Yesterday Tiya Cunningham-Sumter published a great post on Black and Married with Kids discussing a common plight for marriage after kids: statistically, a couples’ overall happiness plummets after having children, as does the health of our relationships.
Society puts a lot of pressure on raising kids, especially for women. We are told that focusing on any thing but your children is selfish. There is so much shame on not being a “good enough” parent, or in doing things wrong (although the guidelines on what is “right” changes every other day). In addition to the simple raw amount of time it takes to care for a child, and it’s easy to see why marriage after kids suffer.
Of course, raising children is an incredibly important and amazing job! At the same time, your growth, happiness, health, and the health of your marriage do not become less important as a consequence. Consider this: complete self-sacrifice in your marriage and/or structuring your world and self-worth around your marriage and husband is very unhealthy and will lead to many marriage problems. Doing the same with your children is no less unhealthy. So how can you reinvigorate a marriage that has been interrupted by children? By recognizing that your spouse is also dependent on you. Tiya writes:
Just like our babies, our spouses crave attention. They want to be listened to and believe they matter to us. When they share how they feel or what happened during their day it is our job to provide our undivided attention.
Making time for our children reinforces the idea that they are important…. Again, same is true for our mates. They also desire special quality time.
Tiya’s opinion is backed up by research. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a counseling modality that believes couples bond in the same way that parents bond with their children (attachment). It also says we rely on our spouses for the same things: stability, unconditional love, safety and acceptance (and on the flip side, fear of loss). EFT has been clinically studied and shown to have a very high success rate. You’ll find EFT principles in Power of Two’s sections on building intimacy and positivity in your marriage.
In many ways, having an tight connection with your spouse is even more important in marriage after kids. Like any other time of life transition, you will feel stress, confusion, exhaustion and need emotional support from your spouse. You need to feel like you are going into this as a team.
Just as we chose to be parents and were aware of the obligations that came along with the title, we also chose to be a spouse. There are certain duties we can’t neglect. Yes, children change the dynamic of a relationship but they shouldn’t interrupt our marriage. It is each partner’s responsibility to maintain a healthy relationship. We must balance parenthood while maintaining a healthy love life.
Here are four ideas for re-charging your marriage after kids:
Create daily rituals that help you connect to your spouse: Share a cup of coffee in the morning and read the newspaper aloud, or set aside half an hour after the kids are in bed to talk about your day.
Make time for sex: Schedule it in the calendar if necessary! Even if you are exhausted and not feeling frisky, try to have sex regularly. It will reduce stress levels and help you bond with your partner, plus a whole bunch of other health benefits.
Take a vacation: Take a weekend or even a week away from the kids, if possible. If you are blessed to have a close friend, parent, or other family member who can take care of the kids, don’t be afraid to leave them behind while you two go off on your own.
Try counseling: Make time for your marriage with couples counseling. It’s not just for couples in distress! Seeing a therapist regularly is like going to the gym for your marriage: it helps you fine tune your skills, work out kinks, and keep your marriage strong and healthy. Power of two is a great option for parents since it can be done anywhere and at any time. Learn more and try it free for three days.