Why Your Wife Can Show Your Kids Affection But Not You

Why Your Wife Can Show Your Kids Affection But Not You

A wife can often be incredibly affectionate towards her children, yet not extend the same level of physical, emotional, or verbal affection towards her husband. As a couples counselor, I can tell you this dynamic can really frustrate the men who find themselves on the short end of this affection stick. It’s a common scenario, so let’s unpack why this happens, or at least explore some of the reasons behind it.

Multiple Parts of Ourselves

First off, there could be a myriad of issues causing this affection discrepancy. It’s one thing if the affection was never quite there, but it stings more when you see your wife showering the kids with hugs, kisses, and sweet words like, “I want to eat you up, you’re so cute,” while you’re left feeling like you’re hugging a cold fish. Why does this happen?

One explanation is that we all have different parts of ourselves that we present in various situations. There’s a whole model of therapy called Internal Family Systems (IFS) that explains this. Essentially,

“We all have multiple personality disorder or at least parts of ourselves we show to different people.”

There’s a part of us we take to work, a part we show to our extended family, a part we save for friends, and a part we save for parties. Your wife is no different.

Different Parts for Different Roles

There’s a specific part of a woman that she shows to her children, and it’s a different part of who she is. Expecting that part to seamlessly transition into how she treats her husband isn’t realistic. Think about it—when you’re at the bar with friends, making rude jokes, that’s not the same person you present to your wife. It’s a different context, and different parts of you come out.

As we age, the differences between who we are with one group of people and another tend to blur and minimize, but the way we treat our kids always remains distinct. It’s a unique relationship that stands apart from others. Understanding this can help you approach the issue with more empathy and less frustration.

The Mental Load of Women

Women often juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously. While they’re helping their kid with homework, they’re also thinking about housework that needs to be done, a recent fight with their sister, unanswered Facebook messages, and upcoming birthdays that need attention, like reminding their husband about his mom’s birthday because he’s bound to forget. All of this is happening at the same time.

“Emotional exhaustion can lead to a lack of affection towards a spouse, especially when women juggle multiple responsibilities.”

A lot of women take on the role of making sure everything runs smoothly in the family. They embrace this responsibility much more strongly and committedly than men do. Men, on the other hand, have an easier time checking out because they don’t see it as their job. This is partly why the phenomenon of the absentee father, although thankfully dying out, was so prevalent. There was a time when some men didn’t even go to the hospital when their wife was giving birth—they’d get a call at work and come home to a baby. That was the extent of their involvement.

The Emotional Toll and Hormonal Bonds

Being a woman involves a significant amount of worrying and anxiety about taking care of everyone in their lives, which is emotionally draining. Women also have a hormonal connection that intensifies their bond with their children, driving them to show up in a bigger way for their kids.

“A woman’s bond with her child is driven by a hormonal reality that makes her show up in a bigger way for her children.”

This bond is natural and healthy—it’s the way it’s supposed to be, a selfless gift with no expectation of return. Children deserve this unconditional love.

However, a husband-wife relationship is reciprocal. If a woman is feeling emotionally or physically exhausted, the husband will often get the short end of the stick. This emotional exhaustion can lead to a lack of affection.

Unresolved Resentment

Connected to emotional exhaustion is the possibility of unresolved resentment in the relationship. It’s hard to stay mad at a three-year-old with a smile that lights up the world, even if they make a mess. Kids, even teenagers, can’t cause as much damage because you’ve raised them, wiped their butts, and know all their secrets. You’ve been on the earth longer and are smarter, so you know their tricks.

“Resentment in a relationship can make it difficult for a woman to show affection towards her husband.”

As they get older, this dynamic changes, but young children can’t cut as deeply emotionally. This makes it easier to forgive them and maintain a generous sense of love. This same level of forgiveness and affection doesn’t always apply to a spouse, especially if there’s unresolved resentment from past conflicts. If you’re constantly fighting and not addressing the underlying issues, it’s challenging to maintain the same level of affection and intimacy.

Changing Relationship Dynamics

Relationships change over time, and so do dynamics. Sometimes, a person’s focus shifts based on where they feel needed. Many expectant mothers say they want to be moms but don’t feel like moms until after the baby arrives. Sometimes it takes months or even a year to fully embrace the role. When the focus shifts to the child, you might receive less affection because her attention is elsewhere.

Addressing this requires open communication. Talk to your partner and acknowledge their exhaustion or resentment. Express that you feel emotionally unfulfilled because you’re not receiving affection. Ask if there’s something you’re doing that makes it difficult for her to show affection and express your willingness to fix it. This simple conversation can go a long way in resolving these issues.

Rekindle Your Marital Affection

Understanding the dynamics of affection in your marriage can be a game-changer. We’ve explored how women often juggle multiple responsibilities, leading to emotional exhaustion and less affection for their partners. Recognizing that we all show different parts of ourselves to different people can help you approach your relationship with empathy. Whether it’s dealing with unresolved resentment, shifting relationship dynamics, or simply needing better communication, knowing the root causes is the first step towards a healthier and more affectionate marriage.

“Understanding why something is happening makes it easier to accept and address it.”

If you’re feeling unfulfilled emotionally or struggling with any aspect of your relationship, it’s time to take action. A simple conversation can make a significant difference, but if you need personalized guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out. I offer a free consultation to help you navigate these challenges and improve your emotional intimacy. Don’t let these issues fester—contact me today for expert advice and support tailored to your unique situation. Your happier, more connected marriage is just a consultation away.

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