Tag Archives: parents

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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How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of a Marriage?

More married couples are choosing not to have children. Some couples have thoughtfully concluded they are called to a different life. However, a good number of couples are struck with fear, looking back at childhoods from divorced or dysfunctional families. They conclude that if they avoid marriage or avoid having children, they can retain the happiness and freedoms they currently enjoy.

Current research tells us cohabiting without marriage leads couples to break up about 80 percent of the time. Next comes the question, does the stress of having children lead married couples to break up?

The New York Times did an op-ed this week on Feb. 5 discussing how the birth of children affects a marriage, either positively or negatively. A generation ago, it was assumed that having children solidified a marriage. That has been followed by multiple studies that have shown marital quality drops when spouses become parents, and rises again when children leave home.

Writer Stephanie Coontz goes on to explain the flaw with those studies is that they did not “consider the very different routes that couples travel toward parenthood.” As you might expect the outcomes differ widely for parents who agreed on wanting to conceive, those who were ambivalent and those who were not expecting to become pregnant.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkely, Philip and Carolyn Cowan, found that “the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into becoming parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.”

In other words, couples who were happy to become parents were blessed with an even happier marriage. This has been true in my own life.

Coontz provides some important caveats and trends.  One reminder is that couples need to make time to cultivate their marriage even when child-rearing demands are high. Otherwise, they may not be able to “recover the relationship that made them want to have children in the first place.”

For those who feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, realize you are giving your children a gift by maintaining a strong marriage. In addition, current research shows parents today spend 20 percent more time with their children than parents in 1965, even with the increase of mothers in the workplace. So, if you are like the average couple, you are probably not short changing your children, but you might be short changing your spouse.

Remember your goal is to help your children learn to be independent, while spouses should understand and communicate that they will always need one another.

How have children (or the lack of children) affected your marriage?