My girlfriend and I are expecting a baby. When I come home from a language course she will sit there not saying anything while I eat. She says that it is considered spending time together. She also says that some couples seldom spend time together while I feel this is not right in a successful relationship. When I try to say how I feel she disregards my feelings and says it’s either jealousy of her first child, I’m being “pissy” or depressed and it gives her a reason to shy away from me. Also she feels that 20 minutes while I eat alone not saying anything (she eats with her child prior to my getting home) is more than enough time for me and it should be sufficient. Am I incorrect in assuming a relationship should be more than this and it is important for people to spend time together in a successful relationship? I feel that spending time together means more than sitting in a room out of obligation, not saying anything, and then calling that spending time together. 

A:  In dealing with couple’s issues, it’s important to get both sides of the story because everyone’s perception is different. However, based on the information you shared, I tend to agree with you. I do believe that spending quality time together is crucial in any intimate relationship, both as partners and parents. But I also don’t know what you have done to remedy the situation. Do you try to engage her in conversation or an activity, or are you waiting for her to initiate? Do you offer to watch the child for a while to give her a break?  Have you suggested a mutually enjoyable hobby? Have you taken on an active parenting role with her child to demonstrate how much you want to be involved? 

My point is that you are obviously not happy with the situation and you do not feel like your needs are currently being met by your partner, but before you cast blame, make sure you have taken productive action too. Keep in mind that we all respond better to compliments and requests than criticism and demands. 

If you have taken positive steps to improve the situation and she still resists spending quality time together, it is time to seek couple’s therapy. Since you are expecting a child together, I would suggest that you try to get some professional help before walking away. I really hope you can work through this problem together and get to the point that you are both happy and content.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts