Q: I would really like to have another baby, but my husband clams up when I try to talk about it. This is a huge decision and his input is obviously necessary. What’s the best way to initiate the conversation that won’t make him shut down and will let me know how he really feels?
MAVERICK: Okay, from the tone of this question it seems you expect him not to be thrilled by the concept of an additional child.
First, approach your husband when he’s relaxed but not too relaxed. Don’t bother him when he’s just sat down to watch his favorite show or he’s just gotten in from his favorite activity. If you don’t know what these are, you don’t need another kid, pay attention to your husband.
Look for a time when he’s had a decent day at work and bring up the subject after dinner when you know you’ll have some time to talk. Another great time is on a long drive or a walk. Men often converse better side to side and while performing an activity. That’s why we like stuff like golf and fishing.
For goodness sake don’t bait-and-switch him by getting a baby-sitter and going out to his favorite place to eat. He’ll be thinking it’s gonna be a sex night and you’re gonna talk reproduction – which are two totally different concepts to most men. Don’t make a big production of the discussion but if you think there are gonna be some sticking points, be ready to discuss them logically.
If money will be an issue, come up with ways to cut costs around the house that will actually work and that don’t involve the guy working a second or third job. If space is an issue, come up with some housing options. If child care is a problem, come up with a solution.
The worst thing you can do to your husband is to dump this idea on him and expect him to figure out how to make it work.The second worse thing you can do is “talk” to him about it without LISTENING to what he has to say.
Do you want to know how he feels or do you just want him to shut up and procreate? Look into his eyes. Do you see fear? Listen to him breathe. Does he sound like he’s just had a 747 placed squarely on his shoulders? Does he joke about dying at his desk or taking a third job or always wanting to forgo retirement for a career as a Wal-Mart greeter?
Approach the discussion carefully and cautiously. Listen and respond appropriately. And remember, you say you want to know how he feels so listen, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
JON: It seems as if you already know how he feels. The question to me is why he feels this way. Is it finances? A lack of time as a couple? An inability to do things he used to enjoy? As per usual, communication is the key.
Communication is the main factor in a successful marriage. If a couple is able to talk to each other about everything that concerns them, they will get through just about anything.
Here are some tips to enable you to successfully communicate as a couple:
- Respect each other in your communication. Agree on things such as no name calling, even while arguing. Don’t talk down to each other.
- Don’t use terms such as “you always”, and “I never”.
- Be a good listener. Use body language to let your spouse know you are truly listening. Rephrasing what has been said, to make sure you understand what is meant can help make sure there is no misunderstanding.
- Make the tough subjects easier by bringing humor into it.
- Don’t hesitate to tell each other what you like. Too often married couples only say what they don’t like. This can cause hurt feelings and make it seem like a hopeless situation. If you talk about the things that you enjoy and agree on, as much or more than the things you don’t like or agree on, it creates a positive atmosphere to communicate in.
- When you notice things about your spouse that you would like to see change, remember that there are things about you that he would like to see change too. If you work on changing yourself, rather than on changing your spouse- you will see big changes in your perspective.
- Touching, whether holding hands, or sitting against each other while talking, will keep you aware of how close you are to each other, and make it less likely that you will say things you will regret later.
- Keep sarcasm and a mocking tone far from your conversation. These things can cause hurt, resentment, and make it harder to talk about important things.
- When you feel distance growing, say so. There is nothing wrong with telling your spouse that you need some of his/her time. As a matter of fact, being open about such things is what will draw you closer to each other.
- Make it easy for your spouse to begin to talk by being willing and making it clear that you are in this together. When both of you are working toward the same goal – a happy, healthy, lifelong marriage – being available to each other has to come first.
- On things that are strictly opinion, don’t argue! Agree to disagree. If there are opinions you are not in agreement on…so what?
- Don’t rehash the past. If something is in the past, has already been dealt with and resolved- leave it there. Bringing up the past is a communication killer. Don’t allow things that are in the past to ruin your future.
If a couple works together, agreeing on communicating effectively – the marriage can be happy, harmonious, and healthy – for life.
GRAY: The best approach it is to go to him with a big smile on your face and let him know you’ve just put an extra mortgage on the house and sold the car because you’re starting an ostrich farm.
Remind him that he’ll have to spend long hours after work tending to the ostriches for several thankless years if the two of you are to have hope of ever seeing any return on your investment. Make him understand the two of you will merely have fleeting minutes to spend with each other after the birds arrive and in those minutes you’ll both likely be exhausted, covered in mud and ostrich droppings, never to find each other attractive ever again.
Sound absurd? It’s not. While you may have maternal instinct to spare, a man’s first reaction may be to worry about the financial burden and time expenditure any child can represent, and already having one child doesn’t negate these fears. Even knowing the joy it is to be a father doesn’t counteract the threat another child may pose to the time he spends with the one you have, you or for himself. Often, these things feel like impassable blocks in the road and unless you can combat them he may continue to avoid the issue entirely.
What to do? Pin him down on the issue. Explain how serious the subject is to you and don’t let him belittle it as “hormonal” or equally trivializing banter. This conversation should be treated with the same respect buying a house, planning for retirement or as other big family decisions are. And make sure it doesn’t boil down to an “I want one/I don’t want one” issue.
Odds are, your husband knows you want one, but may genuinely believe it’s a passing feeling. Explain you didn’t just get the urge because your sister/your neighbor/Angelina Jolie just had one. While I don’t believe having a second child to keep the first one company is a good argument, showing the degree of thought you’ve put into the issue will lend credence to your opinions.
But what if he says we just can’t afford it? If it’s ultimately a money issue you might suggest starting a fund to offset the costs of childbirth. This may lead to a broader conversation about your own savings or how on earth you’re going to pay for college for even one, let alone two, but that’s a good conversation to have.
In the end, if we all waited until we could afford kids none of us would have them, but suggesting ideas about the financial side of things will almost assuredly let him know you’ve truly thought about the issue. And financial planning is rarely a waste of time as long as it’s kept in perspective.
And what about his claim about not having enough time to spend with the child you have? Well, I know people from large families and haven’t stumbled across one who felt unloved, but men can look at the issue and believe having a second child means the first one will get only half the love they do now. Silly? Maybe, but it’s how we think. And we also think about the time we won’t have for ourselves. Sure that’s selfish, but we all need time to be selfish, it’s just human nature.
The point is: two children don’t take twice the time it takes to raise one, love is something we have in limitless supply and millions of people have proven having multiple children doesn’t destroy the bond between a husband and wife.