When my son was born, I was prepared for a host of challenges: exhaustion, sore nipples, not fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans for a solid six months postpartum.
What I wasn’t ready for was how much I would start fighting with my husband. I mean, sure, we reveled in how lucky we were to have a beautiful boy, blar de blar, but mostly we bickered. And it was stupid bickering borne of extreme sleep deprivation, the kind where you’d start making what seemed like an important point and forget what you were saying halfway through and just start crying. As Jancee Dunn described it to me during our conversation: “The things you fight to the death about, if you were lucid, you’d think, oh my God, why are we doing this?”
I could have really used Jancee Dunn’s new book, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids. Part memoir, part self-help book, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids is a bracingly honest look at the disturbing levels of rage you can feel toward your beloved and a helpful guidebook as you find your way out of that morass.
I recommend you pick up this book if you currently hate your partner or you don’t yet hate your partner but anything could happen. While you’re waiting for your book to arrive, I gathered some tips from Dunn to get you through the next few days.
1. Know that it’s partly nature’s fault
When Dunn’s daughter was born, she couldn’t help but notice that when the baby woke up in the middle of the night, it was her getting up every time — not her husband. He just… wasn’t waking up. “I really felt my husband Tom had it in for me and he had this evil agenda where he’d think, ‘ha ha, I’m going to pretend I’m sleeping and she can pop up and get the baby when the baby’s crying,’” Dunn said. “I really thought he was faking snoring — he has this cartoonish snore.”
But then Dunn researched the matter and found out that, in fact, he probably wasn’t faking it. Blame evolution. Men, it turns out, aren’t as sensitive to the sound of a baby crying. “For men, the sound of a baby crying is below a car alarm or even a strong wind,” she said. “Had I known he wasn’t consciously oppressing me, it would have been a lot easier.” Not only is our hearing more keen, we also see better in the dark. Thanks for nothing, nature.
2. Get ready to negotiate
One therapist Dunn and her husband went to told them that “when a baby comes, you barely have the same relationship.” Everything, therefore, is up for negotiation. And negotiation, while not being sexy, means you’re clearly communicating your wants and needs, and that’s key at this point in your partnership. “Now we negotiate everything,” Dunn told me, “and it is dry and lawyerly and no fun. You think things are going to happen organically and they just don’t.” Get ready for this to be difficult — as women, we’re not trained to stand up for what we need. “I’m a feminist, but this was surprisingly hard for me. I had to get behind claiming my own time.”
The difficulty is what makes this so important. “Resentment comes when there is ambiguity. I had it drilled into my head by so many experts: Clarity, clarity, clarity. Clarity is dull and transactional, but it really made things so much better.”