An introduction to the phenomenon I like to call 'The Forgotten Father'.
When you first got with your partner you received lots of affection. You would be the centre of her world or at least very close to it.
Then you have children and everything seems to change. You feel on the fringes, not good enough at being a partner, not good enough at being a father.
You end up struggling to communicate. You feel on the sidelines watching the relationship between your partner and child/children blossom. Your partner’s priority becomes the child. It’s almost like you have no role in the relationship anymore. You feel you just bring money into the home. You have lost all ways of knowing how to even ask for your needs to be met - are you actually allowed to have needs, becomes the question in your mind.
You feel like you are walking around on eggshells. That nothing is ever good enough or right. You feel nagged. All the time. You feel that you are being ‘mothered’ by your partner.
You partner knows everything about the child and can remember all the details. She knows how to parent, how to introduce solids, what school is best, how to deal with illness, and it can feel like there are no more opportunities to be a part of your own child’s life. As though all of the decisions have been taken out of your hands. You feel like you can predict your partner's behaviour before it even happens.
You aren’t really sure what your purpose is anymore. Your partner no longer seems interested in you emotionally or physically and when you come home from work, she just seems to pile on the problems.
And in the meantime the sex becomes less frequent. Less touch. Less intimacy. Less talks as your partner seems to have less time and energy for you. Your constant rejections when you make sexual advances eventually wear out your self-esteem. You feel lonely, undesirable and like you have 'lost' something.
And depending on your own trauma and inner-child, will mean you react in one of three ways:
Become angry and resentful of the relationship your partner has with the child and become disconnected further. Possibly throwing yourself into your work. As a means of defence you go on the attack, putting your partner down, acting from your inner-child in anyway to be seen. To be noticed. And with that behaviour comes shame. Because you know it isn’t the right way to react. But somehow you can’t help it. You’re upset. So you continue and push each other away even further.
You try even harder to be a part of their lives. ‘Mr Nice Guy’, as you understand what your partner is going through and her difficulties and you try so hard to be recognised for all the effort that you make. But it never seems to be enough and you are alway self-abandoning and lose any notion of boundaries. You feel a little like a slave in the relationship. You will do literally anything to avoid confrontation.
You completely withdraw. You work late or at weekends, maybe do new sports or activities outside the home, you are looking for anyway possible not to be present and face and deal with the problems at home. When you are home you aren't really involved, you leave your partner to take the children out to places to see and do things. At home you possibly find an 'important' or 'urgent' job that needs doing. All of this is to keep you from being in physical and emotional company with your family. You choose to fill the void of loneliness with busyness elsewhere.
So how to move forward? Taking radical responsibility to how we show up in our relationships means that our partner has to adapt to that. That our partner has to change their behaviour as a response to how you’ve changed.
Working to build your self-esteem; listen to what’s being said when your partner speaks; asking for clarity around what isn’t being said; setting boundaries; knowing which parts of you your inner-child has taken over and learn to bring the adult back into the relationship; these are some of the ways in which you can move forward and no longer be The Forgotten Father.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.