Q&A: Losing Patience with Partner

Parenting is really hard. Anon writes:

"I just lost it on my husband. Like screaming at him while the baby is screaming her head off. Utter chaos. We're 2 months in with our first child and I have been trying so hard not to lose my patience with him. And he's a great guy. Helpful without having to be asked. Patient with me and with our baby. So what's my problem, right? Sleep deprivation I guess. But anything can make me furious -- having to repeat myself, him asking me what he should do regarding XYZ (hello! This is new for me too! I don't know what I'm doing!), him sleeping soundly while I go tend the baby -- even mundane stupidities like not washing the frying pan right away even though I know he didn't because it was too hot! I miss our relationship pre-baby. We were a great team. We had 10 years just me and him. And now it's like we have to learn how to be a couple again. I know I'm taking out my frustration, tiredness, anxiety, etc. etc. out on him and it's not fair. How can I make this better?? How can I make our relationship better?? Does it ever go back to "normal"? Or some semblance of the way it used to be??

Maybe it's not nice or fair to ask this of you after a divorce and I apologize if it's insensitive."

I almost started tearing up at that last line. Thank you so much for being so sweet, Anon, to be concerned about me! It's totally not insensitive.

I have some theories (ha ha ha, as if there was any doubt) about divorce, and one of them is that for couples who just disintegrate (like LOD and I did) it isn't because "the love died" or any of that stuff. I think there are lots of couples who just weren't right to begin with (raises hand) and we just get married because of some dysfunctional equilibrium, and once something shifts the balance is gone and it falls apart. If you had 10 good years together, I seriously doubt this is the case. If there's something to "get back to," then your situation is in no way analogous to mine.

In other words, at 2 months postpartum, all bets are off. Not only are you tired as @#$%^&ing hell 24/7, you (both) have completely lost your identity, and the one who gave birth to the baby still has hormone craziness (they don't really go back to pre-pregnancy levels until the baby has been out of you for as long as the baby was in you, so you still have 7 months to go). There is no way for this not to be a ridiculously stressful situation unless you have a lot of help.

So the good news is that I'm pretty sure that this is normal for 2 months post-partum. And couples get past it and go on to be the great team they were before they had a baby. The bad news is that it hurts while you're in it. That bruised, why-am-I-not-special-anymore hurt for both of you.

I have a few suggestions, and know for sure that many of the still-happily-married commenters will have more:

1. Be honest about it. Have a talk, and not in the heat of the moment when you're feeling rage, but when you're just feeling exhausted and normal, and lay it out for your partner. That you're scared and sad and confused and exhausted. And you can't be the one with all the answers because you don't have them. And that it feels like he's not helping because he's sleeping soundly. He is probably trying to do what he thinks needs to be done, and doesn't realize how you feel. So tell him.

2. Ask him for honesty. Men are supposed to be these unyielding sources of strength when the baby comes, but that's no more fair or realistic than expecting you to know all the answers. So ask him to tell you what he's feeling and what his biggest stresses are.

3. Call out the hormones. If you both know you're being held captive to mood swings for awhile longer, it'll be easier not to take the episodes for anything but what they are.

4. Look over on the left of this page, about hafway down, where it says "Download This," and download my "14 Tips to Prevent PostPartum Depression" sheet and keep all of that in mind. You're in a fragile place right now.

5. If you can hire or talk someone into babysitting, do it. A few hours once a week to spend just together will help out more than you can imagine.

Readers who have gone through it and are still happy to be with your partner? Lay it on us, please.