Wednesday 28 January 2015

David Coleman: My son often rejects me and prefers my husband

David Coleman

MY HUSBAND and I were having difficulties in our relationship but we did our best to protect our son, who turns three this month. I have a great bond with my little boy but he often says his dad is his favourite.

Sometimes if I go to pick him up in my arms, he squirms away from me and says he wants his dad. We were in separate beds for eight months and of course my little boy was aware of this on some level. If I have to work late on a Friday night, and he hasn't seen me, he can literally reject me for the whole weekend.

My husband has hung up on me twice for being late, in front of my son, and says, "we were waiting for you" so my son thinks I am doing something wrong by working late.

It's distressing for me because I work hard to keep it all together and it's awful when I don't get the cuddles I enjoy so much. In the mornings, if I go into him before my husband, he will reject me and ask for his dad, who leaves for work before me.

My husband often says to my son that the three of us are a family and I sometimes wonder did my son pick up the fact that I wanted to end the relationship.

I don't know how to address this with him because he just knows it upsets me when he rejects me.


David says: FOR whatever reason it sounds like your son feels his greatest sense of security with his dad. This may be because, by dint of each of your working hours, he spends more time with his dad. It may be because, as a little boy, he identifies with his dad, especially, right now.

This doesn't mean that he has a bad relationship with you. Indeed I could imagine that if you were on your own with him, if his dad was away for a weekend, for example, that you and he would get on fine.

From the way you open your query, it sounds like you feel the issues between you and your husband are resolving, if not resolved. That is a good thing. You are right that your son may be picking up any conflict or tension between you and your husband.

It may not be that he is aware, or even senses, that you were the more dissatisfied in your marriage. However, he is quite likely to have a sense that there is disharmony, generally.

For example, during the period of time that you and your husband moved into separate bedrooms, I could imagine that there was a total breakdown in physical intimacy between you. Neither of you were probably getting the hugs, cuddles and closeness that you needed from each other.

It may have been that you each relied on your son for a sense of physical closeness and love. However, your son may have been conscious of the distance between you and your husband. He may have seen that his dad didn't hug you and so he may not have wanted to hug you either.

If that was the case, then any time he wasn't in the mood for a hug or a cuddle, it may have appeared like rejection to you.

Ironically, any such rowing may then cause your son some anxiety or give him a feeling of instability. Irrespective of whether he pinpoints one or other of you as the main instigator of that instability, he will seek as much security as he can.

In your son's case it may be that he relies more on his dad for that security than he does on you.

I do think that, rather than worrying about your relationship with your son, you should continue to invest in working on your relationship with your husband. The more secure, loving and supportive that you each become for the other, the more relaxed and confident your son will be with both of you.

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