Don’t Blame A Bad Marriage on Children

How does the jingle go?

First comes the kiss
Then comes the marriage
Then comes the baby in the baby carriage

Then comes the 67 percent decline in marital satisfaction says one study of married couples with children. Over the years, studies have consistently born out what many of you suspect and observe…that the addition of a child changes the dynamics of a marital relationship. All too often, the change is not positive. What happens to a couple’s wedded bliss once that ‘bliss’ produces children?

We’re not sure we need experts to explain that one child:

  • Increases the couple’s workload greatly
  • Competes for attention that was once exclusively given to one another
  • Requires a relational and behavioral skillset that may not be intuitive to the mother nor the father
  • Is physically demanding unlike other responsibilities in the life of a couple

When the one child becomes two, these considerations aren’t just doubled, they can be exponentially increased as couples are faced with financial concerns, time constraints and other challenges for which they feel under-prepared or unprepared. In reacting to stressors, couples seem often to direct their angst and fears toward one another in a way that compromises their relationship while not resolving the pressure they are experiencing as parents.

In a recent study related to relationship stress, mice were placed on a grid which was administered electrical charges.  When two mice experienced the electrical shock, they immediately attacked each other.  Is this what happens in marriage sometimes?

The reality of children is that the sweet smell of baby comes with soiled diapers, midnight feedings, interpreting frantic cries, colic, sleepless nights, and assorted other events that humble us.  How can couples navigate parenthood while maintaining a healthy relationship with one another, especially in the first few years of a child’s life when they are most dependent and in need of continuous attention? 

Here a few bits of wisdom we’ve mined from many experienced parents:

1. Acknowledge the demands that your new life (with child(ren)) has delivered you.

Even if you planned to have children, the responsibility of a young life is daunting. It is easy to find false relief in thinking your challenges are greater than your spouse’s. Mom may see herself as doing more in the home. Dad may see himself as less advantaged because he ‘doesn’t get to be at home’ as much. Any variations of these general perspectives ignores that both parents lives have been altered. Couples are better served to communicate about what their days are like and what their schedule challenges are so that they better resolve how to help one another.

2. Share the load.

Point no. 1 pours into point no. 2. With an understanding (hopefully, an appreciation) for one another’s schedules, discuss ways that the realities of parenting can be shared. This is a matter of practicality. A primary care-giving parent may spend more time with the child(ren) as a result of not having to work outside of the home as much, if at all. The parent who is available for a lesser time during the day, may take on certain assignments during those times at which they are home. Bathing, story time and other recreational activities, feeding, diaper changing, and the putting to bed of children are a few of the tasks that can be assumed. This parent may also be helpful in washing dishes, straightening the child’s play area or other tasks in the home that need routine attention. this frees the primary care-giving parent to attend to themselves and re-energize. However, it cannot be assumed that because a parent is not primarily present on a daily basis that they have little or no need for rejuvenation. It is important that each parent provides care for the child(ren) and that their efforts are acknowledged by the other. When it comes to the daily care of our children, there will often be unequal giving but there can be equal sacrifice!

3. Parent together.

You grew up in different homes and may have witnessed different parenting styles. Even when we say we are not going to be like our parents, we know what often happens. Parenting they way we were parented is a default position that takes the lead when men and women are not thoughtful about having a vision for their home and how to build it. needless to say, when two people’s default parenting style clash, it makes for a harassing home atmosphere when it comes time to discipline, incentivize or otherwise manage the children’s behaviors. Even if you’ve shared in premarital counseling, it is valuable to discuss with one another how you are going to deal with the children and who may take the lead in certain instances. Parents should provide a unified front when dealing with their children…or the children may instinctively divide and conquer!

4. Be considerate.

Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Ask what you might need if you were in their shoes. Listen to what they are saying they need (or need more of) and find ways to give it to them. Affection, time and energy can often appear to be depleted when children are in the home. However, it is important that the strength of the marriage is seen as urgent to the health of the home. our children will value relationships based on what they’ve seen from us. What values do you want them to have in their marriage? This is what parents must make evident by their actions toward one another.

5. Be intimate.

Whether it is scheduling date nights, casual smooches, compliments to a spouse, hand holding, trips together, flirting, slow dancing in your own living room or sex…it is urgent that parents not martyr the marital relationship by focusing exclusively on the kids. Remember, you’ll have to live together when the kids leave the nest. the greatest tragedy in a home is for parents to spend 20 years of their life nurturing other lives and wake up one morning…only to be looking into the eyes of a stranger!

Whether you conceive, adopt or are foster parents to a child, having children is a wonderous blessing and an awesome responsibility. We ought not ignore that a home, however, hosts multiple relationships–not just that of parents. There are lovers and friends in the home. Maintaining that dynamic is as vital to the family life as any other. It requires intention and effort to nurture a marriage through the child-rearing years. As the children get older and become more independent, you will find that you are grateful and better off for having remained connected to your best friend, your lover and your spouse throughout the experience.

By the way, we pray those three were the same person throughout the experience!

About ThePureBed
Welcome and thanks for giving us a once over! Our blog celebrates and honors sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.

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