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This one is strictly for the fellas: Before you have a baby, it’s just you and your girl. Life is about love and love is about the thread tenuously strung between Venus and Mars. And perhaps never the two shall meet, but still, driven by hope, hormones and lust, you have somehow built a perilous rope bridge between the male and female planets. Because you’re a dude and it smells better over there in lady land. Because love is a mountain and it’s there. Because you may wear the pants, but hers fit a lot better.
And so love blooms. In the beginning, for most men, it’s about the physical attraction. Pheromones and feral moans. Before long there’s that first kiss, one thing leads to another and you’re in the hospital holding a shrieking little baby.
Now the leisurely things you used to think about when you were dating—what restaurant should we go to for dinner tonight?—are replaced with a more urgent kind of camaraderie. It’s like you are a pair of EMT medics on a nonstop triage, running from being wrist-deep in poopy diapers to walking in circles at 4 am wondering why this sweet bundle of love is crying hysterically and what happened to your hair.
What does this do to your relationship? Where do love and sex and romance go now that you are both fawning over the new boss in diapers?
What began as a duo has become a trio. A tripod is usually a fairly stable structure. But a threesome isn’t. When there is a trio of personalities, there are constantly shifting alliances. Your romantic duo has become a pair of partners who spend all their time wrangling a tiny tyrant. And this newcomer is mighty cuter than either of you saggy-eyed bastards.
So there’s a built-in tension: You or your main squeeze is suddenly in danger of being squeezed out by a new love. The baby carries your DNA and is radiant. Your beloved is suddenly a stranger who yells at you for wanting to take a shower. How did this switcheroo happen, and what can be done to make romantic love coexist with parental love?
First piece of advice applies not only to new dads but to all men who seek to get along with women: Take the idea of being right, set it on fire, shoot a bunch of holes in it and flush it down the toilet. Once you realize that it’s more important to get along than it is to be tethered to the weight of facts, life takes on a new lightness and love becomes a whole lot easier.
According to Buddha, patience doesn’t mean being a doormat. It’s a highly intelligent form of self-protection. It’s armor that cannot be penetrated by the self-inflicted wound of anger.
Let’s say your beautiful consort turns around one day and without warning, her gorgeous smile has been temporarily replaced with a flame-thrower because you didn’t fold your socks. Rather than engage the part of your brain that might respond with some logical argument about how, first of all, those aren’t your socks, take a breath and hug the source of incoming fire. Tell her you love her. And realize that if you want a happy home, the importance of being right has to go the way of casually choosing which restaurant to head to for dinner.
Like male nipples, being right becomes vestigial. The impulse is still there, but it grows dimmer. Until one day it’s just a vague memory of something you can happily do without. (Also never forget the asymmetry in your arsenal of weapons: She has the silent treatment and withholding sex, neither of which you are much good at.)
Bottom line: Being wrong and happy beats being right and sleeping on the couch every time.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a New York City-based author, journalist and songwriter. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and the Huffington Post. His son, Lev, is the love of his life and the inspiration for The Daddy Diaries. @dimitriehrlich
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