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I Want a Date with my Wife

QUESTION: My wife and I have been married for two years and we have a 13-month-old son. I am our son's primary caregiver, since I work from home. After coping with both work and parenting every day, I feel that my wife an I need some time to ourselves. (Baby-sitters are no problem for us since my mother-in-law lives nearby.) My wife, however, does not seem to agree. When I discuss this with my wife, her response is always that our baby is still too small and would miss us too much. Please help.

You are your son's father. What is your opinion about your child's ability to cope with being with grandma for two to three hours while you and your wife go out for a romantic evening? If you feel confident that this is reasonable, let your wife know that you disagree with her assessment.

You are clearly ready to rejuvenate the couples' relationship with some intimate, private time together. Your desires are in line with your son's needs for Mommy and Daddy to have a strong and viable relationship. After all, your marriage is the foundation for your child's growth and development. Without a healthy, intimate couples' bond, the future of your marriage could become at risk.

Perhaps it is your wife who needs support to separate from the baby. At 13 months, your child has developed a sense of basic trust which should allow him to adjust to brief periods away from you. You are speaking for the well-being of the marriage when you suggest it is time for some devoted attention to each other. Without sufficient time to be together, the spark between you may grow dim and be difficult, if not impossible to rekindle. Certainly it has happened to other couples following the birth of a child!

New parenthood is a significant transition which creates deep identity changes for men and women. It is important to create a shared, instead of separate journey. Couples sharing requires time to focus on one another. Without this kind of intimacy, many couples find that their relationship becomes unbalanced. It is great to focus on your children and family time, but it does not replace the "special" bond of two adults in life partnership.

Require some devoted time, even if it is an evening at home with candlelight after your baby is asleep. Keep in mind that if your wife works away from the house and is not your son's primary caretaker during the day, it may be more difficult for her to leave him in the evenings and on weekends. Perhaps it is she who is missing him! However, with your support and your gentle but firm insistence, you may find that your wife is willing to leave him for a limited time period on a weekend. Be understanding and supportive of her feelings, but clear of your opinion that your son will be fine. Acknowledge that the first time may be more difficult for her than for him. Take a pager or cell phone, or leave the restaurant number you will be at with grandma. Assure your wife that her mother will call her if needed.

Consider also that your wife may be avoiding intimacy. Perhaps it is awkward to be alone together after so long. Acknowledge these feelings, but do not let this gap widen. It is time to attend to your relationship. Your child will benefit from the attention you pay to strengthening your marriage. A healthy marriage is your best insurance for your child's future.

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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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