Q. We just had a baby. Now my husband says I'm not interested in him anymore and that I love our child more than I love him. I'm just overwhelmed and exhausted. How do I make him understand?
A. The birth of a baby is a stressful adjustment—babies need constant attention, which means husbands often feel left out, ignored, or shoved to the back of the line. Most couples get so caught up in the immediate pressure of it all that they can't see beyond to the time when things will settle down.
Find a time when you're most likely to be somewhat rested and have a talk with your husband. Reassure him that you love him. Let him know that this new baby is an adjustment for you, and you're learning more about how it's an adjustment for him. Acknowledge that in your tiredness you haven't always listened well to him, but you want to do better.
Invite him to tell you how he's been feeling about your relationship and what he needs. Sometimes intentionally listening and seeking to understand can soothe your spouse's hurt feelings.
When he's finished talking, ask him if, in the next day or two, he'd be willing to hear how you feel and what you might need from him during this adjustment period.
Both of you need to find new ways to collaborate and compromise. Start by each picking one small thing you'd like your spouse to do that would help strengthen your relationship.
You've probably read several books on becoming a mom, but there are also many helpful books for new dads. Check out The New Father by Armin Brott or Becoming a Dad by Stephen James and David Thomas. Talking, reading, and praying together will open new channels of understanding and insight and help you give more grace to each other.
Q. My mother-in-law comes to our house unannounced several times a week. I was finally able to convince my husband to ask her to call before she comes. But she still drops by uninvited—then he invites her to stay for dinner! While I realize this is his mother, her lack of boundaries frustrates me. What should I do?
A. First, revisit the issue with your husband. Before you talk with him, though, think about your reasons for needing more structure and privacy. What are the potential benefits for your marriage? Then rather than going on a rampage about your mother-in-law's lack of boundaries, share these more positive insights with him and suggest even clearer parameters, such as setting up a time when Mom stays for dinner, but you pick the night.
If she drops by and your husband still invites her for dinner without talking it over with you, you may need a woman-to-woman conversation with Mom-in-law.
Let her know you enjoy spending time with her. Thank her for the good things she's done. Then explain you've been wired in such a way that when you come home you need some structure and private times to re-charge your battery. While you enjoy seeing her, the "drop in" visits aren't helpful. Make sure she knows you've suggested specific times that might work for both of you.
After all this, if the situation remains unchanged, you may need to be assertive and let Mom and Hubby know that sharing a meal tonight isn't convenient for you, but you'd be glad to cook on the night she's supposed to come for dinner.
They may both be uncomfortable with this option! But being kind, gentle, and firm quiets many a battle, and with time this situation has hope to work itself out.
Q. I've struggled with depression. To make matters worse, I think my husband is ashamed of me and doesn't believe
I should seek help. He says I can take care of my "problem" without counseling. What if he's right?
A. It's unfortunate that some Christians find it difficult to admit they—or their spouse—experience depression. Many have the wrong idea that the Bible teaches that Christians shouldn't be depressed and so depression must be a sin. Instead of identifying and dealing with it, many Christians prefer to say they're sad, discouraged, or just feeling a bit low.
A wide variety of factors can contribute to depression. Regardless of the cause, it's essential to deal immediately with it so it doesn't become worse. There's a lot of help and hope for Christians who struggle with depression.
Healthy people experience depression. Christians experience depression. Smart Christians seek help for their depression and allow God to use it as an opportunity for growth in their lives.
Carrie Oliver is a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver Ph.D., co-author of A Woman's Forbidden Emotion (Regal), is executive director of The Center for Marriage & Family Studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.