Marriage after Kids

Dear Emuna,

I am married a year and have a beautiful daughter. My problem is that after a year of ups and downs, my husband and I have little emotional connection, and it leaves me feeling alone and empty. We rarely have any deep conversations or confide in each other. We often don’t seem to have much to talk about at all. Can my young but stale marriage be saved? How do my husband and I build the connection that we are so painfully lacking?

-- Disconnected

Dear Disconnected,

You don’t explain the cause of the ups and downs or if you and your husband were once emotionally connected and then lost it. But never mind; I think your marriage can most likely be saved. You are already one step ahead of the game – you recognize the problem and you want to address it.

The rest is simple. Not easy, but simple. It’s a one word prescription for both of you: Give. Give your time, your attention, your interest, yourself.

What do I mean?

In the first place, although your daughter is very young and your marriage has been consumed by pregnancy and childbirth, your first responsibility is your husband and not your infant daughter. My guess is that the focus has been the other way around and that is partially responsible for your problems.

As demanding as she may be, you need to spend time talking to your husband, hearing about his day, sharing his concerns, his anxieties, his hopes and his dreams. I know you’re tired, exhausted even. But there is no choice. A marriage can’t thrive without time and attention.

You need to be responsive to his needs – be it dinner or conversation or physical intimacy. The latter is not a trivial physical need but an opportunity for that deep connection you are missing. In the moment, it may sometimes not seem that way. You are worn out and overwhelmed and feel like the baby and your husband are pulling on you. This is the time when you need to lift up and be there for him. The connection you achieve will benefit both of you. He, of course, needs to be there for you in all the same ways I am describing. He needs to be sensitive to your needs and your struggles. He needs to make an extra effort, especially right now, to be helpful and to connect. I’m targeting you right now because you are the letter writer.

Children are wonderful. And exciting. And time-consuming. And emotionally and physically draining. In fact, you need your spouse now more than ever!

Your marriage and your spouse should always be your priority. Your daughter won’t suffer because of it. On the contrary, she will thrive in a home where there is stability, security and love between her mother and father.


Handicapped & Bullied

Dear Emuna,

My granddaughter was tormented all the way through middle school, not
through some perceived flaw of her own design, but because she had a
physical handicap. She's deaf.

She is now in her thirties and still cannot put this cruelty behind
her. Can you suggest anything that would help her? Thank you.

-- Grandmother Who Wants to Help

Dear Caring Grandmother,

I’m really sorry and surprised to hear that. We have become, as a society, so much more sensitive to these issues and the deaf are treated like all other productive and participating members of society. But I guess 30 years ago, things were different. I have a close family member who is deaf and his story of acceptance and accomplishment seems very different than your granddaughter’s.

I think the most important thing to focus on here is that people who bully will always find something (and someone!) to pick on. If it wasn’t her deafness, it would have been her clothing or her choice of friends or some behavior; that is just the way bullies are. And learning to cope with the bullies of the world is no different for a deaf person than for anyone else.

When my children would come home from school complaining about the mean things another child would say, my husband would always ask them if that was someone whose opinion mattered to them, someone they respected. It never was. Learning perspective on these negative behaviors is a crucial step in maturity and wisdom. It’s a skill set that your granddaughter should have begun to develop back then.

Part of the key for her is to not feel sorry for herself. I hope that no one in the family made her feel “less than” when she was growing up. If she has a sense of self-confidence, these issues should no longer bother her. Especially so many years later. I’m guessing the family treated her as someone with a handicap, someone to feel sorry for. Maybe they even felt that way themselves. And maybe the bully hit a sore spot, maybe his comments resonated with her low self-esteem

She should be taught (and it’s never too late) that she’s terrific and that she can accomplish anything she wants. Everyone has unique challenges; hers are just more visible than others. But her challenges are what make her the person she is today; they are her opportunities to grow and achieve.

Additionally, this is the way the Almighty made her. She was created exactly as He desired. Any “complaints” should be addressed to Him.

She may have to do a little re-parenting of herself. As mothers of uniquely challenged children know, we can make them feel hard done by or we can make them feel blessed – which of course they are. But either way, in adulthood, the choice is now hers.

-- Emuna

Not Keeping Up with the Joneses

Dear Emuna,

My problem is trivial compared to most but I’m still very troubled and frustrated. We live in a very nice neighborhood in a large and comfortable home. So far so good. The problem is that my in-laws bought the house for us. We are very grateful to them. We could never have purchased it on our own and we can’t afford the kind of upkeep our neighbors have – not the cleaning lady, gardener, fancy furniture etc. I’m embarrassed to have anyone over and never reciprocate invitations because I don’t want them to see the inside of my house. It’s not filthy but it’s definitely not up to their standards in any respect. What should I do?

-- Not Keeping Up with the Joneses

Dear Lagging Behind,

What should you do about what? Your jealousy of your neighbors? Your fear of their judgment? Let it go and move on. Everyone, no matter their level of wealth and accomplishment, finds themselves in situations where they feel inferior or jealous. And everyone needs to let it go. Or it will destroy not only all their relationships but themselves as well.

When your neighbors invite you over, it’s you they want to speak to, not your possessions. The same applies when you invite them back. They are not coming over to check up on your housekeeping or evaluate your furniture. They’re coming to see you – although by now they’re probably wondering why they haven’t heard from you!

Don’t rob yourself other friendships and community due to petty jealousies and trivial concerns. It doesn’t do you and your friends justice.