How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or, better still, link up your own post in the Linky below. Today we’re going to talk about asking for help from our hubbies.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do in marriage is to ask for help. We think either that he should already know what we need, or that if we have to ask, that means there’s something wrong with our relationship.

Today Kate Tunstall from Refined Prose joins us to tell the story of how a baby changed everything in her marriage–including her perspective on asking her husband for help. We’ve been talking about this theme a lot on this blog recently–how sometimes we can avoid problems just by voicing our needs. I thought sharing a real life story could drive this home. So here’s Kate:

When my husband and I decided to start a family, we were one of those sickeningly ‘perfect’ couples who had been together a long time and done everything in the right order.

Not only were we very established, I was also in the enviable position of having a husband who was attentive, thoughtful and selfless. I was totally confident that difficult though a baby may be, my incredible husband would make the tough times endurable and the special times magical. We were relatively young, fit and healthy.

And thus came the life-changing decision that would alter the dynamic of our relationship forever.

Preparing for a Baby

My poor husband was slightly behind me in terms of readiness, though he could see the logic in the timing and was fully supportive. However, he underestimated what can happen when two health-conscious people actively begin to try for a family: within six weeks I was pregnant and his catching up became a sprint, not a marathon.

I still had no concerns: after all, I married the best man I know and was convinced that a baby would only strengthen our bond.

When I delivered our beautiful daughter following early induction due to complications, we were both in awe. One moment the wait for her arrival seemed interminable, the next everything was being medically forced with some urgency. After a difficult labour, she was born mewling and perfect and was placed immediately on my chest, at which point she looked up into my eyes as though to reassure me that she was okay. She was sixteen days early and at 5lb 4oz, she was tiny and delicate and fragile. We were besotted.

Finally, after nearly a week of scans, monitoring and procedures, we were back home with our baby daughter and our new reality set in.

Everybody has heard about The Tiredness, but until it has been experienced, the torment is incomprehensible. Lest we forget, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture…

Being the good wife that I am, and given that I am breastfeeding our daughter, I said from the very beginning that I did not expect my husband to get up in the night. I have always maintained that since he is working while I am at home during the day, his need for sleep during the night is greater than mine. (That said, I question the practicality of ‘sleeping when the baby does’. It has never happened for me – my baby needs clean clothes even if I don’t.)

The First Weeks with Baby Were a Blur–and Exahaustion Took Over

I was totally consumed by love and tiredness and worry and exhaustion and delight and tiredness. It was overwhelming and I wondered constantly if my life would ever be normal again, whether I was caring for our daughter well enough, when I would ever get some proper sleep–and how I was going to cope the following day.

Despite the absolute fatigue, I consoled myself that at least I was the consummate wife: I still didn’t ask my husband to get up in the night. Not only that, I actively encouraged him to continue to work out regularly after work (and I still do). Even though I also used to frequent the gym myself, and am half-crazy with pent up energy which I am unable to expel. Even though I could use some adult company and a little help in the evenings. The way I saw it, why should we both miss out, right? He works hard; he needs to have an outlet.

I knew of other dads who were expected to help with night feeds and who would have their babies thrust upon them the moment they walked through the door in the evening. And I thought to myself how harsh their wives were, how inconsiderate! Not for us, that needy thoughtlessness – oh no. I allowed my husband to get in, have a leisurely shower, make himself a brew and spend half an hour relaxing, only then relinquishing his daughter to him for playtime and cuddles.

An hour later, I would take over again to deal with the bath and bedtime routine. But it was fine, because during this time my husband would potter downstairs and hang the washing, empty the dishwasher and make the dinner. As I may have mentioned once or twice, he was pretty close to perfect.

Resentment Started to Creep In

However, it slowly dawned on me infinitesimally that actually, my husband could be doing things differently to help me more, things that would enable me to have a small break. Things that would forge a bond between him and his baby girl. Speaking to friends brought to my attention that there were issues I had been ignoring which displayed my good wifely intentions in a different perspective.

When my husband told me early on that he was not able to bathe our daughter because it hurt his knees, I accepted it without hesitation. When he (regularly) said it was easier for him to make dinner while I saw to our daughter, I didn’t consider his motives. I trust my husband, I believe in our marriage – why should I question him?

One evening after work my husband expressed a desire to spend a Saturday with a colleague at a comic convention. I was disappointed (he had never before shown any interest in such an activity), but said that if he would prefer to do that than spend time with his family then I didn’t mind. A few days later, after a particularly taxing day, he told me of his intention to learn a new language which would, of course, take away more of his time from us. And this was the moment that the creeping resentment thwacked me over the head and I started to view our solid marriage in a different light.

Realisation That There was a Problem in our Marriage

Listening very carefully to some close friends discussing their relationships is what ultimately helped me to fix things with my husband. While I had been secretly putting our relationship on a pedestal, they had been at the other end of the spectrum, asking for the support they required and having their needs met. I felt a little bit ashamed of my superior attitude (luckily it was a private view that had not been shared). I was humbled as it began to register that I had been so fixated on my husband’s wishes and the desire to maintain the image of a perfect marriage that I had actually been neglecting my own needs. Surely there had to be a happy medium?

Epiphany: My Husband was Insecure as a Dad!

That night I went home and had a frank discussion with my husband. What I discovered broke my heart a little bit: my very competent, capable husband lacked confidence with his tiny, fragile daughter. She was like a delicate little bird and he was terrified of breaking her. While I had had no choice but to learn how to safely handle her, my baby’s daddy was frightened of injuring her little body with his big, clumsy bear hands. This changed everything. A brutal shake-up was required in our house.

One of the most important factors in a successful marriage is communication with your spouse. It is all too easy to make assumptions based on historical truths about your partner and your relationship. However, when you are thrown into completely new territory, you can’t know how a person will react, and sometimes they may need support to adjust. My husband’s failing in this scenario was his inability to discuss his lack of confidence, and mine was to blindly believe in the perfection of our marriage–and then to do him the disservice of presuming he was disinterested or lazy or both.

How exhausting for my husband that I am such a perfectionist that I projected my impossibly high expectations onto him too, and was unable to see him as anything other than infallible! I was so determined to attain The Perfect Marriage that I inadvertently undermined and sabotaged the relationship we do have.

Ultimately my husband’s ego prevented him from owning up to his fears, and mine prevented me from seeing that our habits were getting unhealthy. But my marriage does not belong to me, it belongs to us. And it is not something I can singlehandedly protect or perfect. That responsibility is equally my husband’s.

Change Comes by Asking for Help

So now I have simply learned to ask for help–and once he admitted that he was insecure, and put his own feelings out there, my husband was glad to see where he could be of service. He now gets home earlier after work, helps out with bathtime with the aid of a cushion, and settles our daughter back to sleep if she stirs during the evening. Life has improved exponentially as our daughter has now surpassed a healthy newborn weight. My husband now relishes every moment he has with the baby he dotes on, and in return she adores her daddy. Having those hard conversations was totally worth it.

I learned a valuable lesson here. While I am still proud of our marriage and I still look up to my husband, I also believe that in the future I will be better equipped to handle any similar issues; because I now express my needs to him–without feeling that this is a failing in me or in our marriage.

Gottman quotation on the transition to parenthood: Don't leave your husband behind!

With thanks to Hot, Holy and Humorous for reminding me of this quotation! Now, can you all see what would have happened to Katie’s marriage if she had said nothing–and kept trying to do it all? What would that relationship have been like five years down the road? Don’t forget–sometimes we need to ask for help!

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Kate Tunstall can be found at The Less-Refined Mind, blogging about motherhood, marriage, and all manner of mischief. Sometimes caustic – but always candid – Kate loves a provocative subject matter almost as much as she loves (good) coffee and (great) cake.

WifeyWednesday175Now let me know: have you ever seethed with resentment, when simply asking for help would have fixed many of your issues? Leave a comment! And if you have your own blog, feel free to link up a marriage post by putting the URL in the linky below. Thanks for joining me for Wifey Wednesday!

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