Help! Hubby wants date nights all the time and I wanna spend time with the baby!

By Angelica Shiels Psy.D.

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Ummm maybe she doesn’t want to leave the baby because this is the babysitter they hired.

Dr. Psych Mom recently had a contest to see who had the best answer to one of her reader’s questions:

I am having an issue with my husband.  We have been married for three years and have a baby that is 9 months old. Every other week it seems like he starts a fight with me about how little we get to go out and how “everyone else” leaves their baby with a sitter “at least once a week” and goes out for the whole night, or even leaves their baby with family and has a couples vacation.  I work full time and I want to spend time with my child when I’m not working.  Once a month date night is enough for me, and I don’t see how “everyone” else goes out multiple times a week without their baby.  Am I really off base here?

So, no, my response wasn’t the winner. But this task of navigating divided attention between kids, husband, and other obligations is a common issue that comes up for couples. And since I spent all this time throwing together an answer while my kids played in the yard carefully crafting a written response….here’s my two cents on the subject (emphasis, I didn’t win. I will put a link to the winner’s answer too 🙂 )

Here is my answer:

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It certainly is a common conundrum when Mrs. Once-a-Month is married to Mr. Twice-a-Week.  Any time a couple is negotiating frequency of anything—whether it be sex, dates, trips to the in-laws— it is important to communicate effectively.  Since you wrote-in, Mrs. OAM, and I happen to be a couples therapist myself, I offer you some suggestions

1)  If you guys often get caught up in the “who’s right vs. who’s wrong” aspect of issues instead of coming to a solution, STOP IT.  Who cares if 18 percent of the population has weekly date night at 11 percent of the population doesn’t go out at all.  What’s important is that Mr. TAW understands your perspective and needs and you understand Mr. TAW’s perspective and needs.

2)  In order to be able to communicate effectively, you have to know your true feelings and needs.  For you, Mrs. OAM, what is it about being away from your little Cherub that you can’t stand?  Is it that you are managing feelings of guilt about being a working mom (Unnecessary, btw Read this.)?  Are you worried that if you “give in” on this one, Mr. TAW will become a poker-playing, strip-club-frequenting bachelor who is completely detached from fatherhood?  Is it that you are finding ways to avoid your husband because you are secretly resentful that he always leaves you with an empty tank of gas?  Or does Mr. TAW often use made-up statistics to unfairly compare you to Mrs. Betty Crocker or Mrs. Double Dees, and this makes you want to become Mrs. Once-a-Year sometimes? I have no idea.  But you need to dig deep and figure it out.

As for your husband, consider his possible perspectives.  Does Mr. TAW feel dejected and overwhelmed ever since the arrival of “Baby Once-a-Week” (An adorable name as well as a foreshadowing of compromise)? Like many husbands, does Mr. TAW just want his wife’s boobs back, all to himself?  Also like many husbands, is he feeling overwhelmed by the adjustment to fatherhood?  Does he need more of a break from Baby OAW than you do?

3)  Once you have figured out what is really going on with you, and have begun to lean into your husband’s perspective, begin the conversation by making an I-statement: “I feel smothered/controlled/nervous/anxious when I think about leaving Baby Once- a-week (or when I spend time with you, whichever is the important issue). And then take the time to openly hear Mr. TAW’s perspective intentionally validate how he feels, and truly empathize with him. (Of course you want him to do the same for you, and this is the easiest way of accomplishing such a feat.)

So, Mrs. OAM, it is time for you and your husband to check defensiveness, criticism, and “a need to be right” at the door, and do a little more introspecting, vulnerable communication, and listening.  (Couples therapy can help with that, if this is difficult for you guys to do on your own.) If you can manage that, not only is a compromise on this topic right around the corner, but Baby Once-a-week, who will never care or remember how often his parents went on dates when he was a baby will ultimately benefit by his parent’s examples of understanding and connection.

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So if you are in need of a similarly unbiased and beneath-the surface answer to your couples conundrum, shoot me a message on my Facebook page, And if you’re lucky, I might give you a cartoon picture or a marker flow-chart since I’m blunt and entertaining like that.

And here’s the winner’s response, in case you thought I was too hard on poor Mrs. OAM for holding her accountable for deeper awareness.

 

 

 

 

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