There is something new afoot in the world of marital counseling these days. It's on television, on radio, in books and online. Everyone seems to be talking about it. What's this big news? (Drum roll please). It seems that men (read husbands) have needs too.
A lot of men are starting to speak out. Not in anger, but in pain. Men who feel that whatever they do, it's not enough. Men who feel constantly attacked and criticized. Men who feel neglected and taken for granted.
This troubling issue has many causes and manifestations. One significant factor in men's diminished satisfaction seems to be the birth of children.
What exactly am I saying? Certainly not that fathers aren't equally overjoyed and enamored of their offspring. Certainly not that they love them any less (sometimes more) and wouldn't lay down their lives for them.
In fact it's not the children themselves that are the exact issue but the behaviors of their mothers.
From pregnancy onward, women turn inward. They may be nauseated, they are definitely exhausted, and they are distracted by the miracles taking place within their growing and now unfamiliar body. These symptoms lead to a certain pulling back from their husbands and a decreased focus on their needs.
This situation, if not checked, can only worsen after childbirth. Not only is there more exhaustion (and more and more), not only are there more physical demands and sometimes discomfort, there are other emotional demands as well. And after all, don't the demands of an infant, toddler, young child, teenager...come before that of an adult? Our husbands can wait.
But the truth is they can't. And neither can our marriages. While some of our children's needs are obviously immediate (a crying infant comes to mind), others are not. I'm all for holding babies but it doesn't have to occur 24/7. Husbands need holding -- literal and figurative -- as well.
All relationships need nourishment. Husbands and wives need private time away from their children even if it's just 15 minutes locked in the bedroom! They need time to connect, to talk, to just be alone together.
The gift of a strong marriage is a greater gift to your children than driving them to one more piano lesson.
Not only can't your husband wait until the kids are grown to resume your relationship (and he probably won't!) but you can't either. You will have more to give to your children if you feel your husband's love and support behind you.
The gift of a strong marriage is a greater gift to your children than reading them one more book or driving them to one more piano lesson.
In addition, it's healthier for our children (at the right age) to learn delayed gratification, to recognize that all their needs can't be attended to immediately and that people outside themselves (like their parents!) have needs also. It's better for them not to feel like everything and everyone revolves around their wishes and desires.
Sure men make mistakes in marriage too (that's for another article), but this seems to be a uniquely female error. The mother-child bond can be so intense as to foster the illusion that no other relationship is necessary. But that not only destroys a marriage, it damages the child as well. That suffocating love is not a healthy environment for the full actualization of individual potential and the achievement of successful adulthood. And whatever naive hopes you retain about the possibility of this relationship satisfying your emotional needs will quickly be shattered by the advent of adolescence if not sooner.
It's a real shame that we've become so focused on being super parents that we've forgotten to be super spouses. Because that's really our first and last priority. Husbands are starting to speak up now. I just hope their wives will listen.