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How did we get here, how do we get back(18 Posts)
I'm really struggling to write this but I've told no one in RL and I just need someone to tell me they went through something similar and got through it.
Dp and I have been together for 11 years and have one dd (2). Pre-dd it was on the whole a good, supportive, loving relationship. We enjoyed each others company, were affectionate, missed each other if apart and were committed to a future together. Sex wasn't necessarily very frequent after the early years but it was regular, fun, loving and we enjoyed it.
Dp is a kind, considerate, intelligent, patient person and is a great father (if a little indulgent but what dad to a little girl isn't). We respect and care for each other, try to be kind and considerate to each other, generally get on fine (no blazing rows or stony silences on the whole and certainly not in front of dd). I don't doubt that every one of our friends and our families would say we are a content couple.
Now for the down side....since having dd we've drifted further and further apart. We haven't slept in the same room for 18 months. (Dd’s sleep was terrible as a baby so we took turns to do the night shift and I just never moved back to our bedroom). We really struggled when dd was a baby (she didn't sleep night or day, cried a lot, wouldn't go to anyone else etc) and I think we took our stress and exhaustion out on each other. We've come through that, dd is now a fantastic toddler but we've put our relationship on hold for so long I don't know how we get back. I think we’re afraid to talk about things, afraid of making things worse, of saying things that hurt each other or being hurt.
We have no family nearby to help and haven't used a babysitter for dd so have had no time together away from dd. I know we should be having 'date nights' (hate that phrase) but we both work full time and are shattered by 8pm when dd goes to bed and she’s an early riser. Dd gets very unsettled and doesn't sleep if anyone else tries to put her to bed (we tried with MiL).
I feel like I have no right to complain, I'm not in the same boat as many posters, I have financial security independent of dp, he’s a good person and a great dad. I’m really looking for advice from someone who's been in a similar position and has found their way back. I feel we owe it to dd to at least try to fix things.
I keep looking at other couples and wondering if secretly they have similar issues. Sometimes its so isolating to feel your the only one who hasn't been able to cope with the impact of having a child. It makes me feel like a failure.
I think you've identified the main problems really and they appear to surround intimacy, closeness, and just being a couple. Sleeping in the same bed is a really easy one to fix. It's not about sex necessarily, but that's the time of day when a lot of busy couples have a chat, catch up, and just feel close to each other. Doesn't have to be deep and meaningful or controversial chatting. Reminiscences, especially funny ones, are a good way to reconnect .... 'do you remember that time when we did xyz?' gets the ball rolling
You say you don't use babysitters but if you're both working full time presumably DD is in some kind of day care? What I've done before now is ship DS off for the day, both take a day's leave and have a wildly indulgent 'duvet day' doing nothing very special beyond pretending we're not parents for a few hours.
I have been through everything you have said in your OP and what got us out of it was talking, we had to deal with our respective resentments towards the other. It's uncomfortable and involves really listening to each other, admitting where you could have both done things better, then you both have to commit to a plan to make things better and stick to it.
Share a bed, talk, make time for each other, be affectionate, kiss, hold hands. All these things will feel forced and a bit awkward to begin with, but we easily slipped back into being a loving couple.
If you can't get babysitters, have date night at home. We either cook something nice or get a takeaway, a bottle of wine and we eat at the table (we're total heathens normally and rarely eat at the table unless eating with the DC). You can even wear something nice if you want to.
Lots of couples go through something similar when the first child comes along, especially if there are sleep problems. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to fix. However, you both have to be committed to improving things.
Somehow it feels we've become parents first and foremost and there doesn't seem to be anything left for each other.
It feels like work, childcare, chores and the odd night out with friends (individually) has sapped all our time and energy.
I find myself wondering what things would have been like between us if we had never had dd, which is a pointless, soul destroying, awful waste of time that just leaves me feeling guilty and wretched.
We love dd very much, I think we're responsible, loving parents and I think it was the right decision in the long term but both of us were undecided/leaning towards not having children for a long time. I find myself wondering whether we were just not meant to be parents together. Whether each of us would have found it easier if we'd had a child with someone who wanted to be a SAHP, someone who found it naturally easier/had always wanted children.
I'm finding it hard to try to work out how our relationship now functions in very different circumstances. A lot of the things we used to enjoy together (holidays, hiking, meals out etc) we don't now do.
And on top of it all I feel so guilty, guilty about how this might impact dd, guilty we haven't given her a sibling, guilty I'm not a better partner, guilty that sometimes I long for what we used to have.
There was so many things I was happy to give up when I had a child. I just didn't think my relationship with dp was going to one of them.
It helps to just write it down and acknowledge it to be honest.
Can dd go to g/parents for a night - better still a week end - and you two go away somewhere to be alone in a non-domestic environment? I don't mean having a "dirty weekend" or a one-night shaggathon but just time to be together as the couple you were before dd. It sounds to me that a lot of your problem may be down to exhaustion - both physical and mental.
MiL is very willing but lives 250 miles away. Even though we try to make sure we see her every 8 weeks or so dd just isn't comfortable being left alone with her (we've tried). Other set of GPs live 200 miles away and have health issues so aren't able to see dd very much or look after her.
A weekend away with some proper non exhausted time to talk would be fantastic, I agree. But am sure there are other couples who don't have time away together yet are fine. Some couples just seem to take it all in their stride.
I think 2 years is just about the time you start to surface from babyhood (especially if you're had a low sleeping baby...I had similar) so just think of this as the day 1 and from now on it can get better.
What is stopping you sleeping in the same bed? That must create a level of distance..try to make that the first step.
Is your dd at nursery - could you consider asking staff there to babysit - even if it's only for a few hours, it proves it's possible.
I also agree with the taking the day off together and do something - even if it's having coffee and reading the papers. It won't rebuild over night so it's small steps and in a year's time you will start to feel better.
Totally agree with the suggestions above. My DH and I were like this, and so were 99% of our friends, once we had time for an honest catch up together it all came out. You are not alone and it is not uncommon. The most important thing to do is start fixing things now, tonight. Move back to the marital bed, sleeping closely is intimate, it isn't just about sex. Stop feeling guilty! You found like fab parents! Embrace the decisions you have made, there is no 'right' way. On a practical note : Could you get one if those hikers backpacks for dd and go off for a hike all of you?
Am feeling much better hearing its not just us, appreciate everyones honesty.
The sleeping apart is partly because I now tend to go to bed earlier as I have to get up earlier for work. I also tend to listen to the radio now rather than watch tv in the evening as it helps me relax (dp is the opposite). It's taken a long time for my sleep patterns to get back to anything approaching normal after months of being woken every hour or two but it can still take me a long time to wind down enough to sleep.
Also, its literally the only time I'm alone, ever. One of the hardest parts of motherhood has been never being alone. I've always valued quiet time alone.
But your absolutely right, sleeping together is fundamental to intimacy. Maybe if we start with weekends.
We'd love to take a weekday off together but our holiday allowance is so precious with making time to see family who live so far away, keeping some days in case dd is sick or for medical appointments etc. We never seem to have enough.
We need to find a good, local babysitter who can get to know dd and who dd can become comfortable with. Unfortunately the nursery have a strict prohibition on staff babysitting and I don't want to get them in trouble (its a shame as they're lovely).
People who just seem to make it work are usually putting in some effort to make each other feel special and valued truth be told. It shouldn't be a big effort to do something nice for each other. Even if there's a baby mucking up your sleep or squawking the minute the ice-cubes hit the evening G&T <looks meaningfully at DS....> you should both be able to find ways to show appreciation.
There is a way to formalise that incidentally. Over supper or whatever take turns to start sentences 'what I appreciate about you is.....' Life tends to barrel past in a blur and taking time out to deliberately say 'thank you' can build a lot of bridges.
Your family, I'm sure, would understand if you ran out of holiday time in order to save your relationship. It's a matter of priorities.
Cogit: that's a good point. I've described dp as a great dad on this thread and as kind/considerate but I've probably never told him that.
Every sentence before 8pm is interrupted and after 8pm we seem to talk about practical, boring but necessary things or funny stories, gossip about friends etc. We do talk but just not about our relationship. We still make each other laugh sometimes (and dd often makes us both cry with laughter) so I'm grateful we're far from miserable.
It's been a hard year, dp lost his father, his mother is now a widow and has needed our support (which we willingly give, she deserves it and does so much for us and dd). Its like there's always something else that needs our attention first. But 2015 is a new year and a new start. Am going start by registering with sitters.co.uk!
Maybe your NY resolution could be to prioritise each other and put other people..... family, work, friends and even DD. ... second place?
I tend to believe that nothing you do to save a relationship (babysitting costs, using up AL,) is as costly as splitting up and having to run two households.
Cogit...it's hard...dd is in full time childcare so I already feel guilty for not giving her enough attention. She does take priority, that might change as she becomes older and more independent but right now she's only little.
But even a couple of hours at the local pub on a Saturday night is a start.
Maybe: the costs aren't the issue, its getting dd used to a babysitter that's the hurdle. She's perfectly happy at nursery without us, loves it but gets upset if she's at home and one of us leaves without her. It's not much of a relaxing night out if its spent worrying about a toddler.
We went through the exact same thing, we had 4dd's the last two within 13 months of each other. We rarely shared a bed as I co slept with dd4 and he did the night waking so with dd3. However as they got older it got easier, we began to be able to sleep in the same bed and spontaneous affection came back. We had been together almost 11 years when we finally got married 4 months ago and I can honestly say we are stronger than ever. I have no practical solutions but just wanted to reassure you that it is very common.
With respect, your DD is used to various adults being in charge of her. She's probably more adaptable than you think. If the babysitter comes around at bed-time and you do the bed/bath routine together and put DD in PJs then she should go to sleep and you can easily slip out of the door. You might worry the first couple of times but it gets easier with practise.
My DS was not easy to leave, but we found a lovely retired lady (ex nursery worker) to be an ad-hoc nanny. I had her come for plenty of sessions before I actually needed to be anywhere, so she was a familiar person when we came to use her for babysitting etc.
Why not advertise for someone now, then maybe in a month or so you would be in a better position to spend some time together? Saturday afternoons might work for you.
Also take the day of AL in the week, it is a simple solution and your family will far prefer one day less with you at Xmas than you splitting up and rarely seeing one of you again. I hate to be blunt but this is literally what you are looking at - splitting up - because it strikes me that in your present sitution either of you could be very vulnerable to an affair, particularly following a bereavement.
I am intending this with compassion, btw, having had a huge marital crisis in the toddler years and staring right down the barrel of being a single parent and all that entails.
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