Children Can Bring a Couple Closer Together

I’ve had several comments regarding the Marriage/Babies Won’t Fix Relationship Problems post that led me to clarify my thoughts on how children may affect a relationship. My earlier point stated that if you have a rocky relationship, a baby will not magically repair the relationship. It’s important to point out that children do not “cause” relationship problems. Stress coming from many different directions (demanding jobs, frequent travel, conflict with parents) can simply magnify the cracks in your relationship.

But children don’t necessarily cause stress or strife, particularly in strong marriages in which children are desired. On the contrary, it’s my feeling that a strong relationship can be made stronger when children enter the family. The year after the firstborn isn’t always difficult (although research shows it is a challenge for many couples). My own experience after my first child was born was quite the opposite. My husband and I experienced a real “high” for at least a month following his birth, and a closeness following that–based on our new shared role as parents and our intense love for our child. Children are a blessing, not a bother. But they do require a realistic look at your lives to determine how they will be properly cared for and how you will simultaneously manage your other responsibilities.

The first year after my second child was born was very stressful for my husband and for me, because unlike our first, our second child very rarely slept through the night until she was two and a half. She required more energy during the day as well, something we were lacking due to sleepless nights. Essentially, we felt like we were competing to have our basic needs met, and we didn’t have close family members to rely on for backup. We hadn’t really anticipated feeling this way since our first baby was so easy. But after we got through it, it also made us feel like a unified team. We love both of our children equally and feel extremely fortunate to have them in our lives. The love we feel for them and they feel for us is priceless. The laughter and joy they add to our home can’t be measured.

Still, we struggle with making time for the two of us, and as they are now school-aged, with not making our family life all about their activities. More tips on that topic to come! Also read: How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of the Marriage?

One of the keys to getting past a rough period in a marriage is being able to see to the other side of the dip in satisfaction you may be experiencing. Researchers refer to the dip as a U-shaped curve, with the lower portion sometimes passing through career-building and childrearing. If you missed this post, read Author’s Secret to a Long-Lasting Marriage, which explains the common trajectory of marriage and the good news for couples who make it to the other side of the U.

For those of you who are parents, was that first year after your children were born stressful or joyful? Was it worthwhile? For couples who do not yet have children, do you fear what they might do to your relationship? Do you fear not having time for yourself, your hobbies or job? Do you hear parents talking negatively about their parental responsibilities?

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13 responses to “Children Can Bring a Couple Closer Together

  1. I have 2 kids, ages 3.5yo and 16m. The first year with our first had it’s rocky moments for sure, but I certainly never felt our marriage was in jeopardy. After our second was born things were much more strained. Our second child also didn’t sttn until recently so that was part of it. The inequality in who does what became much more pronounced and I got angry about that often, felt no love for my husband, didn’t want him touching me after being clung to all day by the kids, etc. We’re coming out the other side, though I wouldn’t yet say that we’re stronger for having gone through it. We want to have another child, but I fear the strain it will put on our marriage.

  2. Thanks for this post. My husband and I have been “researching” children – basically learning all we can about parenting and children and marriage. We’ve been married a year, but still want to wait another year or two before we make that next step.

    I like the link to your older post, very helpful.

  3. Having children has been one of the best things in my life. Truly an incredible feeling, I still love being a dad.

    Having said that, there were frustrations during their childhood, as my wife revolved her life around them, often shutting me out and putting “us” at the bottom of her priorities.

    I agree with the “U” shaped curve however. Now that we are empty-nesters, we have become a couple again. So the happiness in our marriage has returned; I’m happy I stuck it out and didn’t leave during the bad times. We are having fun again and love spending time with out grown children.

    • Kevin, I think your comments echo the experiences of so many–thank you for sharing. As women we need to prioritize our marriages for the benefit of our mate, ourselves AND our children. Couples who make it past the tough times are frequently rewarded, but not everyone makes it that far. Kudos to you for working it out and enjoying the fruits of your lifelong efforts.

  4. Our most difficult year was after our first of three children was born, for the same reasons you gave. She was a “high needs” child, had a milk allergy and did not sleep through the night until about 18 months. I assumed I was doing something wrong to have such a fussy child. (And honestly, I think my husband thought I was doing something wrong, too!)
    In hindsight, I now understand just how different each child can be, and how a difficult baby can strain a marriage. Our second baby was a breeze and our third was even more difficult than the first!
    I never felt we were near divorce, but I’m so glad we talked through the troubles instead of letting them build up over the years. Where we were once in love and committed to each other before children, we are now in love and unified. For me, there is a big difference and a lot more joy.
    I just addressed negative parenting remarks in yesterday’s post titled A Fate Worse Than Mom?: http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/a-fate-worse-than-mom/

    • I agreed with your post that negative remarks–regarding marriage and parenthood–are so common as to almost not be noticed. But the negativity in our culture is eating away at the family nonetheless. I think it’s important to stand up for the value and joy in marriage and parenthood.

  5. For us the birth of each child came with mixed impact on our marriage (we have three children). Common to what others have said above, it was joy and excitement mixed with exhaustion and stress. Love and joy were mixed with reduced time and energy for intimacy. We waited five years for our first and I’m glad we did. We were well enough established as a couple to weather the challenges and in the end we were better off for having those three beautiful, amazing daughters.

    • We also waited five years to have children, and I think it did help us improve our bond and prepare for what lay ahead. The bottom line is that you feel you are better off for having become parents. Few parents would disagree with that. Thanks!

  6. Pingback: Children Can Bring a Couple Closer Together | Simplify Marriage

  7. I have two children now, but with my first child the first year was not hard because we had a child. It was the family dynamics that played into our marriage that we had never considered before. We became closer and were on a high, but we had intervening family making our lives almost unbearable in certain instances to the point we just wanted to move across the country to get away from this. I think sometimes even when you have a strong relationship, children will make you grow even closer. When your marriage is challenged by outside sources, you grow stronger together. We not only had ourselves to think about, but now the welfare of this tiny person depended on our decisions as well.

  8. Me and my wife are expecting our first child next year. We had been trying for just over a year, and were starting to lose hope. All the medical tests confirmed neither of us had any health issues that cause infertility.
    This month my wife was late for her period and we were both overjoyed when we tested that she was pregnant. We were so happy, surprised and worried all at the same time. My wife has the initial signs of pregnancy and the sickness caused her some worry, but we are coming to terms with it and hopefully the pregnancy will go smoothly.
    The major issue for me has been my wife’s changing hormones, which has put her off sex. We used to have it everyday, and though there is usually no risk of miscarriage due to sex, she thinks if there is the slightest chance that the baby could be harmed (since we don’t yet know if her pelvic muscles are strong or any of the usual physical factors causing miscarriage concerne her), she would rather we did not have sex for the first trimester. It does hurt because though I can understand her reasoning, I feel shut out completely and suddenly.
    Sex is a lot of fun, of course, but it is also a way for me to get the reassuarance of my wife’s love for me. If there is something wrong between a couple, sex does not take place, and sometimes I need some physical attention from her because she does not seem to want to perform oral sex or foreplay. I am talking about gentle fun stuff – no penetration or even climax for either of us. I think there needs to be some physical sign of love. If there is not, it just feels like she does not love me anymore. It is irrational to think like that because i know she loves me, and she is remains attentive, but the sudden removal of pretty much all forms of sex feels very unfair.

    Anyway, obviously this makes me worry as to what will happen when the child is born. Will I be further shut out? Will my wife no longer have time for me? She says she always will, but sometimes one has to wonder how she can know. Things will take her by surprise too. I will love our child unconditionally, but I also love my wife and I do hope that some of the special things that we shared remain.

    I can completely see why women lose some intimacy during pregnancy. Men cannot imagine what pregnancy and childbirth must do to a woman, but being suddenly cut off can feel cruel and harsh. I mean to say that in a relationship that meant a lot to both people and there was mutual respect and oodles of love, the sudden change can be very hard for the male partner or husbnad and I think women need to understand that as well. Men are not always being needy but they need the love, not necessarily sex, but if sex is one way in which women show their love and respect, they need to replace that with something else.

    • Congratulations on your first child. I’m sure you are both overwhelmed with lots of feelings and fears. Perhaps a visit to the OBGYN to discuss her particular situation might give you both an idea if there is any danger with the pregnancy. You should certainly share your need for close contact and other forms of intimacy during and after the pregnancy. Hopefully she will feel more at ease after she is further along. Wishing your family all the best.

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