Yesterday, I took the kids to the indoor playground to burn off some energy and give Daddy a break from their constant need for his attention.  The indoor playground was as busy as ever. I could hardly find a seat in the seating area.

I saw a seat by the bench beside a man, a father taking his child to play, just like me. “Is there someone sitting here?” I asked.

“No, it’s really busy here, I had a table awhile ago and I stood up to speak to my daughter and when I turned around, my seat was gone.” He protested about the crowded space.

“This is the busiest I have ever seen this place.” I said, making small talk. “How many kids do you have with you?”

“Just me and my six year old daughter.” He said, “I came here with her 2 years ago and I found this place was too big and scary for her.

From the vibe I am getting from this man, this place seemed more scary to him than his six year old daughter, who was happily playing by herself in the maze of tunnels. “Maybe this place is too big and scary for you?” I teased, trusting my intuition.

“Yeah, I am not very good with big crowds.” He admitted willingly.

“It is hard having just one kid with you because you have to entertain her all the time.”

“Well, I have another one at home.  She is only one years old and she is with my wife most of the time.” He said as he casually looked up to see how his daughter was doing in the play area.

Somehow, I felt a tinge of sadness when he said the last sentence.  Having recently come out of baby-land myself, I know this can be hard for parents. “This is a challenging time for the relationship…” I said with understanding.

“Yeah, tell me about it.” He propped his chin up on his hand, looking a bit defeated, “I work six days a week, I get home around 6 pm and by then, my wife has had it with dealing with the baby all day long, she just hands the kids over to me and I have to take care of them and cook dinner. On my only day off, I hang out with my six year old.”

So, when do you get to spend time alone with your wife? I thought to myself. “Ever since my first son was born, I always make sure I have help with baby sitting from day one.  I don’t care if I had to go into debt to pay the nanny or the baby sitters.  It is worth it for the quality of the relationship.”

“Yeah, money isn’t even a problem…” he paused for a second, “Right now, I am number 4.”

Somehow, when he said this, I felt like he was crying inside, but on the outside it was not at all obvious.  But I am exceptionally observant and I had to hold back my own tears of compassion.  When he cried inside, I felt like I could cry with him too. “Number 4?” I muttered as I composed myself.

“Yeah, I am number four after our two daughers and we have a dog.” He said with a sad smile on his face.

Not even as important as a dog was what he was trying to say.  He said this like he was cracking a joke, but this was no joke. He was dead serious.  Our conversation got interrupted as my kids came bouncing for a brief moment of mommy attention.

I wonder how many men out there feel like they are last on the list of importance in the eyes of their wives.  How much they are truly crying inside for the love and the connection they desperately need.  In most cases, if they speak up, they might have gotten a negative reaction from their tired wives.  Men need love and emotional connection as much as women, however, they have been culturally conditioned for emotional suppression.

I took care of the kids that night giving my husband time to hang out with his best friend.  When he came home at night, I told him about the man I met earlier in the day and how I felt so sad for him.

“This man is very vulnerable.” My husband said thoughtfully. “If someone appears in his life who even remotely paid attention to him and appears to understand him…he may just find the attention where he could get it.”

While society often looks upon cheaters negatively, I saw the other side of the story yesterday. It was an eye opening experience to actually feel a man crying inside while keeping a straight face.  I wonder how long people can hide how they are truly feeling?  Is it the hiding of these feelings that keep people stuck? If this man was willing to speak his mind and cry with his wife, would she then have a deeper understanding of what is truly important to him? Would she realize how much she is unknowingly hurting him?

I will never know how this story ends, but I hope that it ends well.  I hope he will find the courage to speak up and express how he truly feels.  I hope their relationship can be transformed for the rest of their lives…