It’s no secret that everything changes after you have children. Where once, everything used to be about either work or pleasure, it’s now down to work or pressure. It no longer matters who came first in the relationship, because you now both come second — to baby. And then another baby. And then you turn around and they’re toddlers. Where did the time go? It certainly wasn’t spent on date nights.
Next time someone asks what happens to your relationship when you’re a parent, send them this incredible article from American author, Elyssa Friedland.
With a great sense of humour, she perfectly describes the push and pulls of marriage and the realities of romance and intimacy, in the early years of parenting.
“I unzip my oversize hoodie and pretend that I don’t have 15 extra kilograms on me. As I attempt a sensual stride … he stops me and says, “Wait, you have a little chocolate on your skin.
“I look down. Did I have chocolate today? He licks his thumb and reaches for me. Just as he’s about to make contact, I scream, ‘Wait! That’s not chocolate!’
“Surprisingly, we didn’t give up on the evening. After all, we had scheduled it in our shared Google Calendar.”
Love and marriage after kids
Not exactly the sun-lit warmth you remember from those post-baby days, right? But there’s hope in this story, too.
As Elyssa describes the conflicting emotions of selling off the family’s baby gear on Facebook, a space begins to appear in her marriage.
“We aren’t tired every minute of every day. We are a couple, not just parents of the same children. Best of all, we have sex in the morning sometimes – spontaneously.
“For William and me, shedding the baby accoutrements helped us find ourselves again. Beneath the clutter we found the rested, bathed and energetic people we were before parenthood. We even got our voices back – our actual normal-sounding voices where we didn’t add an ‘ee’ to the end of every word (i.e. ‘Let me help you with your shoesies!’).”
Overcoming the five year test
Elyssa has just described surviving some of the toughest years of a relationship, with her marriage intact.
Which – according to the experts, like Andrew Sofin, president of the Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy – are the first five years after you become parents.
Andrew told Today’s Parent that’s because: “You’re going through multiple changes – maybe you’re now a full-time caregiver or are juggling daycare. Time becomes the premium. Sleep becomes more important than sex. You’re going to have hard times with your spouse. It’s not if – it’s when.”
Effective communication is key
When it comes to your marriage, psychotherapist and couples counsellor Ginny Lindsay says that communication is key to circumventing the hard times.
Here are Ginny’s top three suggestions:
1. Get to know each other’s love language
“Love language is just feeding each other’s feelings. If you know how to ‘hit the nail on the head’ for your partner, then that’s something that instantly lets the other person feel loved and appreciated,” says Ginny.
2. Share your struggles and stressors
“This will help your sex life too. Because sex is a major and ultimate act of vulnerability, the more that each partner feels they can vent their stresses and challenges, the more they will feel listened to and supported. Sex can flow from that vulnerability.”
3. Be realistic about the time you both have each day
“You can’t expect the person who is working the most to do as much around the house. You need to find a good balance. You both have intellectual and social needs that need to be met; where are you getting your time out, where are you getting your needs met? Ask each other what would you like the day and the weekend to look like? And make sure you include both people’s needs in this discussion. Resentment” says Ginny “can build when you’re not thinking of the other.”
Need some support to be the best parent you can be? Our Parent School parent coaching experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.