After caring for our three young children all day, all I want to do at night is to crawl into bed and pass out. My husband feels rejected when I explain that I’m “all touched out,” mentally and physically spent. How can we break this impasse?

You are experiencing a tension that many married couples face. Balancing the needs of the kids with the equally real needs of your spouse requires on both sides extra measures of patience and generosity — not to mention an abundance of God’s grace. 

For the husband, he must first accept that his wife is telling the truth, not resorting to an invented excuse. It truly is exhausting to be the mother of little ones who need mom so much. She is being challenged in every way. If the husband could step back and observe her typical day, he would be awed by all a mom manages to do with little ones constantly clinging to her — always emotionally and, often, physically. Young moms I know report that they cannot escape to the bathroom without company.

It’s not that mothers aren’t interested in romance anymore. Rather, it takes them a little while longer to get there. A definite romance-killer is for the husband to complain about how the wife is feeling or, even worse, to announce grumpily how long it’s been. Walls of resentment and guilt then immediately go up — not waves of passion — and the wife may feel frustrated that her husband doesn’t understand her or appreciate all that she’s doing for their family. Instead, she needs to hear — not once but frequently — that she is doing a great job, that the husband is grateful for her sacrifices, that he is still crazy in love with her even after all these years.

For the wife, she must accept that, as much as her babies need her physical presence, so too does her husband. While the wife feels close to her husband through loving words and gestures, intimate conversations and the like, the husband feels close to his wife through sexual intimacy. With that gone, the husband feels distant and unloved by his wife, despite all she is doing for their family.

The wife should remember that at the root of his complaints is simply a longing to be with her and to feel loved by her.

We recommend planning nights of intimacy ahead of time so the wife can be ready. She can make a special effort to take a nap with the children that day so that she is not so exhausted at nighttime. She should think loving thoughts about her husband throughout the day.

Men, a phone call during the day to tell her you love her helps!

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.