little. But when you give a lot, you get a lot!
Still Crazy About Him After All These Years
I am curious about baby shower etiquette. I'm 27 and pregnant with my second child. My son from a previous relationship will be 8 years old this month. I am now married, and this will be my husband's first child. I had a shower before my son was born, but as the years passed I've given away most of his baby things. A few of my closest friends want to give me a shower, but my sister is telling everyone that it's not appropriate. It's not so much the gifts I want, but the celebration of this new life growing inside me. If you can offer any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.
Second-Time Mom in Louisiana
I see nothing inappropriate about a shower for the new baby, for the good reasons you have given. Please don't let your sister spoil a happy occasion.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate