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63° Good Afternoon
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Three little kids and too much tension

DEAR AMY: I'm the punching bag in a relationship with my common-law spouse. We have three children (ages 4, 2 and a baby). I hold down a professional career and do a significant portion of housework as well as devote all my nonwork waking hours to caring for and teaching the children -- but still I am belittled and accused of not doing enough. Her family members constantly warn her that I will leave (I have never threatened to leave). This makes her more frustrated. She can't see the harm she's doing to our relationship because she's too busy looking at how "unfair" things are for her. How can I make her see how her actions hurt others?

-- Tired of Being Pushed Around

DEAR TIRED: You and your partner are enduring the most challenging phase of family life. In the best circumstances, it is not pretty. And in the worst cases, parenthood looks like your household, with two exhausted parents who -- instead of offering love and support -- are serving up blame and recrimination.

You don't outline particulars about her behavior, but I'm going to make the (kinder) assumption that she is completely overwhelmed and/or possibly depressed. Has she been screened for postpartum depression? You two need as much practical help as you can get. Those family members of hers who are busy offering opinions about your relationship should grab a diaper bag and offer some practical assistance to your household.

You and your partner must have some alone time, so you can work on some of these issues, connect and reconnect without the kids around. Making the investment of leaving the household together for one date night (or date afternoon, or date two hours) once a week could get you through this rough patch and help you rebuild your relationship.

If your partner is unwilling to treat you differently, then yes, your relationship is definitely at risk.

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