Friday 24 May 2019

Ask Allison: 'I want another baby but my husband says no'

Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships

Allison Keating
Allison Keating

Allison Keating

Q I am a mum to three amazing children. I have two boys, aged eight and five, and my baby girl is three. For the past year, I have been longing for another baby. I mentioned it to my husband and he told me we are a million percent done. I am worried I will end up resenting him when it's too late. I am 37. Should I just accept his decision? We are a very happy, normal family. I don't think another little human could ruin what we have.

Allison replies: This is a conversation happening in so many houses across the country: a mixture of one silent and one angry or upset partner. It is such a hugely emotive and potentially destructive one, so let's try to work out a plan that takes everyone's needs into account.

Track back and identify the expectation you had about how many children you wanted. Now, answer or ask the same of your husband. Did you ever discuss your respective numbers before? I find people minimise other people's wishes with deeply non-empathic statements like, 'But you have three already', followed swiftly by, 'You should be grateful.' The amount of children you have is a personal choice; no one has a right to tell you otherwise. The trickier bit is to have the couple on the same baby page.

How does your husband handle stressful conversations? Does he shut down and/or avoid them? Is he different in how he makes decisions in other areas of his life, say as a dad, at work or with friends?

Create a space to understand the process in your relationship in how you deal with difficult situations, decisions and stalemates together.

You say you casually mentioned this, so perhaps try again going in soft as he is stonewalling right now, which means he has shut down. This is a physiological response that occurs in 85pc of men.

Men's physiology fires hard when they feel verbally pursued. This pattern can play out that the woman makes a 'demand', such as 'We need to have a talk', and the man withdraws or stonewalls. This can escalate the argument rapidly, as it will infuriate the person who is being ignored and they will feel justified to shout, etc. The withdrawer feels attacked and both feel victimised and upset. So how do you get off this futile roundabout?

One of the most important factors in your relationship is understanding each other's nervous systems. Knowing that what sets you and your partner off is rooted in childhood, where we adopt anxious, avoidant and/or secure ways to react, which are triggered in later life when others hit our buttons.

This is why I ask how does your husband react if he feels trapped, pushed into a decision or threatened? Rather than going in with a harsh set up, such as, 'I can't believe you won't consider this' or 'You always', which is sure to end in an argument, use a softened start up, such as: 'I heard you when you said you didn't want another child. This is something that I would like to talk with you about as it is very important to me (pause) as are you, and the family.'

Ask him:

⬤ What would the idea of another child mean to him and the family? (Listen to the response, do not interject).

⬤ Is there something specific worrying him about it, or anything he is scared of?

Empathy, understanding and seeing how he feels about it is the only way to opening this conversation up. Go into the conversation recognising what a good team you are. Be open to hearing and being receptive and flexible. You have a strong desire and need to have another baby. What are your core needs in the relationship to feel happy, secure, loved and fulfilled? Write the answers down.

A question for you to think about is what are your husband's core needs, and are you willing to meet them? You are asking your husband can he fulfil your need to have another child, is there a flexible compromise that can be met? Just as it takes two to make a baby, it takes two to make a decision. Move out of the boxing ring, put down the defences, flex your mind muscles to start a conversation to figure this out together.

If you have a query, email Allison in confidence at allisonk@independent.ie

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