"He Needs to Change His Priorities Now That We Have a Baby"

Listen in as one real-life couple works through a major crisis in their relationship with the help of a marriage therapist.
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Jenny: 37, co-owner of a restaurant
Brian: 41, chef/co-owner of a restaurant
Married: 11 years
Kids: James, 7 months old


Mark Rutherford, West Palm Beach, Florida


After a 13-hour day working at their restaurant, Brian likes to unwind at a local bar. Jenny thinks his priorities should change now that they have a baby. They fight about it constantly.


Brian and I met in college and we both wanted to go into the restaurant business. After graduation we found jobs helping open up a new restaurant. Not long after that we got married. After many years of working for other people, we wanted to run our own place, where Brian could be the head chef. We moved to a smaller city and opened our dream restaurant. Ironically, that's when things got tough for us. I was ready for a shift to a more laid-back lifestyle, but Brian continued to stay out late every night after the restaurant closed. We started fighting about it a lot. Things had reached a really low point for us when I found out I was pregnant.

Although we wanted to start a family, we hadn't talked about what it would really mean for us to be parents. When James was born, Brian's drinks-after-work routine became even more of an issue. I understand he needs to unwind after an exhausting evening, but the next morning he wakes up hungover or tired. Meanwhile, we've got a 6 a.m. feeding and a crying baby -- and Brian has to go back to work by 9. I feel like I'm totally alone as a parent.


Look, I have a lot on my mind: a big new restaurant with my name on it and a new baby. My job is really tiring. I start prep work in the morning and then cook until 11 p.m., sometimes making 200-plus meals, and I close up around midnight. I need to decompress after that. I can't go home to a quiet house and fall asleep. But at 1 a.m. Jenny texts me and says, "Where ARE you?" and the same fight starts all over again. I can't win. I worked hard so we could have this life. I provide for her and our son. I help out around the house when I have free time. Why can't I have a few drinks after work?


I'm mad because I feel abandoned. I'm stuck at home, alone, with a baby. I need help and I want to know that we're in this together. So when Brian doesn't come home at a normal hour, I end up sending him snarky texts with remarks like "Are you even coming home tonight?"


When she sends me a nasty text message, I don't even open it. I already know what it's going to say so I just turn my phone off and check out. This situation reminds me of when I was a boy. I played football to make my father happy but because I had to practice so much he was always angry with me for not being around to do other things. Vicious cycle.


I'm not his dad, I'm his wife--and I need to know he cares. But the more I reach out the more he shuts down. I worry things will be like this forever. If Brian's not around, how will it affect James? I want my husband to go out and have fun but I also want him to be here on weekends to go to the park or get ice cream with us.


Jenny's a great person, but when she complains like this she does sound like my dad and it makes me shut down. My father was always lecturing me about my grades or how the lawn wasn't mowed right. He used to drive me so crazy that I would sneak out of the house and hang out with my buddies. I just couldn't win. I'd shut up and stew about it in my head and then find some way to blow off steam. That's what I've been doing with Jenny. But something has to change because I'm not a little boy anymore, and nobody's happy with this marriage as it stands.

Continued on page 2:  The Counselor's Turn


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