My wife is pregnant – and being horrible to me

15 Apr 2024

"My wife and I have moved to her parents’ house for a few weeks, while our new home is being renovated. She’s four months pregnant and I’ve seen a striking change in her, which I put down to hormones. It’s her first pregnancy so I didn’t know what to expect at all. She’s been bossy with me, short-tempered; I’ve felt disrespected and overlooked. She’s also tearful and her reactions sometimes feel disproportionate.

I miss the communication and love we used to share. To my shock, I see her mother treat her father in the way that she’s been treating me. I fear it’s the end of our loving, caring, communicative relationship and now we’re going to turn into them, even though we’re both only 31. Is what’s playing out in front of me the rest of my life?

The question I’m hearing from you is whether this is temporary, while your wife is pregnant and hormonal, or more permanent and you’re seeing your wife turn into your mother-in-law, while you fall into the role of your father-in-law."


It feels as if you’re in a very vulnerable space: your wife and your life are going through a huge change, it’s all unknown and can be hard to anticipate the future with a family – and on top of this, you have the insecurity of not having your own four walls around you so you’re held safely in your own space. I wonder if your wife is also feeling insecure as her world shifts around her and inside her; she’s returned to a place where she lived as a child while carrying a child.

Being bossy often suggests a need for safety, especially as a familiar environment might trigger behaviour rooted in her childhood. Maybe ask her what her true needs are behind bossiness, and how she feels. Let her know she’s heard, by reflective listening, repeating back to her what you’ve heard, so she knows you fully understand what she’s saying.

Hormones, exhaustion, and her current sleep patterns may all be contributing to heightened emotions, tearfulness and short-temperedness. As men, we’ll never be able to fathom completely how it feels to grow a baby: heart and brain, lungs and eyes. At this time, I’d recommend you try to understand how she’s feeling by asking her whether she finds things more frustrating, overwhelming or whether anything is worrying her or annoying her. Please remember: this is about your wife’s behaviour, not a criticism of who she is.

Your feelings of disrespect are something that you’re probably going to have to deal with yourself, at least in the short term. Right here and now, the comfort and safety of your wife and child, especially while you’re between homes in these vital weeks and months of pregnancy, needs to come first. If you can help your wife feel safe and calm, you’re supporting your baby too. Are there other areas in your life where you’ve felt disrespected, currently or in the past? It might be worth exploring those feelings.

I wonder how you feel overlooked: have your in-laws and wife got into an unconscious family groove where at times you feel invisible, or even superfluous to needs?

Many adults, irrespective of age, when they return to their family homes – especially for an extended stay – regress to childhood behaviour. This might include sulking, rebelling, saving or serving, whatever it was that played out during youth. In this situation, perhaps your wife, no longer that little girl because she’s going to be a mother, is expressing the default script of parenthood by behaving like her mother. Have you asked her how she feels being with her parents at this time?

I wonder how your father-in-law reacts: does he silently take it? Does he turn into a scared little boy who wants the anger to stop? Or does he ignore it? For all we know, your mother-in-law might want him to stand up for himself and will push until she finds a boundary.

While this is the time to take things on the chin, that doesn’t necessarily mean biting your tongue. At times when you’re feeling the connection and love between the two of you, communicate this. Celebrate the positivity: ‘We’re back, it’s us again,’ might be something you’d like to share with her.

It’s worth communicating your support, too: ‘I can’t imagine what it must be like for you with hormones and stress and I need you to know I’m here with you. We’ve had some misunderstandings lately, and I’ll take it, knowing, hoping and praying it’s not going to be a habit. On the other side of this I wonder who we’ll be,’ are important sentiments to share. Tell her you miss who you were together and you look forward to recovering that when you return to your home. Explain that her communicating when she feels upset, angry or exhausted is helpful to you, too.

In many families, aggression and passive aggression are normal. In some families, there’s lots of shouting but no harm meant. And in others, withdrawal or the silent treatment is seen as the decent way to behave, although it can be crippling. In some cultures, anger is expressed through silence and the catalyst for anger can turn into a messy guessing game.

No way is what’s playing out in front of you a recipe for the rest of your life. Maybe being with her parents is the gift you need to open up the conversation about how you’d like to be as a couple, and a family, in the future. You can tell each other what you do and don’t want to inherit from your families, so you can create your perfect family from the best you’ve both experienced, and pass it on to your child, knowing that whatever they experience at home is what they’re likely to pick up, and pass on in turn. Use this as a catalyst to make conscious choices.

This is a good time to develop the art of effective, positive communication with your wife. Once the baby is born, there will be less space and time, so learning now will be incredibly helpful for your relationship. Enjoy fatherhood!