I’ve been with my girlfriend for about 4 months now. She has a baby and we all get along really well.
Lately, things have been rocky between us. In the beginning, we would go on dates just the two of us, we would sleep on the bed just the two of us, we would have private time to connect and get to know each other.
For the past 2 months, we’ve had 0 private time just me and her.
Every time we’ve gone out for dinner, the baby is there. When I sleep over, the baby sleeps between us on the bed. It’s been 2 and a half months since we’ve been on a date alone.
This has created some sort of emotional distance inside of me and I feel like I’m losing her. Not in the traditional sense, but losing her in my heart. I miss her. I miss thé time we had just us, when we connected, had deep conversations, and were able to enjoy a few hours as just us alone in this world. No one else, no distractions.
As sad as this is for me to say, I feel like I’m losing my love for her. I love her like crazy, and I enjoy every second I’m with her. It’s just lately, I haven’t been able to feel that one-on-one connection I need in a relationship and I don’t know how to tell her this.
I don’t want her to think I hate the baby, because I don’t. I’ve had great times with the baby, even my parents love him. I really need to fix this because it’s killing me inside.
[I’m 22 she’s 20]
You expressed the problem perfectly. I totally understand how you feel. In fact, she is using the baby to drive a literal wedge between you two. The baby sleeps between you two and is actually a physical wedge between you.
My first thought is how was able to spend alone time with you, without the baby, when you were courting?
Why has she stopped this since you’ve moved in?
I assume you haven’t said anything to her yet, for fear of causing a rift in your relationship.
The reality is the rift is already happening!
You need to tell her what you told me.
The best way to handle the conversation is to use my X, Y Formula (Problem Statement). X is what is going on, and Y is how you feel about it.
The trick here is to lead with a Disclaimer, a positive, supportive statement that precedes the X, Y Formula. The Disclaimer sets the stage and makes sure that she is calm and receptive.
First, Knock on Her Emotional Door to make sure she’s available to talk by asking, “I have something to discuss. Is this a good time?”
When she says go ahead, then deliver the Disclaimer, “I want you to know how much I love you and the baby…I have been hesitating to discuss what is troubling me for fear of creating hard feelings, but I know that if I don’t talk hard feelings is what I’m going to develop.”
Then she will likely ask you what is troubling you, and you can then deliver the X, Y Formula by saying in a succinct way what you told me. That when you were courting you spent time alone together. For the past 2 months there has been no alone time without the baby and (now insert the Y portion of the statement—how you feel about it). Do you feel hurt, disconnected, pushed away, distanced by her…
I would also suggest that your conversation includes her thoughts on why this is happening.
I suspect that she is unconsciously seeking psychological merger (a feeling of oneness). Psychological merger is normal in intimate relationships at specific times such as during sexual intimacy and moments of emotional bonding, such as during a candlelit dinner or while sharing a moonlit walk on the beach. Problems occur when merged partners find it difficult or undesirable to think, act, or feel separately from each other.
When a mother has an infant, merger of mother and child is normal, and gradually diminishes as the infant begins to physically and psychologically separate. Since your girlfriend has brought you into her blissful state of unity with the baby, I think she assumes that you are in bliss along with her. In merger, the person assumes that the other person feels as he/she does. Her being in a state of merger with you and the baby means that she feels you are one with her and the baby.
Adults seek merger for two different reasons: 1) as a result of early deprivation; and 2) having grown up in an enmeshed family (a family in which the parents and the children don’t separate psychologically and/or physically).
Paradoxically, these two different causes can create the same need for ongoing merger. For example, a lack of sufficient merger/closeness when someone is an infant can leave that person hungry for merger in adulthood. The mother who suffered childhood deprivation may seek to experience the merger she missed out on by prolonging a feeling of merger with her baby by sleeping with the baby and wanting to be with the baby all the time.
If a person grew up in an enmeshed family in which the members haven’t fully separated, these people will seek to continue the same level of merger that is familiar to them. When they grow up and have families of their own, they are likely to continue the same pattern of enmeshment.
If I am correct, she will resist having her merger security blanket ripped out from under her. Tread carefully and gently and just get her talking about why she thinks this is going on and how it connects to her upbringing.
If she talks about having had too little when she was an infant/child, you will both need to consciously come up with ways to “feed” the starved baby that still lives inside her while finding ways to help you not feel starved of your connection as a couple.
And if she admits that her family is enmeshed, you will need to talk about how she can maintain the familiar pattern of her first family while finding ways to see you as a separate person with needs that may not match hers at every moment.
Note that you are also seeking merger in that you want to feel the same oneness with her that she feels with her baby. You can surely understand her wish for that sense of unity, since you want it yourself!
Now the trick is to find the way to feed the babies that live inside both of you in a way that works for both of you.
Let me know how you make out.