Dear Tzippora,

My wife and I just had our first baby, and while it has been the most amazing experience that we have shared as a couple, it has also driven us apart in a way. My wife is totally and madly in love with our new baby, and every conversation revolves around the baby. She can't seem to think or talk about anything else. I feel shut out by the intensity of their relationship. It feels as though she and the baby live in a small world designed for two, and I am an unwelcome guest. I don't want to view my baby as a rival for my wife's attention, but sometimes I can't help it. Will I ever get my wife back?

A lonely new father

Dear Lonely New Father,

Your letter describes the feelings that many men face over the birth of their first child. The unique intimacy that you and your wife shared has now been irreversably altered by the presence of another being. While it is difficult to know the full story without speaking to your wife directly, it sounds as though she is simply infatuated with the heady feelings of new motherhood, and unaware of your pain over being shut out.

The first step for you to take is to realize that the baby she is so madly in love with is a part of you, that her love for the baby is partly an expression of her love for you, and that rather than coming between you in a negative way your baby can be the source of many experiences and feelings that will bring the two of you closer together. The more you develop your own natural bond to your baby the more you will experience the positive affects of the baby on your marriage.

Many fathers take longer to bond with their newborns than mothers do, but there are practical steps that you can take to facilitate this process:

  1. Get involved in the feeding and care of your newborn as much as possible. Even if your wife is nursing, you can still take the baby out on your own with a bottle of pre-pumped milk or formula.
  2. Wear your baby in a sling, or a snuggly as much as possible. The more you invest in creating an independent bond with your infant, the more you will feel part of your wife's new world.
  3. 3. In between feedings, try to soothe your baby on your own, rather than automatically handing the baby over to your wife.

The Torah teaches us that love for another person is a feeling that is generated by giving to them. Consequently, as you take steps to actively nurture your baby, your own love for your infant will increase.

In addition, I would encourage you to use these feelings as an impetus to connect to your own father in a new way, by exploring his memories of his own adjustment to parenthood. Did he initially feel threatened by your arrival, and if so, how long did it take these feelings to subside?

Finally, and most importantly, share your feelings with your wife (you can even share this letter), and let her know that you miss her. If she is agreeable, schedule some baby-free couple time for the two of you. If she is not yet ready to leave the baby even temporarily, try to be patient and don't worry. Her infatuation with the baby will gradually decrease in intensity, and as the baby's extreme dependency on her is lessoned, her ability to focus on your relationship will return.

The Torah has always acknowledged the unique contributions of both parents in their child's upbringing. Reminding yourself of your integral importance in your child's world will help you fight against the feeling of being superfluous.

Thanks for writing!