Ask a parent how they are doing, and the response will likely include an update on the children and how there just aren’t enough minutes in the day to get everything done. This is common in healthy marriages, but it can be a symptom of problems, particularly if the couple is spending less and less time together alone without the kids.
It can also be a matter where the father is starting to pull away in search of me-time — while self-care is good, becoming distant or erecting barriers is not.
Why men do this
According to relationship experts, men overwhelmed by the family are more prone to withdraw. This can be a symptom of exhaustion, resignation, stress, or sadness over the state of the marital relationship. Common causes for these emotions include:
- Lacking personal time to exercise, pursue hobbies or work
- Ongoing criticism by mom regarding his parenting skills or choices
- Feeling that his input is not wanted nor considered
- Feeling that their marital relationship is riddled with bickering from a stressed spouse
These obstacles can feel insurmountable, leaving a husband to stop caring about the health of the marriage and relationship.
Reducing that distance
We all fall into ruts, good and bad. Spouses need to identify bad ruts and replace them with more positive ones. It can be as simple as saying “please” and “thank you.” It can be offering unsolicited compliments or gifts, recognizing the hard work they do for the family. It is also about context:
- Not only is what is said, but it also how it is said – use words and tones that show engagement and caring.
- Instead of focusing on an offhand comment that is upsetting in the moment, think about the motivation behind that comment.
What is next?
The goal is to reconnect as people and partners. Couples can make a concerted effort to change those bad ruts, or perhaps work with a marriage counselor to identify some strategies for getting the marriage back on course. It can seem like hard work, but that is no different than anything else worthwhile.