From Passion to Bickering

Q: We have been married for just over two years and have a baby daughter. When our relationship started, we couldn't stay away from each other and we'd do anything for each other. There was always a lot of passion. But things have changed severely. My wife rejects me most of the time, so that if I kiss her for more than a second she pulls away. Sex has changed from 2-3 times a day to 1-2 times a week and I always get the feeling that she's not doing it because she enjoys it. We have constant arguments about even the smallest things. I need some advice, I want to save us. -- Lionel, 24

Dr. Susan: What you've explained about your relationship is more or less normal. The easygoing passion and sexuality of the first two years always changes over time, and adding a baby to the family usually speeds up that process. Sadly, a lot of marriages don't ever recover their initial joy because of the stresses that come with parenthood. Now is the time for the two of you to learn to talk to one another about everything you're both feeling and experiencing. I suspect your wife is tired from baby care, perhaps resentful of you not doing as much as she would like you to do. It's very hard to feel sexy and to take the time to linger over kisses when your hormones are out of whack and you're trying to do some many things at once. The frequency of your intimacy doesn't surprise me; it's not unusual at all. Those constant arguments might even be a big cause of your wife's sexual holding back.

Plan at least an hour a week away from the baby. Take a walk or eat dinner, but don't talk about the baby. You need to rediscover yourselves as a couple. Be sure you both learn how to give clear "I-messages," rather than blaming one another for every little thing that goes wrong. It's crucial in a good marriage to assume good-will. That means you both need to learn to accept that your beloved spouse means well and loves you and has no intention of distressing you on purpose. Try not to solve everything at once, and don't expect to be exactly the way you were a year ago. But rather, tackle one issue at a time. Ask her why, for example, she doesn't seem to enjoy kissing like she used to. And take her answer seriously, without blame. Show her you're willing to adapt in whatever ways you can. Find ways to laugh together. It's so important not to lose a sense of humor after you have a child. Good luck!

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