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Reconnecting After Growing Apart

QUESTION: My husband & I have been married 6 1/2 years and we have a 4 year old son. Before our son was born we did a lot of things together and spent a lot of time with each other. After he was born I quit work to stay home with him. It was very hard financially but seemed worth it to be able to take care of our son. I can admit when our son was small I wasn't as attentive to my husband and he seemed to spend more time on his computer. It hurt that we didn't spend as much time together and I built a wall inside myself so I wouldn't feel the hurt of neglect and he must have done the same.

Well, about 6 months ago we became friends with a couple, they are not married and have no children. We really liked them and they enjoyed being with us and our son. We really started to do a lot more things but it seemed it was always with this other couple.

About 2 months ago my husband told me he wasn't happy and was thinking of leaving to have some time to think. I kept asking him why and all he would tell me was we had grown apart. After hours of arguing he told me he might have feelings for someone else. I was so hurt. I knew who he was talking about. It was the girl we had become friends with. I had a feeling this may have been coming. He said he felt he could talk to this girl and she seemed to understand him. He said all they did was talk and I believe him. He always came home right after work and never went anywhere without me so I have no reason not to believe him.

After 2 days of crying and talking he said he wanted to stay and work things out. He confused his feeling of friendship with this girl into thinking it may have been more. But it wasn't. His best friend was killed 9 months earlier and he had been seeking something to replace the loss or to help him find answers why it all happened. She told me she never had any feelings but friendship for my husband, she did not want to hurt our friendship or me, and seemed very sorry any of this ever happened.

ANSWER: It appears that you and your husband are getting back on track with one another following the huge transition that parenthood brings to your relationship. The loss of personal freedom and spontaneous time and energy to connect as a couple is real. These changes compounded with the death of his friend may have triggered your husband's extreme behavior.

You are now finding the time to talk again which is essential to the health of your marriage. Now that your child is 4 years old, it may be possible to carve out some needed couples' time together. Your relationship is the garden that nourishes your son. By taking consistent quality time for each other, you strengthen the security of the family for his future.

Your husband needs someone to talk to, and it should be you. He may also need others to share feelings with at this time, but they should not take the place of primary sharing with you. Your husband made a mistake in bringing his deepest feelings elsewhere, and further mistaking understanding for love. His confusion seems real and this crisis appears to have brought the two of you together rather than apart!

Your husband needs to grieve the loss of his friend, but this may also be confused with the other losses he has experienced when he became a father. Perhaps the loss of his friend also symbolized a period in his life when he was younger and free of responsibilities of any kind. It will be important for your husband to sort through his feelings for his friend and understand for himself what is lost.

There will be times of pain and growth in your life together that one or the other of you will need listening and understanding. Perhaps this is a period of time for your spouse that requires special attention and care. Ask your husband if he feels you have been a good listener. If not, why? Work to develop your relationship to include some of the release he experienced in talking with your friend. This is an opportunity to fortify your bond to one another and recommit to a friendship.

The good news is that you have an opportunity to find out where your relationship got off track without significant damage. Make a vow to each other That in the future, if things feel disconnected for either one of you in the marriage, that communication will precede ideas of action. Creating this resolution could go a long way in establishing a learning experience out of what has ensued!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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