After our first two children were born, Lance and I felt a big change: our otherwise strong marriage faced more than a few battles and a lot of just plain neglect. Like most new parents, we were overwhelmed by taking care of our children’s everyday needs. If finding time to feed, bath, and play with them between our work schedules was challenging enough, hanging out as a couple wasn’t even on the to-do list.
But there was more to it than time management. There were the routine arguments about everything from how to discipline the kids to our own expectations and disappointments about how we used to be. I wasn’t fun loving enough anymore, he was playing too many video games and talking to me too little—and so on and so on.
Through it all, the nagging question remained: how could we still be good parents and work on our marriage? You know, the relationship that created these beautiful children to begin with! It often felt like an impossible balancing act, but we got through it and are still learning and growing together.
Here are two things we’re learning on that journey.
1. Children add meaning to your marriage. Will having children change your marriage? The short and simple answer is “yes.” Children will change your life—absolutely, definitely, positively. There is the interrupted schedule and loss of sleep, and the many occasions to make sacrifices for the little people you brought into the world.
But the more important question is the one we didn’t ask: are the changes worth it? Do the rewards of parenthood outweigh the costs and sacrifices? Kids will change you, your spouse, and your marriage, that’s inevitable. But if children are capable of adding a whole new dimension of joy and level of fulfillment you can’t find anywhere else, then the fact that it changes your marriage isn’t really a problem, but an opportunity to add meaning to your marriage. And in my experience, children are more than just an awesome responsibility and blessing from God. They’re also an opportunity to learn, grow, expand your horizons, and experience adventures you haven’t yet dreamed about.
2. Give your marriage the attention it needs and deserves. While you’re making these sacrifices and adjusting to these changes, don’t forget to give your marriage the attention it needs and deserves. When kids come along, you’ll have to work harder at keeping your relationship strong and healthy, and you’ll have to become more intentional about communicating
And that’s okay! Just as children grow through stages, so couples can grow through stages. You’ll still need outlets such as dating, socializing, and spending time with friends (for most of us that is rare), but they’ll probably assume a different form than in the past.
The important thing is that you’re together and that you don’t spend the whole time talking about your children. Don’t set the romance expectations too high on a day-to-day basis. Simply sitting on the same couch while watching TV (instead of, say, across the room from each other) can count as quality time. (Bonus points if the couch isn’t super long so that your bodies are actually touching in some way!) Better yet, talk about the show afterwards and use it as a springboard for conversation.
If you assume that the changes that come with parenthood will be so unpleasant for your marriage that you should abandon the ideal of children, I’d encourage you to think again. Yes, children changed our marriage. Not necessarily only for good or bad, but for ability to grow and learn together as a family and as husband and wife.
We are about to have our fourth child and our first is in kindergarten, so there will be a lot of changes and growing to do as a couple and as a family. But we never want to forget that it’s important for our kids that we not just throw our marriage out for—because without our love, we wouldn’t have had children in the first place.