Marriage after kids…let me just take a moment to state the obvious. Marriage is difficult and it takes a lot of work. Add kids into the mix and marriage can seem impossible at times.
I am not claiming to be an expert on marriage. I am just choosing to be brutally honest because I know that I am not the only one out there that feels this way. Want some more honesty? Days exist where I might not really like my husband very much and I am not so high on myself to believe that he doesn’t feel like that about me too. I know that I can really irritate him. In fact, I have gotten really good at it! But I choose to stay. I choose to not give up. Here are my tips to keep your marriage thriving after kids.
1. You were “man and wife” before you were “dad and mom.”
Before having kids, the only thing you really have to focus on is having fun. Don’t get me wrong, you have responsibilities like work and paying the bills, but as a couple, you only have to really focus on each other. Once the baby (or babies) arrive, all of that changes. Co-parenting becomes your main focus, not where are we going to eat dinner tonight or should we head out of town for the weekend? Your thoughts become consumed with doctors appointments, remembering to buy diapers, breastfeeding or formula…
This is all completely natural, especially if it is your first child. I remember worrying about every little thing for the first month or so. It is scary becoming parents and it can consume your thoughts, which makes you a great parent, that cares. However, your children also need to see parents that love each other. Not to mention, you want them to strive for a healthy marriage so you should model that for them.
So you will have to work a little harder to stay connected as a couple. Find an activity you can do together. Put down the electronics and have a conversation. Just remember that one day your kids will be out of the house and you don’t want to be left with a spouse that you don’t know anymore.
2. Recognize that this is hard for BOTH of you.
It can be so easy to fall into the blame game or my personal favorite (when I am not at my best) the who has it the worse game. Please, don’t keep score. Whether you are new parents or adjusting to adding another child into the family, you are both having to adjust to a new identity or find a new normal.
Keep in mind that your situations might look different, but can be equally stressful. He might work outside the home all day, while you stay at home. You might carry the burden of feeling like you don’t contribute enough financially, while he carries the burden of providing for his family. No matter the situations, if you can both remember that you are both dealing with a lot then it will help you each be more understanding of the other.
3. Choose your battles wisely and be ready to accept that some problems might not have solutions.
Choose your battles! I learned a long time ago that we might do things differently, but that doesn’t make either of us better than the other. I can’t go to the extreme every time he makes a small mistake. Kicking and screaming when he forgets to make a lunch or sign a sheet of paper isn’t going to do our family any good. Why waste all our energies on the irrelevant battles? Keep that energy for when bigger, more serious issues arise.
Also, you must accept that there are going to be things that you might not like about your partner’s personality or parenting style. However, the truth is this can cause a lot of fights in marriage, but the hard truth of it is that you can’t solve this. Your partner is who your partner is.
4. Pay attention to the small things.
Last year, I wrote a post about the importance of small things in marriage. You can read it here. I still believe that small things in marriage can make the biggest impacts. Grand romantic gestures and spontaneous weekends away were great while dating and marriage before kids. Believe me, my husband and I had some amazing adventures pre-kids, but it isn’t that easy when children come into the mix.
The way I see it is, even if the action is small it shows that my husband put forth the effort. Effort goes a long way in marriage. I know how tired we are and I know how easy it would be to just come home at night after a long day and become complacent. So when he shows effort, even something as small as making me my cup of Chamomile tea in the evening, I know that he cares.
5. Schedule time to talk, and when you talk make sure you make it “effective talk” and fight fair.
I have learned that having a serious conversation in the middle of the week, after he has put in 12 plus hours isn’t an opportune time. Try to schedule the serious talks for when you are both rested. Maybe schedule once or twice a week that you sit down and have one-on-one conversations about whatever big issues are going on?
When you do talk, make sure it is effective and try your best to fight fair. Try to express your anger or frustration in a way that won’t offend your partner. I know this isn’t always easy. However, explaining that you feel overwhelmed and asking for some specific help will probably go over better than, “you never help!!” Every couple fights. It is just going to happen. However, it is how you fight that really matters.
6. Find your WHY and keep it front and center.
This one has kept me going during some very tough times. FIND YOUR WHY. Why are you married? Why do you want this to work? Why did you choose this person to share your life with? Keep the answers to these questions front and center in your mind. My why helps keep me going when I am not feeling very loving towards my husband. It keeps me focused on the big picture.
I am not naive. I know that it isn’t easy to completely change your behavior or mindset overnight. Things come up, kids get sick, bad days happen…start small. Just start with one of these suggestions, or find your own thing that works for you and your spouse. Make an effort. Make a choice to keep working at your marriage. Times won’t always be tough. Just remember:
This too shall pass.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31