New Baby: Relationship on the Rocks

When my wife became pregnant everything took a turn for the worse. She begain staying at her mom's house and treating me like I had harmed her in some way. I even began to think that this was not my baby. I love my wife and my new baby, but she doesn't even sleep with me anymore. What can I do to win her back, or is my situation hopeless?


Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Your problem is not in "winning your wife back," but rather, taking responsibility for redefining your relationship, now that you have become parents. Contrary to the cultural myth that women are responsible or "in-charge" of family relationships, you are in fact half of the solution. It is too soon to label your situation hopeless before you have done your part to influence your marriage.

Talk with her about your feelings. Let her know that you have been feeling rejected by her since the pregnancy began. She may not be aware that her need to spend more time with her own mother has left you feeling deserted in the marriage.

It is possible that your wife's behavior is a result of a family pattern in her own childhood. If her parents drifted apart when children came, or if she was abandoned by her own father, she may have responded to impending motherhood by forging a tighter relationship with her mother. An over reliance on her mother, instead of you, could result in an unhealthy distance in your marriage. It is possible that your wife is repeating a pattern of pushing you away, based on the expectation that men "leave." Whatever the cause, it is time to reconnect with one another.

While it is natural for your wife to want a closer relationship to her mother at this time, it should not be at your expense. Your mother-in-law should play a supportive role to your relationship, not the other way around.

Ask your wife to align her loyalties to your primary relationship. It is to you that she should be coming to about decisions on how to raise your child together and for primary emotional support. Insist on involving yourself in primary parenting tasks, such as diapering, getting up at night, bathing your baby and spend time alone with your infant, while your wife takes time to herself. Do not allow yourself to be content with a peripheral role as a father.

Make time for your couples' relationship. Talk with your wife about a plan for sleeping together again. Create weekly rituals, such as taking long walks as a family with your baby in a snugly. This kind of activity can lull your baby to sleep, while the two of you talk and walk together. Consider using the support of your mother-in-law for baby-sitting, so the two of you could go out for dinner together and talk about the changes that becoming parents involves.

Consider what kind of family you want to create together and start with your vision of what you want your couples' relationship to be, now that you are parents. Consider the "blueprints" of your own childhood family backgrounds and whether patterns learned from your parents' marriages are ones you want to repeat or break. The exercises in my book, "Making Healthy Families" may help you have a discussion about the kind of relationship and family you want.

The health of your relationship forms the foundation of your family. Your marriage is the garden in which your child will grow. Taking a leadership role now in caring for your relationship is in the best interests of your child's future.

Do not despair. Instead, invite your wife to become your teammate in making the health of your marriage a top priority.

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