Dear Dr. Norquist: My husband and I are currently going through an informal separation. This was his idea. Ever since our son (2 1/2) was born he says that I don’t pay enough attention to him, like I used to before I was pregnant. I have tried to explain to him that our child should come first and he agrees but he still feels that he should be first and foremost in my mind. I love him with all that I have. This “separation” is merely a mental separation and not a physical. Our sex life is definitely better because of it, and I have been trying to compromise by giving ample attention to both my husband and son. I don’t want to lose him.
What do you think I could do to improve the relationship with my husband while not jeopardizing the amount of attention that I give my son? I am currently working full-time and going to school for my degree as well.
Dr. Norquist responds:
One of the signs of readiness to have children is the ability to defer our own needs in order to attend to our children’s needs. As parents, we need to find ways of taking care of ourselves so that, as much as possible, our needs do not get in the way of attending to our children’s needs. Of course, it is not possible to do this perfectly. However, this should be the case the majority of the time. Ideally, as parents, we are bonded enough with our children and have had our own early needs met adequately enough so that attending to our children’s needs first does not feel depriving. When this is not the case, then, professional help and advice should be sought. It is reasonable for you to expect (and to need) your child’s father to be a partner with you in attending to your son’s needs. Working together in your child’s best interests can serve to strengthen and deepen the relationship between you.
It sounds like you have too many places in your life where you are the provider (your son, your husband, your work, your schooling, etc.) and not enough places where you nourish and replenish yourself. This can lead to feeling too drained to have anything left to give. Take time out to recognize and honor your own needs – you need and deserve support as well.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services