Too Much of a Good Thing

Friday, February 17, 2012

Question

I am the father of triplets. I love all of my babies and my wife, but I am about to lose it and leave. My wife and I have not been able to get a good night's sleep for months. She is irritable, and I know I am too. I feel that we are no longer “in this together.” She is no longer even affectionate with me, and when I try to be loving toward her, she pushes me away and tells me she is too tired for sex. Even if I wasn't thinking of sex, just wanting to be a little romantic for a change!

When I do ask for sex, she always says she is not in the mood, and she doesn't say it nicely either. She just seems to resent me no matter what I do. I can't be at work to pay the bills and also be at home helping her with the babies. 

I once hoped having children would draw us closer together and make us feel secure as a couple. But starting a family is not working out that way. I feel trapped. If I leave her, I will be a coward, abandoning the woman I love with a huge burden. But if I continue to be this unhappy, what is the point of continuing to live?

 

Answer

I would be willing to bet actual money that 95% of your marital problems are due to sleep deprivation. You and your wife desperately need help with child care. While it would be nice to dress up and go out on a date, I would recommend that when you find a babysitter, at first you simply curl up together and sleep. Sex is a very basic need, but sleep is even more of a priority.

Look at the budget. Is there any way to get some help one night a week so the two of you can sleep? Could help come from someone else? Do you have any friends, neighbors, fellow church members, coworkers, etc. who would be willing to sleep in the babies' room and give them a bottle and a diaper change in the night? Can you track down other parents with small babies who would be willing to trade babysitting? If you live too far from family to get help from them, you may need to uproot your wife and kids in order to save your marriage.

The current model of a family is just the parents and children. But this idea is a very new one. For most of human history, people remained connected to their parents and other family members and friends, and everyone cooperated in raising children. Whoever said “it takes a village” to do this was probably underestimating the actual labor involved. If you break your silence and ask for help, any reasonable person should be able to understand that triplets demand even more energy than most babies.

Tell your wife that you want to do this (parenting and being spouses) with her, but you feel as if she resents you no matter what you do. Tell her that you don't want to suck any more energy out of her. You want to be allies. I personally think it's kind of fucked up that she sees sex as an energy drain instead of as a source of energy or a way to renew the connection between the two of you. Was there ever a time when she enjoyed sex? If so, she might be suffering from a postpartum depression that has alienated her from that joy. Could be time to insist that she see her doctor for an emotional checkup. It could also help her to know that sometimes you just want to rub her back or feel your skin against hers, without any sort of sexual demand.

Raising one baby is brutal enough. I can't even imagine how anybody copes with three kids! We ought to have social services that kick in to help folks in your situation. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that parents of twins, triplets, or other multiple births are at a greater risk of divorce.  

Unfortunately, having a family is not about short-term satisfaction. It may not even be about personal happiness. It's about doing the right thing, day after day, even if you feel deprived. You may need to take care of your sexual needs in the privacy of the bathroom for a few more months. I hope your wife will eventually get her old self back enough to remember why she liked sharing a bed with you. Either that, or realize that even a good husband will stray if he doesn't get some physical attention from time to time!

Eventually, the babies will sleep all night long, and things between you and your wife will hopefully get a lot better. I just hope you are not accumulating a lot of resentment toward her because of this situation. From her point of view, she went through quite a physical ordeal to carry the triplets long enough to allow them to develop so they could live outside of the womb. Now she is struggling to keep it together while feeling, perhaps, pretty alone and sad and angry. She may not be getting what she wanted out of being a mom, either. I am not saying this to justify or rationalize her being mean to you. There's no excuse for that. But she may be so out of her mind from exhaustion that she has lost the ability to keep track of her own behavior and how it affects you.

Just remember that a divorce won't take much of the responsibility for these children and your wife off of your shoulders. You will still need to pay for their support. But it will deprive you of their company. Give it one more try and see if getting some outside resources will make a difference.