“How satisfied are you with the quality of your marriage?”
This question has been studied for decades. Research has repeatedly found that after the birth of the first child, marital satisfaction plunges by 40%. Slowly it climbs back up until the children launch, at which point marital satisfaction is back to the same level as pre-children (if the marriage has survived).
Our previous article discussed the reasons for this: We Had Kids. What Happened to Our Marriage?
Here are 7 ways to keep your marriage strong after kids:
1) Be present – Way easier said than done. It’s hard to be present when you are experiencing such dramatic changes and demands, physically and emotionally. Yet it can be done. Create a habit of taking a few minutes every day to be mindful of what’s happening.
2) Check in daily with your partner – It’s easy to get lost in the new challenges of being a parent. Couples tend to lose some of their connection as a couple. Ask each other daily, “How are you doing today?” You are not allowed to say, “Fine.” Give a genuine and thoughtful answer: the good, the bad and the ugly. Feelings may include happy, sad, depressed, frustrated, joyful, overwhelmed, left out, etc. Discuss what you are happy about and what you are feeling challenged by.
3) Be affectionate – A little affection can go a long way. After you have your check-in and at other times during the day (or night), connect physically: hugs, kisses, and back rubs are nice.
4) Communicate honestly about visits and help from extended family – Extended family may be involved more than ever before. This can be wonderful, or it may be challenging, depending on the nature of those relationships. Have frank discussions with each other and remember that your needs and desires are the primary concern at this point. Setting boundaries with others may be difficult, but your new family must be the priority, especially in the beginning.
5) Divide and conquer the tasks – If you thought you knew the meaning of “too much to do, not enough time,” you will soon find out you didn’t really have a clue. Adding another little human to your family unit will challenge even the most organized, efficient folks. Work together to divide up the tasks, the feedings, the changing, the baths, etc.
6) Re-establish intimacy – It’s usually a challenge to re-establish your sexual relationship after kids. Often couples let that go. After all, your sexual relationship has been interrupted from the time of pregnancy and then for weeks after giving birth. Lack of time, exhaustion, hormonal changes, body changes are the biggest culprits. Not to mention your new identity as a parent. How does that sync with having an intimate, erotic relationship? Discuss those feelings with your partner. And when you can, get back to having sex – for some couples, morning or daytime sex works better than at night.
7) Focus on yourselves as a couple – Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you are no longer a couple. In our practice we often see couples who become “child-focused” and stop doing activities as a couple. It’s important to get back to having some couple space and time, going on regular dates (which means finding a babysitter), and eventually going away together, even for a night or a weekend. This is the most vital part of ensuring that your relationship doesn’t drift apart over time.
Remember the best gift you can give to your kids is a happy marriage.
Once you’re parents, your marriage matters More, not less,
because now other people are counting on you.
~The Dating Divas
If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Copyright: Cathy Yeulet