My daughter is contemplating getting a divorce. Her husband left her and their two-month-old child in January because he was “unhappy and didn’t feel close to the baby.” They have been together for almost five years and have been married for over two years. He moved out, first staying with a colleague. Then he moved in with a woman from work that he claims is merely a friend who lets him sleep on her couch. Right.
Since moving out, he has seen his infant son only sporadically and at his convenience. He frequently refuses to take my daughter’s phone calls. He promises to come over and then doesn’t show up. He refused to go to couples therapy for weeks, and now that he is going, he breaks appointments. He refuses to move back home, saying that he doesn’t want to “regret” returning, or alternatively, it would be the “easy thing” to come back, and he doesn’t want to do the easy thing. Really? How about it is the right thing to return to his wife and newborn son?
My daughter is home alone in an apartment with a breastfeeding infant, with no help other than my visits to relieve her for a few hours. Her husband is not available to help her. He is not around to play with his fast-developing son, who is not getting to know his father. He says that my daughter doesn’t need his help, that she can do everything herself. He says he is consumed with work, that work is all that matters to him.
So I have a few questions: What kind of man (my son-in-law is not a teenager or a twenty-something) deserts his young family because he doesn’t feel happy? Since when is happiness the measure of one’s commitment to a relationship? What about loyalty, companionship, trust, the quiet contentment of daily life? What about persistence in the face of difficulties? What about the marriage vows that they wrote and spoke before a gathering of friends and family? What about the responsibility he has as a parent? He and my daughter chose to have a child; the baby wasn’t a surprise, nor was he “trapped” into becoming a father.
Oddly enough, he claims to want to work on the marriage. He says he wants to be a good father, but he continues to live with his “friend” (and about this woman: what kind of person is she, enabling him to stay away from his baby?). How can he bond with his son when he barely sees him? How can he work on his relationship when he won’t talk to his wife?
While my first sentence says that my daughter is considering divorce, she would rather have her husband move back home. Every day he stays away is a day closer to a final break.
Final questions: Is my son-in-law’s behavior symptomatic of a culture of narcissism, of emotional temperature-taking, of me first, to hell with you? Is it an extreme example of paternal post-partum depression, a father freaking out over becoming a parent and thereby confronting the real end of his young and careless years and taking on the burdens of maturity? What do you think?