Maintaining Your Marriage When You Become Parents

Focus on the Family
Gary Chapman

For more than two decades, I’ve been speaking and counseling about the ideas presented in my book The 5 Love Languages, and I frequently encounter couples with whom interactions play out something like this: With tears running down her face, a wife might come up to me and say, “I thought having a baby would pull my husband and me together and we would both be happy. The exact opposite is true for us. My husband doesn’t understand why I am so tired. He complains that I don’t bake cherry pies anymore. I’m up to my ears in diapers and vomit, and he’s complaining about cherry pies!”

Later, her husband will talk with me and say, “I feel like I have lost my wife. She never has time for me. It is always the baby. Even when I ask her to go out, she is afraid to leave the baby. When I want to rent a movie she says she doesn’t have the energy to watch it. I don’t know what else to do.”

Frequently, couples struggle to keep their marriage alive after they become parents. There is no question that having a baby greatly changes the dynamics between a husband and wife. After all, a child means more work. Who does the work? More work means expending more energy. Whose energy? A child means spending more money. Which money — the money we have been using for restaurants and entertainment?

Raising children should be a joint venture that requires communication, understanding, love and a willingness to compromise. Couples who have not developed these attitudes and skills before the baby arrives will not find them automatically emerging upon the arrival of their child. I sometimes ask couples, “What was your marriage like before the baby came?” I receive answers like: “Well, we were struggling.” Don’t expect a baby to create a good marriage — that is not the responsibility of a child. Children do not create problems in a marriage; they only reveal them.

Even couples who have a healthy marriage before babies come along tend to experience struggles as they adjust to being married with children. They spend so much time being “good parents” that they let their relationship grow stale. This staleness does not happen overnight and often is not the result of open conflict. Rather, the slow erosion of intimacy is caused by a lack of quality time, expressions of love and heartfelt communication. In these marriages, the road to restoration may prove to be much shorter because the couple started with a good relationship that has diminished.

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