When Vijay Mann became a parent, he found his marriage tested in ways that he never could’ve imagined. This is how he and his wife fought their way back into each other’s hearts.
Sure, parenthood is supposed to make you a better person, but does is make you a better partner necessarily? At one point I found that it didn’t, and this bothered me. Deeply. The struggles of new parenthood were bringing out something troubling in my wife and I. How we interacted much of the time was becoming unhealthy, draining, and challenging how we felt about each other.
Lack of sleep, changes in our routines, disagreements about setting our son’s routines, and conflicting obligations were at the center of our arguments. Frustration, irritation, and confusion followed. The former were matches, the latter was gunpowder. Once lit, these things exploded into arguments and disagreements. Harsh words were often spoken; words that couldn’t be taken back, swallowed, ingested, and tucked away somewhere. We were fighting often, but I wasn’t sure what either of us was fighting for.
We were supposed to be living the happiest moments of our lives. And, to an extent, we were. We were both madly in love with our new son. But at times I didn’t feel that way about her and I began to doubt her feelings for me.
I began to question myself. I also began to question my wife, my ability as a parent, and my beliefs of myself as a good husband. Is this how she’s going to be from now on? Is this how I’m going to feel about her/us? Would I have fared better with someone else as a partner and co-parent? Was it a case of compatibility as partner vs. compatibility as co-parent?
I think that part of it was our shared belief that our child was our first and foremost priority. But somewhere along the way, we began neglecting each other. Our bond was supposed to become stronger now that we had created something together, but it was being chiseled away by our tempers and impatience.
We had to talk. We vented our frustrations, tried to understand our concerns, and checked our prides. Most importantly, we validated each other’s concerns and allowed ourselves to value and feel valued. As a man, I acknowledged that she has an incredible bond with our child that I don’t. He was a part of her body. He came from her and, for nine months, she carried, nurtured, and loved him. She had loved him before she had ever laid her eyes on him. It took a while for me to understand that this bond between mother and child was perhaps more important than that bond between my wife and I. He needs her more than I do and, if that meant that he’s her number one and I’m her number two, then I had to honor that. If there was ever a time to bow out from my place in her heart as her most important guy, it was now.
What she needed from me was support. But, more importantly, she needed empathy. And this was precisely what I needed from her as well; to be heard and understood. I like to think that care + respect = love. Our equation had become strained, but not broken. We needed to bring back the care and respect for each other and explicitly appreciate one another. It was time to re-love. This meant stealing moments for intimacy and just being nicer to each other. More importantly, if we are to make our son our foremost priority, we had to be examples of how to care and respect through our own actions and words before we found ourselves trapped in bad communication habits.
My wife and I briefly lost track of our relationship while we were caught in the whirlwind of new parenthood. But, in the end, the frustrations, pain, anger, and all the stuff in between allowed us to re-evaluate our relationship and ourselves as individuals. Through all this, I think I hold her a little bit closer to me now, physically and emotionally.
It’s not easy for some men to relinquish control of things that are important for them to their partners. But trust and empathy are vital in maintaining or reclaiming a healthy relationship. Beginning to understand the power of trust and empathy can get you back to that sweet spot in the relationship. Not to mention, trust and empathy are essential qualities that men can teach their children through living them.
This post is republished on Medium.
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