Surviving Children

Nov 17 | Tony | No Comments |

Can your marriage survive children? Research shows that marriages are particularly vulnerable during the early years, with the addition of children, and when children start to launch from the home. During these times, the culture, families, and the parents themselves all look forward with such great joy and anticipation. But there is another more sobering truth lurking below the surface: These times, in particular, are times of incredible stress and upheaval for couples.

Allow your mind to float back and reminisce about all the wonderful thoughts, plans, and daydreams you and your partner shared when you were pregnant. As a couple, those conversations brought you closer together in many ways.

Now allow your mind to drift back to today, with the little ones scrambling under your feet (or your teenagers tuning you out). While you may have made good on all those hopes and dreams of becoming great parents, many couples report deep strains in their relationships with each other. Underneath the veneer of good parenting, the couple’s relationship is suffering greatly.

In the old TV show Star Trek, when the Enterprise was under heavy attack they divert full power to its deflector shield while leaving just enough internal power for life support systems. (OK, so I’m a guy.) In much the same way, couples during this period often divert all of their energies to the children, barely saving enough for themselves and almost none for the relationship with their partner.

As a marriage and family therapist, I find that struggling couples with children often need to hear that if they don’t “put the oxygen mask on your relationship first” they are in danger of not making it as a couple.

There are tremendous sacrifices that everyone makes along the way to welcome children into families. Most parents make those sacrifices willingly and without question or hesitation. Deep down, everyone is hoping those sacrifices will also benefit the relationship. Children will bring us closer together, we think. In fact, they often do just the opposite. They expose our weaknesses and biggest challenges in relationship.

There is no easy way through this period for couples. Putting your couple’s oxygen mask on first is a way of continuing to make the relationship a priority even in the midst of very busy, long, and tiring days and nights. Staying connected is not easy with the constant demands that children place on parents. It’s definitely not foreplay, to say the very least!

As a couple, maybe it’s time to sit down together and assess where your energies have been going. Can you re-prioritize and put your relationship back near the top of the list? It takes ongoing effort during this period to keep it there. Each couple nurtures their relationship in different ways. What does it look like for you? If you can at least continue to have the conversation, you give your relationship a fighting chance to survive children.