How Do You Keep Your Marriage Strong After Kids?

Life

The euphoria of falling in love with our new babies is intoxicating. For me it was such a dominant force, that for a while it overshadowed everything else in my life, including my marriage. Our soul mates, the loves of our lives, the very people who make our children possible in the first place often end up feeling second best.

I took our marriage for granted, assuming it was strong enough to withstand any challenge. And it is incredibly resilient, but when a baby comes along we’re tested like never before. While children bring intense joy they also spell less time, less money, more mess and more stress. Small cracks in a relationship may grow into colossal chasms and threaten the foundation of our precious family units.

Over the past few months we’ve witnessed a couple of friend’s marriages die and it feels like we’re mourning the loss of something very special. While the D word is rarely spoken in our home it’s given me a wake up call and made me realize our relationships with our soul mates may be more fragile than we realize. If we hope to make it through this marathon of love not only together, but happily united, we need to intentionally nurture our marriages.

Our relationships with our partners are just as, if not more important, than the ones we care for so intently with our children. Long after our kids have left the nest and spread their wings, this is the person we hope to grow old, grey and wrinkly with. To cherish our grandchildren with and to look back on a life filled with happiness, laughter and joy.

I definitely don’t have all the answers. My relationship has spanned two decades and it continues to teach and surprise me on a daily basis. But, here are are few lessons I’ve found through soul searching, research and experience, which have helped me nourish and sustain our post-baby marriage.

REFRAME YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Novelist, Nora Ephron, once said “A child is a grenade. When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage, and when the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was.”

Accepting your marriage will never be the same again will help you surrender to something which promises to be even better. Give yourself the freedom to evolve with your changing life and revel in the richness a child brings. Go with it, rather than against it and be swept up in the magic of falling in love deeper with your partner as you see them changing and growing as a new parent. Just like in one of my son’s favourite bedtime books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it takes time to transform into a beautiful butterfly.

DON’T EMPOWER YOUR EMOTIONS

We’ve moved internationally a bunch of times and each time we do, I say to myself, “Ignore your emotions for the first six months”. I’ve learned feelings of isolation, doubt and loneliness are a normal part of a massive life changing event. Experiencing those emotions allows us to move on to something new, to challenge ourselves and to grow as people. But don’t give your emotions power – recognize them for what they are and set them free.

No matter how much you yearned for a baby becoming a parent is a cataclysmic event. Give each other a break and allow your child to bring you closer together rather than tearing you apart. Your world has been turned upside down – trust that you will find your groove in time but for now accept and revel in the craziness.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

In those first few months watching my husband manage the house filled me with intense gratitude, love and comfort. Seeing him step up to the plate, as I was trying to find my way as a new mother made it easy to say THANK YOU over and over. But, as the dust settles and life finds a new normal you may feel you’re doing more than your fair share. Rebecca Rosen, of The Atlantic wrote, “The work is probably evenly split if both partners feel like they are doing upward of 60 percent since a lot of what one partner does is necessarily invisible to the other partner”.

For over four decades Psychologist John Gottman Ph.D has been studying marriages and has uncovered seven principles happy couples have in common. One principle he says is, “Happy couples are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Unhappy couples are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

So, rather than practicing gratitude casually, actively seeking out opportunities to appreciate your partner could be one of the keys to a happy marriage.

THEY SAY IT TAKES A VILLAGE

A recent article I read touched on the notion that love is a limitless resource but energy is not: as parents we need to nourish both. We all love our kids but time away from them gives us the opportunity to replenish our energy and renew our relationships. Sarah Hrdy, leading scientific authority on motherhood, suggests it takes in the order of 13 million calories to raise an a child from infancy to nutritional independence, far in excess of what parents can provide on their own – it sure does take a village.

So, if you have family or friends who offer to help, TAKE IT and don’t feel guilty. And if you don’t, create your own village of parents, friends or babysitters. We live an ocean away from our families so we’re in the process of establishing ours – and it’s making all the difference.

MAKE INTIMACY A PRIORITY

For women, having a baby transforms us. Our breasts miraculously begin producing milk, any modesty we had about our femininity is lost and we’re likely to find the last thing on our minds after having a baby is sex. But when the time is right, it seems there’s nothing like playful affection to smooth over an argument or to strengthen our unique connection with our partners.

As parents though time, energy and privacy are in short supply. We co sleep with our son, which adds more complexity to keeping our sex life healthy. But, thinking beyond the master bedroom, making the most of toddler naps for day time sex, scheduling sex, installing locks on bathroom doors and most importantly, making it a priority, may be all you need to keep a little romance alive.

And remember, what kids need most is two happy parents so be openly loving in front of them: it’s not only beneficial for mum and dad but also an invaluable lesson in modelling healthy affection to our kids.

REMEMBER YOUNG LOVE

I recently rediscovered a collection of letters we sent each other many years ago and I’ve reread a handful of them. They make me smile as they transport me to a time when our love was pure, fresh and young, reminding me of the intensity of our passion for one another and highlighting how much we used to communicate it to one another.

So, be it with old love letters or reminiscing your early days together remind yourselves you’re the same two people you were when you fell in love, in spite of the unpredictable madness of day to day family life.

LOVE IS A VERB

Our marriages are the easiest relationship to put on the back burner but the most important one not to. When I was researching for this post I came across a frightening statistic: of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages – some divorce and some stay together in dysfunction. And I also came across an inspiring statistic: People who stay happily married live four years longer than people who don’t. There is something intrinsically healthy, both emotionally and physically, about being in a happy marriage.

It’s important to talk about our struggles, not just with our partners but with friends and family. Knowing we’re not alone in the challenges we face can give us the reassurance we need to keep going. On that note, I’d love to turn the discussion over to you, the Raised Good Community.

How do you nourish your relationship, with or without kids? I’m excited to learn from you in the comments below.

Join the Free Natural Parenting Superpowers eCourse and receive updates from Raised Good

COMMENTS
  • July 01, 2016
    Anita

    Thanks for this post. I quite liked it. I enjoy reading your blog. I can relate to so much. 🙂

    • July 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Anita – thrilled to hear it and thanks for reading 🙂

  • July 02, 2016
    Maggie

    In regards to remembering your early love, we have a funny but very helpful routine. We put pictures of our selves from our 20’s in surprise places, such as inside our different medicine cabinets , his sock or my underwear drawer, etc. an easy and fun reminder of who you both were and why you are in this parenting/marriage together.

    • July 07, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Love it Maggie, what a sweet idea. Thanks so much for sharing xx

  • October 31, 2016
    Leah

    Great article!
    It’s interesting what you mentioned about young love. We have two little ones and I’d been mourning over the times we shared pre-children, until recently looking through photo albums something shifted in me and I was able to look back with fondness and joy.
    I think it takes time to be able to do that sometimes. To just appreciate what was and what is.

  • November 05, 2016
    Kim

    Hi Tracy! I am so glad that I found your blog. A friend on facebook sent me one of your posts and I have been exploring your site since! My husband and I have 7 beautiful and wonderful children. Our oldest 3 are 23, 21, and 19 and pretty much out of the home and doing their own things… college, jobs, life and we are so happy and proud of them. The other 4 are all boys and at home and are 15, 12, 10, and 8. Life is never dull around here and never has been.

    We have been happily doing natural parenting since our oldest was born, it wasn’t as popular back then as it is now, but we loved it and loved what it brought to our life with children. I see so many wonderful moms now these days embracing it and I love it! What a joy that is! I can definitely say that our older children are happy and healthy and functioning fine and that all the natural parenting we did with them has paid off. We are a tight knit family and even though we have some that are off doing their own thing, they know where home is and that they are always welcome here! I also believe that natural parenting fostered independence in them and gave them the security to leave home and feel at peace with that. Nothing can warm a parents heart more, even though I do miss them!

    But…we are still busy with 4 at home and the things we have done to keep our marriage strong are the same things we have always done when we had all 7 at home.

    Early on, when we were new parents, I admit I found it hard to make the time, we both did. We were so wrapped up in being new parents and all and so we didn’t notice a difference until baby #2 came along. 2 littles around the house were keeping us on our toes and had us feeling more like busybodies than lovers. I knew we needed some time for us, it was important, we needed to re-connect and get back to a little of us.

    I called my mom and she was ever so happy to take the girls and watch them. We would go on date nights on either a Friday or Saturday and even a few times we would let the girls stay with my mom and dad for the weekend and we would have the house to ourselves. As our family grew and when we moved away from our families, we found new families that had sweet girls that loved to babysit and we embraced that. We still did our date nights when we could and many times after the kiddos were in bed, we would sit out on the porch and just enjoy the evening and each other’s company and I found that I truly enjoyed that and looked forward to it every night. We still do that to this day. Sometimes, we even wait to have dinner and have our dinner at that time, just the two of us. We have had people tell us to not talk about anything kid related when we would have “our time”, but we found that it just made it even better. We each found different things in our children that we never saw or noticed before just looking at it from each other’s view. It was nice to talk about what we brought into this world and how or what they were doing. We would just talk about anything and everything and I think it is so important to communicate and keep that going. It has done so well for us. We also will have movie nights at home after the kids are in bed and also will take some evening walks, just the two of us. Much easier now that the kids are older. I remember how nice it was when our older kids reached the age to babysit and we had built in babysitters! They loved it, even though I know the boys annoyed them at times, but still, they knew the importance of mom and dad having time together. They still do today and even ask us if they need to come home for the weekend to help out so we can go do something.

    I feel it is so important to just do something, something for just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or cost much, we have recently started to wait until new movies we want to see hit the dollar movies and we go then. We love it! We save money and certainly don’t feel we missed anything by not seeing it when it came out. We have gone out for ice cream and we talk about the time when we didn’t have kids and how much we couldn’t wait to start a family and where that would lead, and now we are doing that, looking at where that family is leading and what we have done and we are proud of that. It’s all about family around this home!

    I look forward to your blog and reading more. Thank you so much for what you are doing for natural parenting! It is a blessing to have such a support out there for moms and I wish there had been something like this when our kids were younger, but glad that there is now. We still natural parent and it is harder in this day and age and with how the times are, but we press on and we keep going and our giving our boys the same parenting style that our girls enjoyed and we know they will be better for it and we already see that in them! Less is always more!

    Take care and blessings to you! 🙂

    • November 13, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Wow Kim – what an inspiring story! Your comment could be a post in itself. So valuable for new parents and just love the whole sentiment. I was picturing you on the verandah enjoying each other’s company. Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog, I so appreciate it! Lovely to connect and no doubt will be in touch again xx

  • January 25, 2017

    Keeping relationship strong with kids is such a challenge. If you hold on your promises, I think it will last forever.
    Juphet recently posted…“Infographic” Child Support in Australia: For the Benefit of Your Children

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Join the Free Natural Parenting Superpowers eCourse and receive updates from Raised Good