Dear Dr. Norquist:
My wife and I have two kids that we love very much. Our oldest son is two and is extremely attached to me. Bedtimes have become a nightmare. When he wakes up in his own bed he screams until I bring him in with us. My wife, to get the rest she needs, will usually sleep on the couch and leaves me to care for him. She is facing extra responsibility at work and we are either too tired or busy to discuss what is happening to us as a couple. Although we want to do the best for our children, my wife and I are growing apart. We were two people so in love but now we are becoming strangers. Can you suggest how we can get back what we seem to have lost?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Love has to be nurtured and watched over for it to thrive. Just as flowers need water and sunshine to blossom, kindness, respect, honest communication, and a place of priority in our lives sustain thriving relationships. This takes an extra effort when the stress and the demands from our everyday responsibilities are so overwhelming and draining.
With regard to your 2-year-old, if screaming gets him a place in mommy and daddy’s bed, then that is what he will continue to do. I’d suggest that you and your wife look at which of his behaviors you are supporting and decide if this is what you want. It is human nature to stick with the behaviors that get us the immediate rewards that we want, even if some of the consequences are negative. Be aware that when you first try to stop reinforcing certain behaviors, they will become worse before they improve. Absolute consistency in your behavior is the key here.
You and your wife need to find a way to reconnect. When you can do this, your relationship can be a vehicle for replenishing your resources. You must make it a priority to create a means for reconnecting with each other. This can be done in many ways – through phone calls during the day, planned dinners out for the two of you, cards, hugs, verbal expressions of caring, reaching out to do something thoughtful, a short evening or morning ritual you develop to start or end your day together. Praying together can be a wonderful means of re-aligning with each other – especially if it is a special prayer created by the two of you. Start by taking time out to discuss your feelings with your wife. A mutual decision to give more to each other and the relationship will jump-start this process of reconnecting.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services