My wife and I have been together for 5 years and we are raising two little girls together. We get along pretty well, but we don’t get much time alone together, with a toddler and a baby. I still fat from baby weight, so I don’t feel very attractive anymore. In fact, I’m lonely. I don’t think my wife is attracted to me anymore. And she’s always on her phone texting friends. One friend in particular. I thought this girl was just a really good friend, but they text each other constantly. Last night, we went to a restaurant with the kids for dinner, and she spent the entire dinner texting this friend. She didn’t even help me with the kids. I was upset. I asked her to put her phone away and to help, but she just glared at me and told me she will do whatever she wants. So, I’m mad, but I’m also scared. What if she leaves me? Why is going on with this friend? She tells me they are only friends and that she has never cheated on me. Something’s wrong and I don’t know what to do. Any advice?
Signed, Angry in Allen Park
Dear Angry, Life, and marriage, with two small children is definitely challenging. Parenting takes a lot of time and energy, and you are probably sleep deprived as well. First of all, make sure that you follow up with your OB/GYN to be checked for post partum depression. This is a real thing and can make it hard to lose weight and be back to your optimistic self after having a baby. Second, it sounds like you are jealous of your wife’s friendship with the woman she is texting. It also seems like your wife may not have physically cheated on you, but she may be emotionally cheating. Intimacy in a marriage requires physical and emotional connecting. Hugging, kissing, sex, talking about your needs and feelings with each other, being emotionally supportive, both investing in parenting, sharing the responsibilities would all be included in intimacy. It’s hard to find the time and energy for yourself with small children, and doubly hard to find time with your wife too! When the physical and/or emotional connection begins to fray, it can damage the relationship, leaving opportunities for either one of you to look for that emotional or physical support from someone else.
Emotional cheating is destructive. Some signs to look for are:
1. She shares her most intimate thoughts with someone outside of your relationship.
2. She seeks and gives a majority of her emotional support to someone outside of your relationship.
3. She depends on someone other than you (her significant other) to meet her needs to feel loved, connected and significant.
4. She’s distracted by someone else when she should be present in your relationship (for example, out to dinner
with her “friend”).
5. She spends more time connecting with someone outside of your relationship – talking on the phone, texting or spending time together.
If those signs are happening, you and your wife need to have some honest communication. First, start with “I” statements, telling her how you feel without accusing her of anything. Direct charges will make her feel attacked and she will stop listening. Tell her you feel lonely, fat and unattractive. Tell her about her behaviors that you notice have changed: that there is less physical affection between the two of you, that she seems to be texting on the phone more than usual, or that she appears to be less involved with the co–parenting. Tell her if you feel like she has withdrawn emotionally or physically from you, and mention how long you have noticed these changes. Tell her what you miss or would like more of. Make a request such as, would she put the phone down during certain times, like at dinner, and focus on you and the kids. Ask her what she’s noticed about changes in your relationship. Maybe she feels you have withdrawn from her, spending all your time with the baby and toddler. Maybe she doesn’t feel welcome or included the way she did before the second baby, or before having children. All of these things, and much more, are possible. See if the two of you can find the time to share these feelings and concerns with each other. That vulnerability with each other helps reconnect the emotional intimacy. Try to set regular times for deeper conversation and interaction with each other. Try to get a break alone with each other and get a babysitter so you can be without the children. Then you can better focus on each other. A friend of mine exclaimed that she and her partner never talk about anything except their 1 year old son! She never imagined that parenting would be so incredibly frustrating and so completely exhilarating all mixed together. Most of all, try to gave a little give and grace with each other. This stage of life and marriage is trying, filled with diapers, burping, baths, crying, teething and changing sleep patterns and a toddler who has learned to say “no!”
If you need help communicating with each other, do call a therapist to set up an appointment or two to have a neutral person help each of you share your needs and feelings and be heard by each other. Open, honest communication can be difficult but will also bring you two to a deeper connection with each other. Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD
Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Royal Oak, MI 48067
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