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Not Knowing What I Need

Not Knowing What I Need


Dear Rachel,

Until we had children, my husband and I had a great relationship. But since giving birth, I find that I am frustrated often with needing to ask him to do things that he should just figure out on his own. If I do ask, he will often comply, but I want him to take care of things without the need for a prompt. Is it unreasonable that I should expect that if the baby is screaming I must ask him to pick him up? Can't he figure that out on his own? Or if he is in the store, why do I always need to remind him to get diapers? Before we had the baby we seemed much more in sync, now I am concerned we are growing apart. What do you think?

L.A., CA

Dear Annoyed,

Loving you and having a crystal ball are not synonymousThere is a major misconception that if someone loves you, they are able to read your mind. It is simply untrue. Loving you and having a crystal ball are not synonymous. From what you write, it sounds like you and your husband were pretty in tune with one another…until you had a baby. Well, get ready, as that is the first of many things that will change from this point forward.

I am not sure how long ago you gave birth, but you need to give both yourself, and your husband, a break. Chances are that you are still hormonal from the birth and therefore more likely to get annoyed than you were before. And your husband is trying to adapt to a whole lot of changes at once. You have a baby to learn how to care for and you have a new aspect of your relationship that will need to develop and settle.

I would imagine that your husband is not trying to be insensitive or uncaring, but most likely is not sure what he should be doing. Things that are natural to you may not be as natural to him. If you hear the baby cry, you intuitively know if you need to feed him, change him or let him cry a few minutes while he tries to settle to sleep. It could very well be that your husband, in his attempt to not mess things up, is simply not doing anything. And yes, that can be quite annoying, but you need to figure out the motive, not just the resulting action.

Perhaps your husband is not aware of what you need. And he won't be, unless you tell him. Waiting for him to figure things out on his own is going to only further annoy you. Sure, it would be great if he held the baby before you even heard him cry or came home with diapers, wipes, cotton balls and some cookies for you before you could think to ask. But he may never…unless he is asked to.

So basically you have two options. You can sit around and wait for him to discover what it is you are thinking. Or you can simply ask him for what you need. It is not nearly as fun to ask…but chances are if you do… he will actually do it. And if he does, your aggravation will definitely decrease.

Criticism must come from within loveI suggest you sit down with your husband and find a time when you can both talk. Perhaps you are not the only one who is annoyed. Perhaps he is also feeling that you are not appreciating what he is doing and you are criticizing constantly. Who knows? The same way he can't know what you are thinking if you don't speak, you also can't know what is going on in his mind.

But before you criticize, make sure that it is coming from love, and that you begin by expressing your love for your husband and all he has done to help you. Our Sages teach that criticism, tochecha, comes from two words, toch meaning "from within" and cha which is numerically equivalent to ahavah, so it is explained as criticism must come from within love. If your love for your husband is what is behind your words, and your goal is not to make him feel terrible but to help him understand you and your needs, then it will be successful. If you are not motivated though by your love for him when you speak, he will sense the animosity and it will only cause a greater rift.

So find some time that is quiet, ideally when the baby is taken care of or asleep, and have a real heart to heart with your husband. Tell him how you feel, explain what it is you need, and ask (don't demand!) what you would like him to help you with. I have no doubt that once he really knows he will do his utmost to accommodate, and you may be surprised that what you thought was so obvious, actually wasn't! You may even discover that you have been unintentionally annoying him as well. So be prepared not only to speak but to listen!

I am sure you will work through this beautifully and as you adapt more into your new role as parents, you will also discover how much deeper your marriage will become because of your new little baby!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Kate August 16, 2013

Me Too!! I'm in the same boat - and now that bub is 4 and I've gone back to night school to earn my masters (while still working) - you've hit the nail on the head in some respects, its not that your husband wont do it, its that he needs nudging... Interested to see what others have experienced! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 1, 2011

Not Knowing What I Need We live in a world where times never stop changing. Maybe your husband thought the wife should do everything, and you should have discussed this with him while still pregnant.

People are NOT mind readers, and my mother had the same problem - she would get angry at me if she thought I saw a mess and didn't clean it up. I told her it's her house, NOT mine. If she wanted me to do something, she had to speak up!

If speaking up is a problem for you, you need to tell your husband about it. Reply

chana September 5, 2010

ummmmm Why can't you just say (after the baby is quiet or whatever it is is taken care of), "By the way, in general, when you see that the table is a mess, it's a BIG help if you clean it up. And also, if the baby is crying, he usually needs something, so picking him up and checking his diaper is really helpful."

To the author: your answer...was...dull, textbook, and ineffective with regards to getting anything moving. Reply

Dora Elek Portland, OR March 14, 2010

What you What you looking for is (Empathy) . Very few people are capable of, so do not be upset, maybe you are your self Empathic may be not, so if your husbsant is not , he is not an exception in our world Reply

Ascanio Fort Worth, TX March 8, 2010

meeting his emotional needs Dear Annoyed L.A.
The process that you are going through is a normal process that every women go through after having a baby. You also can see the process in the animal kingdom when a female has baby. The mother has something built-in to protect and concentrate just in the new creature. Men do not have that in them and men may look like they are not sensible. So after the baby is born, the wife concentrates in taking care of the baby's needs and forget to take care of meeting the spouse's emotional needs and the trouble begin. Genesis 4:1 helps us to figure this interesting phenomenal out: Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." אדם Adam (human being) became a איש 'i ysh (man, husband) after Cain was born. Isha understood that her husband had special emotional needs that she needed to take care of besides caring for the new born child. Yes, it will take extra energy to be able to be sensible to your husband. Reply

Judy Garrison, NY March 2, 2010

make requests, not complaints.... Funny, so many things that seem to go without saying among women need to be explicitly requested from men. And this is especially annoying when you've just given birth and everything is so different and your hormones are whacked. Something I learned from my husband is that hints, heavy sighs and eye-rolls, etc., don't make the communication easier. If you can phrase the complaint (or whatever) in the form of a request, without an annoyed tone or attitude, men are much more willing to help. Oh, and before you speak, if you get "present" to how much you love your husband, that also helps to curb the sarcasm/annoyance that might sneak in there, as Sara said above.

Good luck! It takes a lot of practice, but it really works. :-) Reply

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