You already know this, but romance fans are very knowledgeable about matters of the heart. Sure, some may joke that we’re holding out for perfection, but the very opposite is true. We know what real, messy love looks like — and we know that we deserve it. As such, we’re so excited to bring you our new column, The Romanswer, aka Brianna Hunter, who answers your love queries using the very best examples there are on the subject — romance novels.
I am a 30-year-old man. I love my wife passionately. She loves me ardently, too, despite my flaws. We decided to have a baby. I love our little creature—this tiny mesmerizing helpless newborn. But yes—I never wanted to be that guy—I am jealous. She is the recipient of sweet kisses, tender caresses, and endless patience. What can I do? I don’t want to steal love from my daughter.
When I read your question, I understood you to be asking whether you’re fit to be a father, worried that any negative emotions toward your small one might be proof that you are “that guy.” Perhaps you imagine “that guy” to be pathological, once deprived of his mother’s love or attention, and thus—as Freud might infer—neurotically manipulative and jealous in his attachments. Do not fear: you haven’t fallen into such a psychosexual trap.
Romance novels often end with an epilogue describing the birth of a child; the hero and heroine are bound together in parenthood, sealing the promise of happy-ever-after. In these chapters, heroes are often afraid, but faced with a new babe and a jubilant wife, they overcome their fears quickly. Because these stories do not treat the tribulations of new fathers as their main problem, I have looked to a book in which the hero already has a child. He becomes a father over the course of the narrative.
In Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, the Marquess of Dain (Sebastian Ballister) is a scandalous rake, a man who purposefully flaunts the rules of society, viewing himself proudly as beastly and uncaring. Jessica Trent is no-nonsense 28-year-old woman. Since her parents’ deaths, she has taken care of her bumbling brother and supported herself by buying an selling antiques. Indeed, she would be considered a spinster in 1828—the year the novel takes place—were it not for her exceptional beauty. Dain has a bastard son—Dominick—whom he resents and ignores, until Dominick’s neglectful mother intervenes. After realizing Dominick’s existence, Jessica sets out to care for him. However Dain can only see in his son the parts of himself that he most hates to remember. He becomes terrified that Dominick will rend apart his relationship with Jessica.
Like Dain, dear D, you are afraid that your wife has a finite supply of love, an emotion you imagine that she cannot give your daughter without denying you. You desire your wife’s kisses, caresses, and patience, believing that your daughter is the reason you no longer have access to these expressions of tenderness. Of course, you know this is not the case; that is why you wrote asking for advice: you want to match your feelings to what you know is true. It seems to me that your wife trusts you, and she is being patient with you, tenderly waiting for you to realize that your frustrations are not evidence of a moral failing, that if you have the capacity to love your daughter and your wife, then surely she must possess the same ability.
Having a newborn is trying, even to the most loving of parents; it is certainly difficult to live with too little sleep, constant multi-tasking, and a new element added into your relationship. Know that most new parents feel strung-out, overwrought and spread thin. You are not alone in this.
In fact, your community is not just the faraway group of “new parents” I just mentioned. You, sweet D, also have your wife. She is your partner on this journey, and chances are that she also feels the strain. Talking to each other about how to manage the pressures of new-parenthood may help both of you. If you don’t communicate, you risk her trust. Like Dain, you are paralyzed by your own fears. Like Jessica, your wife may have trusted you to face your fears, feeling she must act alone to care for your daughter. Such a solitary task is no easy thing, no matter how much love inspires it. Recognize yourself as a father who loves his wife and his daughter. Realize that your wife has room for you both in her heart, too.
Do you have a query for The Romanswer? Of course you do! You can reach Brianna via Elissa@RTBookReviews.com. We reserve the right to edit your question for content and clarity. Stay tuned for another Romanswer column next month, and you can find Brianna’s archives here!