Monday, November 29, 2010

Twins and marriage

Every book ever written on marriage with twins says the same thing - your marriage will be tested. I examined our life together and tried to prepare for this. And yet. I am failing at either finding a balance between my expectations of what needs to get done or I have unrealistic expectations of my partner.

My level of frustration is getting higher with each moment of action not taken, responsibility shrugged or jobs ignored. I feel less and less attracted to a man that acts like a boy. I do not want this resentment in my life or marriage. I have seen what it can do and I wish with all my heart not to stumble into that bleak future.

He speaks about his emotions and expresses love for myself and the kids. I need to see him act on those intentions. I need to see him physically doing things in service to our life, our home and our family.

What can I do? What has worked for you? I need your thoughts on this one.


  1. I do not have twins but can attest to the fact that having children absolutely will test one's relationship with her spouse. My best advice is to NOT let things go unsaid. Start from the place of "he wants what's best for his wife and children" and believe that he must be taught the way. Since parenting AND being a committed, attentive spouse usually do not come easily to men, it will be incumbent upon you to tell and show him. Do not do this in an accusatory or judgmental way. Simply make time to have one in a series of conversations, express how his current behavior (lack of) makes you feel, and ask him what HE thinks HE can do differently. Then expand upon what he says if you feel the need.

    As a point of reference, I am now a SAHM and my husband works two jobs (totaling 40 hrs/wk). I get up early with our son and handle the morning routine (breakfast, getting son dressed and teeth brushed) and my husband takes him to school on his way to work. I pick up our son and do the nap time routine. I make dinner and get us all fed and my husband gives our son his bath while I clean up after dinner (and sometimes, we switch and I'll give bath while my husband cleans up and, if it's not a bath night, my husband will clean up). My husband does the bed time routine (gets son dressed for bed, teeth brushed, stories, lights out).

    I manage the inside of the house (cleaning, grocery shopping, meal planning and prep) and my husband manages the outside (trash/recycling out, leaves blown/raked, dog poop patrol (most of which our son "helps" with)).

    I run most of the errands and appointments but my husband absolutely will if I ask him to.

    A lot of the way we operate is a partnership, the foundation of which was set up when we were dating and in our early married years. I saw no reason why he should not contribute to our home and life 50%. It took a lot of work, willingness, and commitment on his part but we both believed that we are equal partners in what is right and wrong in our relationship. We negotiate through almost every hurdle together.

    I still do a fair amount of reminding but he takes that in stride and not that I am nagging him. He gets that he needs to be reminded and I get that he does and that if I want him to do things I sometimes must ask. I no longer take that as a personal affront but have learned that that is how he is wired. He never complains because he sees and knows how much I do to keep our family and home on point.

    Good luck and sorry for the novella.

  2. We have gone through this as well. My husband who normally takes care of 50%+ of things suddenly was letting me take care of everything with the kiddos. I was the one up all night. I took them our to play. I always took them to the doctor. I always changed them, fed them, etc. I has been hard.

    A long talk with my husband (with me confiding to him that I feel overwhelmed and need more help on his part) led to him saying that he just "lets" me do things for the kids. He knows that I will do it if he waits long enough, so he does. I am not sure why, as he is so proactive in other areas.

    What works for us now is that I ask him if he will do x, y or z and then...I just have to let him do it. He may not get to feeding the kids as quickly as I would like (for example), but I know that the kids will not be hurt by this. I also have started just asking him to deal with a kid (or both) at night. He says he honestly doesn't hear them cry. His snoring is a testament to that!

    I understand you feelings of frustration. We seem to work so well in other areas, but this in one that takes constant work.

    Good luck.

  3. Well, I'm single - but I was married for 7 years (though we had no children). I know one thing for sure, I held my husband up to my standards and paid the price by having to do it myself. It may take having to let the baby cry until HE does something about it WTHOUT asking him to do it. We women do ourselves a disservice by jumping up to do what needs to be done. Men AND children (no matter the child's age) have one great thing in common: THEY WON'T. They'll wait until someone else answers the phone, gets the door, picks up the spilled milk. Men and children like to be taken care of and construct their behavior in a manner that's likely to satisfy the need to be mothered.

    In a way, I can't blame them. If I had a woman in my house running around, vacuuming, doing for the animals, cleaning, cooking and working herself silly, I might easily fall into the trap and keep my butt plastered to the couch when the door bell rings. Not right, not fair - just is. oblivious sometimes and let him feel forced to act. Just my two cents.

  4. Parent of twins -- I second the thought that things should be said rather than held in (and I think that's good advice for all life situations when possible). You can take the heat and perhaps catch more flies with that ... honey ... by making it about you. Asking for help because you need help rather than asking him to do things because frankly, he should be helping out more. For instance, which person would you want to help:

    Choice A: I am so angry; you said you would do this an hour ago and you're sitting there on Facebook while the twins are crying!

    Choice B: Hon, I am really stressed out and can't juggle everything. Can you please fold all of the laundry or take the twins and feed them -- whichever one you want so both things get done.

    Offer him choices, make things specific (instead of "help out" make it "fold the laundry"). And at the end of the day, sometimes the best help is having someone else mediate the conversation, such as a therapist.

  5. Okay, I'm going to be the contrary one here. What's worked for me is *not* the talking about it thing, which, for us, just creates more arguments about how much he already does and why am I always nagging him.

    Instead, what I've found helpful is for me to create situations where the kids are his responsibility and just let him deal.

    For example, I'll say that Friday, I'm going for a "girls night out" -- which might just be me going to hang out in a coffee shop by myself with a laptop or crashing on a friend's couch to watch tv.

    The point is, I'm out of the house, and he has full responsibility for the kids. Don't call home to see how he's doing. And don't answer if he calls/texts/emails you -- maybe even leave your phone at home. The point is to have a total break from the kids and let him handle everything without you having to ask or beg or plead.

    Similarly, I'll say that I need to go shopping on Saturday morning and leave the kids at home with him. The key is to say it nicely and matter of factly -- ask him what he wants or pick up some things you know he'd like.

    Also, don't give him advice. Even if he spends the entire time you're gone with the kids in front of the tv and doesn't give them baths or change their clothes and has no idea how to get them to stop crying, don't make any suggestions of how he should do things better.

    If you can afford it (I think you already have a nanny) contract out some/more of the housework/yardwork. In this economy, there are lots of people (sometimes high school or college kids) who really need to pick up the few extra bucks they can get by doing cleaning/yard work/dog walking/whatever -- you'll be helping them out *and* making your life easier.

    Finally, try to "catch" your partner doing something good. When he does something helpful, be genuinely appreciative. Tell him how you can see how much the kids love their daddy.

    Bottom line: I think most women like to have discussions about issues, but most guys hate it. Try to think about ways to get what you want without having to talk about it.

    Your mileage may vary, but this kind of strategy really turned things around for me.